This Homily on the power to heal is another story that appears in my book and maybe helps us to think about the stories of healing in today’s readings (1 Kings 17:17-24 & Luke 7:11-17).
One of the shocks to my system in my early life as an Anglican clergyman was definitely a message from God! I was called to the hospital to visit a lady called Dorothy who had had a stroke. She was in a bad way, paralysed down one side and unable to walk, she conveyed to me how frightened she was and how at night dark shapes where coming towards her from the bottom end of the bed. Now as a young modern Christian, I did not believe that prayer could affect the physical body. Prayer was a spiritual thing working through the mind. I was a dualist (as it is called) without realising it! Anyway I felt strongly that prayer might well deal with those dark things coming for her, for this was clearly just in her mind. Prayers were said. In the Catholic manner these were accompanied by the laying on of hands and the anointing with oil. The next morning the shock came. I was right – the dark things had vanished and she had had a good night’s sleep, but something else had happened as well. She could walk! Never again did I make that mistake. The spiritual and the physical are intermingled in us humans and that is one of the reasons why prayer can be so powerful.
The problem of course is that prayer only appears to get answered occasionally. What most people forget is that if prayer is talking with God then we need to listen and not just talk. There is no point in asking for things just because we want them. What is far more important in life is to find out more clearly what God wants, and it is only within the discovery of this that we can sometimes get what we are asking for. It is therefore terribly important to always have in the back of our minds when we pray the words from the Our Father – Thy will be done. Praying like this can lead to surprising results because what God wills can be very different from what we want. True prayer is really trying to tune in to the immense power that God is, and if we get close enough then God’s power can pour through us like the release of a great weight of water when a dam bursts. This is surely because God has chosen to give us the freedom to act independently of him – this is what free will means. The power is there, like the radio waves that are all round us, but it is up to us, because we have free will, to decide whether to tune in or not.
On another occasion I was called to a lady in hospital because the doctors had said she only had a few days of life left. She was more or less dead. I prayed that God’s will should be done assuming that this would be a quick and easy death. Instead, she got better and went home and was given another year of life. One never knows what will happened when one prays.
In both cases I suppose I just found the right through which God’s healing power could work. Later I began to discover that a bit more sensitivity and a little less pride that I knew best tended to produce better results. But giving healing to people is always a hit or miss procedure. Sometimes you just tune in to God right and amazing things can happen, at other times, the prayer gives the person great spiritual comfort but not the physical healing they hoped for. Now I simply pray with and for people knowing that in one way or another even the smallest act of prayer and love helps.