A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal,
The feast of St. Francis is celebrated in October, and often churches use the occasion to bless the pets and other animals of the congregation. That is a fine custom, and here are some hints on how to go further, and effectively pray for the healing of animals, either physical or inner healing. Here are several of Carolyn's and my own experiences with the healing of animals.
The first is an article on the inner healing of our Boston Terrier that appeared in the Journal of Christian Healing (Summer 1991). Besides illustrating the inner healing of animals, it also shows that inner healing is a grace, not just suggestion or psychological manipulation. It has been retyped for your benefit, as the scan on the text pages did not work well. The notes on animal behavior and intelligence need to be updated, and please feel free to make suggestions in the blog comments.
An Indicator of Inner Healing
As Grace; the Fido Factor
By William De Arteaga, and Carolyn De Arteaga
Journal of Christian Healing, Vol. 13, No. 2, (Summer, 1991)
Does inner-healing prayer truly mediate a grace from the Lord, or is it no different from imagery conditioning practiced by humanistic psychologists? Those involved in the inner-healing ministry have felt the frustration of trying to explain that positive results from their prayers are not just the product of suggestion. Thankfully, there is some unusual evidence to repudiate the suggestion theory: the inner healing of animals through prayer.
Dave Hunt and others have raised the question of inner-healing as a form of psychological manipulation. But even before their criticisms were made, the evidence of inner healing as a grace was difficult to discern. In the typical counseling situation there are multiple factors in play, such as the counselor’s loving attitude and counselee’s expectancy and openness to suggestion. Even when inner healing is ministered by lay facilitators, it would be possible to claim that the healing and behavioral changes experienced by the seeker were the product of suggestion working with his or her expectations.
The issue of inner healing as grace or technique is similar to that of how to discern the grace of prayer for physical problems. Most often, illness is treated by both prayer and medical interventions; and an attempt to attribute the precise degree of effectiveness to prayer, as against surgery, medication, and so on, is at best problematic.
These complications can be short-circuited when we examine what happens as we pray with animals for inner healing. Animals can be injured emotionally; these injuries can cause them to behave and react badly. But animals are not able to accept suggestions that would change their behavior immediately.
Agnes Sanford, a pioneer of inner healing in the 1950s, practiced both healing prayer for physical ills and inner-healing prayer for animals. Naturally, the overwhelming bulk of her efforts were dedicated to human needs, and the times she ministered to animals were few. These healings were mentioned mostly in her talks at church missions and Camps Farthest Out (a nationwide network of summer retreat programs). Mrs. Sanford believed that animals are easier to heal than many humans because their minds offer no theological or philosophical objections to the possibility. They are not capable of belief or unbelief, as far as we know.
The first account of Mrs. Sanford’s ministry with animals is found in one of her juvenile novels, A Pasture for Peterkin. Mrs. Sanford called her novels “teaching parables,” and, like others she wrote, this one was loosely based on events in her life. In this case, the setting was her summer cottage in rural Massachusetts.
In the novel, Amanda, age 9, prays for her sick and dying calf, Peterkin, with the laying on of hands and by visualizing the animal as happy and well. Amanda realizes that the calf cannot help in the healing prayer: “I know you haven’t the sense enough to believe it, and God knows it too, so I am going to believe it for you.” After the prayer, the calf recovers and grows to be a happy bull with its own pasture.
A factual written description of the inner healing of an animal came only in Mrs. Sanford’s last major theological work, Creation Waits (1979). Here, Mrs. Sanford described an inner healing ministered by her friend, secretary, and traveling companion, Edith Drury. Mrs. Sanford was in Devon, England speaking on healing. A local farmer asked for prayers for “Sheila,” who lately had been “nervous and upset.” Mrs. Sanford, assuming the Sheila was his wife or sister, sent Edith to minister. When Edith arrived at the farm, however, she discovered that Sheila was the farmer’s cow.
Edith honored the farmer’s request anyway, praying “…that the love and light of God would go all the way back through Shelia’s heifer-hood, healing all traumatic experiences, remembered or not, in her subconscious, and make her a happy, cream-filled Christian cow, certainly with no more tendencies to kick and be nervous.” The prayer worked, and the cow was healed of her emotional and behavioral problems.
In the course of our own ministry, we have had occasions to pray for animals. A dramatic inner healing came about several years ago for our Boston terrier, Tuppance. Once, just before a thunderstorm, Carolyn let Tuppance out in the back yard. As she neared her favorite spot by a large oak, the tree was struck by lightning. Carolyn, standing at the back door and twenty feet away, felt the shock and was thrown backwards. Tuppance was less than five feet from the tree. The concussion threw Tuppance to the ground, and she ran, terrified, into the house.
Tuppance’s hurt was not physical, but emotional. Thereafter, any explosive sound would send her into panic. Well before we could hear an approaching thunderstorm, she would begin pacing, breathing rapidly, and drooling. If the storm took place at night, she would jump on our bed and continue her panicky behavior. Fourth of July was a nightmare for the dog, as the neighborhood children exploded fireworks; Tuppance anxiety continued for several years.
In 1981, while researching the history of inner healing, I suggested to Carolyn that we pray for the dog. I led the prayer, but there was no appreciable change in Tuppance’s response to thunder. We tried again later, and this time Carolyn, who has always had a special compassion and love for animals, led the prayer. She held the dog and prayed simply: “Lord Jesus, please fine that little dog that was so frightened by the storm and comfort and heal her.”
After Carolyn’s prayer, there was a dramatic change in Tuppance’s behavior. Thunderstorms no longer put the dog in panic. She would come to one of us for “company,” but there was no more rapid breathing, drooling, and pacing. We could peacefully sleep through a summer thunderstorm, with Tuppance under our bed, not on top of us. She died several years later of old age and a weak heart, but never again showed exaggerated behavior to loud noises.
This little canine case history (and the other accounts of animal inner healing) have some profound implications. The mind of an animal cannot take complex symbolic suggestions. Behavior modification might have worked on Tuppance with a skilled and patient trainer: for instance, the setting off firecrackers followed by rewards. But this was not the case. Major and permanent behavioral changes took place immediately after Carolyn’s prayer.
Many pet owners longingly and compassionately hold their pets without reported behavioral-healing results, as we did with our dog. Therapeutic touch is beneficial, but of small effect in comparison to the healing Tuppance experienced. Thus, the important factor in this case seemed to be the inner-healing prayer itself, and Carolyn’s special compassion, which focused the prayer.
We understand that these cases are little more than “anecdotal evidence” – almost a dirty word in behavioral disciplines. However, it would be quite possible to design a veterinary protocol for emotionally injured animals to test this type of healing prayer quantitatively. The results of a well-defined and well-administered test might be a substantial addition to the mounting experimental evidence on the reality and effectiveness of inner-healing prayer. Certainly it would be a significant aid to the ministry of the Christian therapist.
 For instance: Dave hunt and T.A McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity (Eugene: Harvest House, 1985); Don Matzat, Inner Healing Deliverance or Deception? (Eugene: Harvest House, 1987).
Just how much animals can understand is the subject of ongoing research. Dolphins certainly can respond to simple symbolic commands, as in: “Place Frisbee in basket<” However, no evidence exists for the capability of animals to respond to suggestions of a healing nature. The complexity involved in associating mental imagery with behavioral outcomes is far too great. See: Susan Chollar, “ Our Cognitive Cousins: Conversations with the Dolphins,” Psychology Today (April 1989), 52-57.
 Agnes Sanford, A Pasture for Peterkin (St. Paul: MacAlester Park, 1956), 36-37.
 Agnes Sanford, Creation Waits (Plainfield: Logos International, 1979).
 Ibid., 113
 Collar, “Our cognitive Cousins.”
 H.F. Harlow, “The Formation of Learning Sets,” Psychology Review 56 (1949), 51-65, and “Mice, Monkeys, Men and Motives,” Psychology Review 60 (1953), 23-32.
The next is an incident taken from my wife's forthcoming book, "Watching God Work: the Stuff of miracles" Bridge-Logos: 2014). It should be out by April.
Sweet Pea was just a gray cat, not even a remarkable gray cat. I don’t remember how she arrived at our house. Perhaps she just appeared. The only animals permitted to join our family, after our daughter Margie chose dog grooming as a career, were the abandoned or unwanted. Sweet Pea must have fit into one of those categories. The problem for the cat was that the next-door neighbor’s house sat less than a stone’s throw away. Sweet Pea received lots of petting from the teenage daughter but cars, in all degrees of repair and disrepair, zoomed in and out of their driveway.
One afternoon as I got out of my car after work, out of the corner of my eye I saw Sweet Pea sitting on top of the woodpile on the side of the house. She often perched there keeping an eye on the chipmunks that lived underneath, so I didn’t really think much about it. After dinner, I put down her dish by the refrigerator and called Sweet Pea. She didn’t appear which was unusual when food was involved. I went looking around the yard.
I found her in the same spot on top of the woodpile. But something just didn’t seem right about her. Not something I could pinpoint, but something. Sweet Pea didn’t respond, other than to look at me, even when I called, “Dinner,” a word she understood perfectly. I walked back inside and called Bill. “There’s something wrong with Sweet Pea,” I said. When Bill looked at her, he said, “I think she’s sick. Let’s pray for her.” Bill’s answer for everything was, “Let’s pray,” so I put my hand on her back and we prayed. We talked to God about any rotten rodent she may have eaten, any infection, or any kind of infirmity. As an afterthought, I said, “I come against any pain for this little cat.”
Sweet Pea didn’t resist or complain when I lifted her up and took her in the house. She didn’t move, but just sat on the sofa where I put her and showed no interest even in her favorite shredded turkey dinner. Before bed I put my hand on her again and prayed against infirmity and pain. Bill joined me. In the morning Sweet Pea still sat in the same place, not paying attention to food nor wanting to go outside. “I’m going to take her to the vet,” I said.”
Bill drove and I held Sweet Pea on my lap, praying all the way. She didn’t seem in any discomfort, but didn’t seem right either. Certainly Sweet Pea was sick. The doctor said after examining her, “I think she may have an injury. Let’s get some x-rays.” An assistant took my cat to x-ray. Within a minute or two she was back with a stricken look on her face. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “but your cat died on the x-ray table.” “I need to see her,” I said, heading for the door. In the x-ray room I held Sweet Pea and cried. “I’m so sorry,” I said to my cat as I took her in my arms.
The doctor disappeared and returned with the x-rays. “I can’t believe this,” he said. “Almost every bone in her body was broken. She must have been run over. She must have been in excruciating pain, but I didn’t see any signs that she was in discomfort.”
I had prayed for my mother in the hospital when the pain was unbearable and the pain left. God didn’t heal Sweet Pea, but did He take away the pain? I think so.
Thank you, Lord, that you answer prayers for little pets we love.
Healing of Sasha:
Sasha is our current dog. Carolyn and I agree strongly that "A house without a dog is not a home." Sasha is a beautiful black lab, about seven years old now. She came to us as a one year old, and had been malnourished as a puppy. She ravenously ate everything that was edible (and some things that were not). We had to be careful how we stored food and closed cabinets, etc. I asked my friend Doug, a dog expert, if Sasha would grow out of this, as we fed her regularly and plentifully. He said, “No, the dog is imprinted in the starvation mode, and will be like that till the day she dies.” We were OK with that, as Sasha was a very loving and intelligent dog.
Early on Sasha and I developed a routine for my “off from work” days. In the morning Sasha would come to my “prayer closet” (actually, a swivel chair in my study) and nuzzle my arm to get my attention. I patted her, gave her a treat, and did a quick prayer for her. Usually it was something like this, “Lord, give Sasha every doggie blessing she can contain.” I lay hands on her head, and went on with my other prayers as she went off to munch on her treat.
About three years ago we noticed a real change in Sasha’s behavior. She did not seem as perpetually hungry, and at time left her bowl of food unfinished. We usually give her table scraps, but now we noticed she was picky as to what she ate. For instance, she no longer wolfed down leftover Salmon skin or carrots. All of this points to a major healing, even though I did not specifically pray for it. It seems that God freed her of her starvation neurosis as part of the “doggie blessing” I prayed for.
Actually, I should have prayed for her in a more focused manner, the way Carolyn and I did for “Tuppance,” a Boston Terrier we had when we were first married. Why it did not occur to either Carolyn or myself to pray a specific inner healing prayer for Sasha the way we did for Tuppance I cannot explain. Perhaps the Lord wanted to show us the healing benefit of blessings our animals, as they cannot speak for themselves and explain exactly what ails them.
Links and helps:
Below is a link to an excellent article on CS Lewis' beliefs about animals, by Andrew Linzey, Anglican Theological Review, 80 #1 (Winter 1998, 6-8,1), In short, Lewis believed that when we name and love animals we enter into a covenant relationship with them, which will carry on into heaven. This is an interesting theory that cannot be proven scripturally, but makes good sense. This is the link HERE
This is a Christian website on healing prayer for animals:
This is a Christian website on healing prayer for animals:
The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.
The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE
My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together. It may be purchased HERE.