The Washington Times
Healing Through Prayer
by Jen Waters
The Rev. Nigel Mumford said he is preaching the kingdom of God and healing the sick, as Jesus instructed his followers to do.
“Some churches preach the kingdom; even fewer heal the sick,” said Mr. Mumford, director of healing ministry at Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich, N.Y. “For some reason, the healing ministry has had a bad rap.”
Because of scandals involving television evangelists, most Americans discount prayer for healing as nothing more than wishful thinking, Mr. Mumford said, but some Christians are trying to restore dignity to the notion that Jesus is a healer. In 2003, he said, he spoke to more than 400 physicians at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
As a former drill instructor for the Royal Marine Commando in Britain, Mr. Mumford said, he has seen man’s inhumanity to man, but he also has seen God’s healing grace to man. He describes his experiences in the book “Hand to Hand: From Combat to Healing.”
“I don’t want to make a fantastic claim,” said Mr. Mumford, who has been praying for healings for 16 years. “I believe everybody is healed when you pray, and some are cured. Something always happens when you pray. I’ve seen people’s sight restored, and I’ve seen people die, but they have died a holy death, and they were literally dying with a smile on their face.”
In 1986, his sister Julie Sheldon, a dancer with the Royal Ballet in London, became severely ill and was expected to die from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder. In 1989, she made a full recovery after “laying on of hands,” with the Rev. Canon Jim Glennon of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, Mr. Mumford said. She describes her recovery in the book “Dancer Off Her Feet.”
“I didn’t believe in healing then,” Mr. Mumford says. “I was just witnessing it. Witnessing it absolutely changed my life. I was going to kill my own sister. She was in so much pain. Thank God I didn’t. She would be dead, and I would be a murderer.”
Now Mr. Mumford spends most of his time praying for people’s illnesses, everything from ingrown toenails to cancer and AIDS. He holds healing services at his center and abroad.
When people do not have enough faith to trust God for healing, Mr. Mumford said, he asks them to let him believe for them. He said his prayer once helped an agnostic woman hobbling with a broken toe walk normally, even though she had never been in a church.
“I say: ‘It’s my job to believe. Let me believe for you,’ ” Mr. Mumford said. “I have seen people who have no faith at all get better.”
Prayer for healing does not discount other healing methods, said the Rev. Canon Mark A. Pearson, co-leader of New Creation Healing Center in Plaistow, N.H. The center features a doctor of osteopathy, a massage therapist, counselors, chaplains and prayer teams. In the future, the organization will offer a residential component to its treatment options. He is author of “Christian Healing: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide” and holds a master’s degree in theology from the University of Oxford and a doctorate in church history from Boston University.
“God can heal through medicine,” Mr. Pearson said. “God can heal a physical problem when an emotional problem is addressed. God can heal through counseling. God can heal miraculously when people pray. God can heal through any combination of these modalities. We don’t limit what God can do through a healing ministry.”
People shouldn’t categorize healing methods as secular or sacred, he said. Although some healings are mystical, others are practical. In 1 Corinthians 12, where gifts of healing are listed as spiritual gifts from God, gifts of administration, which are usually considered down-to-earth, also are mentioned, he says.
“Some people are so starved for the dramatic, that unless it’s dramatic they don’t think it’s from God,” Mr. Pearson says. “God can work through process, as well as dramatically.”
When people come to Mr. Pearson for prayer for healing, he tells them it is best to allow God to decide how to heal them. Sometimes, he said, God might give him a word of knowledge or word of wisdom, offering insight for the person’s healing.
“One guy came for prayer saying he had headaches,” Mr. Pearson said. “I asked him if he was estranged from his brother. He said yes. I told him I thought he needed to forgive his brother. His headaches went away after he did that.”
Although many Christians routinely pray for physical healing, the primary healing that Jesus accomplished on the cross is healing from sin, said the Rev. Bob Hartman, pastor for adult education at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield. He quotes Isaiah 53:5, which says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
If someone is sick, Immanuel Bible Church follows the guidelines of James 5:13-16, which says the elders of the church should pray for the person and anoint him with oil. Mr. Hartman, however, said he thinks complete healing will come in God’s presence in eternity.
“God’s plan for us is to trust Jesus Christ for salvation and to experience things like complete healing — no more sickness, no more crying — in heaven,” Mr. Hartman said. “This Earth is not the believer’s home.”
It is only in recent generations that Christians have shied away from praying for physical healing, said the Rev. Francis MacNutt, director of the ecumenical Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville, Fla. He is ordained as a Dominican priest and has a doctorate from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. His most recent book is “The Nearly Perfect Crime: How the Church Almost Killed the Ministry of Healing.”
“For the first 350 years, Christians did pray for healing,” Father MacNutt said. “It was accepted that it was ordinary, and everybody could do it. It was the main means of evangelization in the Roman Empire.”
Since Father MacNutt began praying for people’s healing in the 1960s, he said, he has seen a growth in the ministry of healing throughout Christian denominations. The organization holds seminars to enhance understanding about healing prayer.
“People are catching on,” Father MacNutt said. “It used to be fairly unusual for a Catholic priest to be involved in this. Now it’s fairly accepted.”
Copyright © 2006 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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