OSL Online Conference Calls
Teaching and Encouragement for Healing Ministry
Telephone Conference Call Guest Speaker Oct 17, 2010
Feel free to print and share the following text for Larry's address
TO BE HEALED BY THE JESUS OF THE GOSPELS
A NEW FOCUS AND A NEW DIRECTION
by The Ven. Larry Mitchell
North American Director
The International Order of St Luke the Physician
Luke 9: 1-6; Luke 10: 1-9; John 4:46-54; Mark 1:40-42; Matthew 8: 5-8
1When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." 6So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'
I have been ordained for 44 years. My introduction to the healing ministry was through an encounter with the Charismatic movement in the late 1970’s and in particular, through an anointing of the Holy Spirit after I began my 29 year ministry at St. Stephen’s Church in Saskatoon. After my encounter with the Holy Spirit, I began to realize that the Lord was leading me into the healing ministry. It was soon after that, I began my involvement with the Order of St. Luke.
As I reflect back, I can see that healing was one of the gifts that the Lord offered to me to use in the larger ministry to which He called me. I am not saying that I was particularly effective in the use of this gift or that I knew much or anything about it, all I knew was there was a fire within me that was pushing me forward and that fire was the Spirit gently leading me into the ministry of healing. However, just because I was praying for healing that did not necessarily mean that healing miracles began to happen all around me because that was definitely not the case. I just knew that this was something that I could not ignore and that I had to pursue and to embrace. Along with a sense of being drawn into this ministry, I also became aware of Jesus’ mandate in Luke’s gospel first to his disciples and then to the church to:
“ Proclaim the Gospel and heal the sick and tell them that the Kingdom of God is in their midst
It was not until the last few years that I truly began to see the full power of those words and come to understand them in a new way. It is that discovery that is the basis for what I am going to say to you this afternoon which is the first address in a series of 3 addresses on subject of Kingdom Healing. What I partially understood then and what I think I more fully understand now is that the main work of the church is definitely to proclaim the good news about Jesus and to heal the sick. It became clear to me, as a minister of the Gospel that no matter what else I might do as a priest my response to that mandate must be at the front and centre of my ministry. Because of that, I began to work very hard to establish the healing ministry in my parish and my enthusiasm for this ministry led me to speak about healing not only in my church but also at O.S.L. healing missions, workshops and events.
As I look back over my ministry as a priest and in particular with regards to healing, I can say with confidence that I have definitely seen people healed, restored, changed and renewed through the outpouring of God’s healing grace. I can say that our God, to quote the Gospel song, is truly an awesome God. However, I can also say that people being consistently healed has not been a regular result of my ministry which has been a source of discouragement.
Over the years, I have seen prayers go unanswered or partly answered. Explanations for that could be: maybe I am not praying in the right way; or possibly I or the supplicant did not have enough faith. Another explanation might be one of us had some block that needed to be cleared up before God could act or that God’s healing Grace was delayed and might come eventually whether in this life or in the person’s life to come. Or maybe God just said no, not yet. I have probably thought of other reasons to explain the failures in the healing ministry, but none of those reasons would be adequate to explain the fact that if Jesus’ ministry was one of healing and at his word and touch people were healed and we called to imitate his ministry, why are people not consistently healed when we pray for them?
Because people not always being healed was a natural and consistent experience in my ministry as it is in the ministry I think of many other people, I did not give this much thought over the years. Nevertheless, even though I was not seeing healing happen with any regularity I continued to believe that God does heal and it is still God’s will to heal. It is amazing how one can believe one thing and yet not have it consistently supported by the facts. For me it was normal that people were only occasionally healed through prayer and sometimes over a long period of time but often, they were not.
What was encouraging however was the occasional healings that did occur for which there can be no other explanation but that God touched the person with an outflow of his healing grace and immediately or very soon afterwards, the person was healed. The question remained if healing is the Gospel norm, why are people not healed all of the time or at least most of the time? I had come accept that infrequent examples of the miracle of healing were probably normal and this was supported by my experience. The danger of this is that because of one’s experience of failure in praying for healing, one eventually ceases to expect much to happen because of prayer or even worse one learns to expect that nothing will probably happen as a result of prayers for healing. One might even avoid praying because after all what is the use nothing is going to happen anyway so why bother?
Then I met a blind British Anglican cleric named Mike Endicott who is the Director of the Order of Jacob’s Well as well as the director of the Well Centre in Southern Wales and will be your telephone conference speaker in November from the Well centre in Wales. Mike told a similar story in his book, Rediscovering Kingdom Healing about his experience in the healing ministry. It all came to head for him when a member of his healing ministry team contracted cancer. It did not matter how much they prayed for her or how many people were praying for her, or how good she was or how valuable her ministry was to the team none of that seemed to matter for she died. In his story, Mike shares that this brought him to a crisis of faith until he came across a truth that not only changed him but also his ministry as well as that of his team. He discovered as he delved into the reading of the Gospels that the Jesus he read about in those stories seemed somehow significantly different from the Jesus he was meeting in his day-to-day experience of ministry. The Jesus he met in his reading of the Gospels always healed, and was always open to healing and whenever anyone approached him he never said no. Listen to the following examples: John 4:46-54; Mark 1:40-42; Matthew 8: 5-8
The Faith of the Centurion Matthew 8:5-8
5When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6"Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering."
7Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."
8The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
A Man With Leprosy Mark 1:40-42
40A man with leprosy[f] came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."
41Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" 42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Jesus Heals the Official's Son John 4
46Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
48"Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe."
49The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies."
50Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live."
The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, "The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour."
53Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his household believed.
54This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
That was certainly different from his experience of the Jesus to whom he was praying. In every story of healing in the Gospels Jesus always said yes with no conditions or expectations placed on the person who received his healing touch. Whereas the Jesus that he was praying to and meeting day by day in his encounter with sickness and disease was hardly ever bestowing healing and even at times appeared to be holding it back which Mike decided must indicate that he was saying no or not yet or only after you do A, B, C or D.
Intrigued by Mike’s findings my wife Betty and I decided to go through the Gospels and search out all the healing stories in order to see whether he was right. At the end of our search, we came to the same conclusion; nowhere in the Gospels does it say Jesus refused to heal anyone who asked him. He even healed people who did not ask. (i.e. The man by the pool for 38 years as recorded in John 5)
Mike realized that there was something dreadfully wrong between his experience of Jesus in his day-to-day ministry of healing, and the Jesus he discovered working in the Gospels and because they were so radically different, he realized that only one of them could be the true Jesus. Was it the Jesus of his experience who only responded occasionally if at all, or was it the Jesus in the Gospels who healed everyone who asked and even some who did not?
Another truth that emerged from all of this was that Mike realized that the results in his healing ministry seemed to be directly influenced by the picture of Jesus that he had accepted in his heart as being the true Jesus. He realized that he had a preconceived model or picture of Jesus that was determining everything he believed and influencing everything he did. This is common for everyone. We all have a picture of Jesus in our minds and that picture is usual formed through what we see and read in the Gospels as well as what we experience of Jesus in our day to day lives. As he thought about this, what he discovered was that the picture that he was working with was a picture of a Jesus constructed out of all the failures of his ministry. In other words his picture of Jesus was formed more from his experience then from the Jesus that is portrayed out of the Gospels. He came to understand that to pray to a Jesus that had not come through for him and others meant that he was praying to a picture of Jesus formed out of his experience that subconsciously he did not expect, could, or would ever come through for him. In other words, he had built into the process of his ministry an expectation of failure and thus his underlying expectations of failure were most always being confirmed and people were rarely receiving the miracle of healing that he believed they should be receiving. This added to and supported his inner conviction that although Jesus could heal, he most often chose not to heal except in some exceptional circumstances. In other words, his experience of a Jesus who did not always or rarely came through was influencing his whole approach to the healing ministry, to his prayers, to his perception of the healing ministry of the Gospel and to the results he was seeing and he felt helpless to do anything about it.
What he decided was that either Jesus did not heal today as he did in the stories of the Gospel or there was something terribly wrong with what he and the church was doing in our day. To accept that Jesus no longer healed people today with any regularity would be a contradiction of the message of the Gospels which said that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It was when Mike and his team decided that Jesus did heal today and that they would focus their ministry only on the Jesus they read about in the Gospels who healed everyone who asked him and not on the one they had been experiencing in their day-to-day ministry that things began to change. Where there were more failures before there began to be many more successes in their team’s ministry of healing.
I found myself drawn and excited by these insights. Once again, that fire burned within me. At first, I did not fully understand it because I thought that it must be a new technique, or a new way of praying, or a new approach to prayer. I needed to see something happen to make the healing ministry real and to make what we see happening in the Gospel become the model of what we see happening in the Church today and I felt that I needed to learn what Kingdom healing was all about. If what we see Jesus doing in the Gospels cannot happen today, what is the point of it all and why do we bother?
Mike talked about looking to the Jesus of his experience as being a part of the problem and described it as looking to what he calls a Jesus that is out of focus for us, that is a perception of Jesus that is blurred by one’s many disappointing experiences of that perception. Not that Jesus himself is disappointing but that one’s perceptions and expectations coloured and influenced by our experiences are disappointing. When the picture of the Jesus we are praying to is blurred by our disappointing experiences of him rather than how we see him alive and at work in the healing stories of the Gospel, we often find ourselves left with little or no expectation that he can or will in fact heal. Mike says that when that is true then it is the result of praying to the wrong image of Jesus because that is not the picture of Jesus we see alive and at work in the Gospels. The Jesus of our experience is often a Jesus that is out of focus for us or as he jokingly calls it we are praying to out of focus and not to the Jesus that is portrayed so powerfully in all of the Gospel stories. Out of focus is the Jesus that our experience subtlety tells us is ineffective and rarely responds to our prayers. The insight to this teaching is that we must not pray to and focus on the Jesus of our experience but instead we must learn to pray to and focus on Jesus as we see him so powerfully at work in the Gospel stories. Therefore, it is only when we look to the Jesus in the Gospels who always says yes to us who always heals that our level of expectation is raised and when our level of expectation is raised we begin to see healing happen all around us. When our expectation is that Jesus will heal, the eyes of our spirit are open to see and receive the miracle of healing that flows all around us. The focus of the healing ministry should always be the proclamation of the good news that Jesus does heal with the aim to raise people’s level of expectation so that they can open themselves to expect to receive the healing that God is already willingly and freely pouring out upon them.
The more I explored the ministry of Kingdom Healing the more I began to understand how important it is to have the right focus in the ministry of healing. I had thought of the healing ministry in a certain way and it was disconcerting to discover that maybe the way I had come to understand things was not the most effective way of understanding them. What I began to realize was that my focus, as is the case with many people in this ministry, was in fact the Jesus of my experience and the preconceived notion that prayer would probably not produce any exciting results. I realized that I my focus was not the Jesus that I discovered through our search of the healing miracles in the Gospels. I needed to learn how to focus on the true Jesus I found in those stories and not on the out of focus Jesus that was at the centre of my experience in the healing ministry. This meant to unlearn some old models in order to learn some new models that help us more effectively respond to the Gospel mandate to proclaim good news and to heal the sick.
I could see that if we worship and pray to Jesus but with a picture in our minds of a Jesus that rarely responds to us in the area of signs, wonders, healing miracles and responses to prayer, then our subconscious expectation that this Jesus will heal or answer our prayers is most likely very low. If however we worship and pray to the Jesus we see working in the Gospels who always responds out of the well of his compassion to someone’s needs then there is a higher chance that our expectation level will be raised and that healing will take place. Therefore, the more we focus on the Gospel image of Jesus the more we will expect Jesus to heal and therefore the more we might be able to see healing take place. (John 4:46-54;/ Mark 1:40-42;/ Matthew 8: 5-8)
As we begin to worship and pray to the Jesus we see in the Gospels and expect that if he did it in Gospels and if “he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”.... (Hebrews 13:8 ) then logically it should follow that we should be able to see the same things happening today. In addition, as we accept that it his will to heal and that he wants to heal, and that his healing grace is constantly flowing into our world we will begin to see more evidence of the work of the Jesus of the Gospel in our lives, in our ministries and in our churches. It is having Jesus in focus that produces results in the healing ministry. Next month Mike will give some of his insights and tell of his experiences of working and praying with a Jesus that is in focus. Let us Pray.
I have two questions for you:
(1) What is the image of Jesus that you have in your mind when you pray for healing. Is it the image of a Jesus formed out of your ministry experiences or is it an image of Jesus formed out of the picture you see emerging out of the Gospels? In other words what is your focus when you approach Jesus to heal? Is your Jesus in or out of focus?
(2) How do you explain your successes and failures in the healing ministry?
If you have questions please use the e-mail feedback form and your questions will be forwarded to me. A summary of all questions with answers will be sent to the email list for the benefit of all.