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Friday, June 19, 2015

Aging Gracefully with the Graces of Healing Prayer


At a conference we attended at Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville Florida, Dr MacNutt spoke about healing and aging. He is among the most distinguished figures of the Christian healing renewal, and is now 90 years old. He observed that it is more difficult to pray for the healing of certain age related illness. Thus for instance, it is usually not effective to pray over a bald man in his 60s and expect his hair to grow back as if he were in his 20s. It seems that we are designed to run down in the body even as we continue to grow spiritually (2 Cor 5:1-5).


Dr MacNutt at 90 years old.
He now uses a cane to assist in walking

Prayer cannot nullify aging. But on the other hand it can make aging a gentle process, with much less pain and discomfort and less medications than normal. I became aware of this personally in my last check-up at the VA. I noticed men my age and younger go off with bagfuls of prescriptions for high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. I have two prescriptions that help control my enlarged prostate – that is all. 



Prayer enables the Christian to transit into “elders” of ministry with grace and ease, as in my case, from  pastor to writer and conference speaker.

Yours truly on the job as an OSL speaker

My wife Carolyn was at first skeptical of MacNutt’s theory about the difficulty age related healing prayer. But we both came to understand its wisdom when we began a ministry at an assisted nursing home. The folks there naturally had all sorts of medical problems, some quite serious. Our ministry had some successes, but less than at our normal church healing missions. Many of the older people had various stages of arthritis and we were able to pray relief to many of them. Carolyn has always had a gift of praying against pain, and was very helpful in this area. But only a few major healings were accomplished. One  woman had Tourette syndrome, which causes involuntary movements and vocalizing.  She was was healed of this affliction after repeated prayers over many weeks (Carolyn has the gift of divine stubbornness in prayer.). Another lady with rapid macular degeneration had the disease stop, but not reversed.


Carolyn praying over one of the people at the assisted living facility.


But now let me share some of the ways that prayer has softened and graced our aging processes. We use healing prayer on ourselves with great success. Even before we married we prayed for each other regularly. When I first met Carolyn she suffered regular bouts of headaches. After several times praying over her, and teaching he how to pray for herself, they stopped completely.[1]  There is no cessationist obstruction in our home (the theology that wrongly affirms that healing prayer ceased with the death of the Apostles).[2] Besides continuously praying for one another, supplements have also played a role in our “graceful aging.” 

Let me deal with the supplements issue first. At the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal back in the 1960s and 1970s, many charismatic teachers were denouncing supplements and herbal shops as occult and things to be avoided.[3] Yes, some herbal shops were (and are) associated with all sorts of New Age stuff.  But such broad brushing, unfortunately common in Christian circles, missed the point that God often uses unconventional folks to bring out some facet of truth ignored by traditional or establishment institutions. I have dealt with this issue in my work Quenching the Spirit where I showed how Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science shocked and shamed many churchmen to take a serious look at healing prayer as a present ministry for the Church (by the 1880s it had been mostly forgotten).[4]

In any case, the herbal shops and health food “fanatics” of the 1960s and 1970s were harbingers of a real and significant advances in how we achieve and maintain health. From an informal inventory of my Christian friends now, 40 years later, I see most take some supplements daily.

The use of herbs and medication for health is actually clear in the Bible. Unfortunately it is most clear in the “large Bible” – the canon of books used by the Catholics, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Christians.  Their  canon contains books and sections of books written in Greek and not found in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. These books, as in 1st  and 2nd  Maccabees, were in the Septuagint, which Jesus often quoted.  But the Reformers did not include those Greek books in their translations of the printed Bible, so that today Protestants mostly disregard them.
.
One of these books, Ecclesiasticus is especially important in reference to the healing ministry as it has a section which lauds doctors and medical herbs as gifts from God:

Treat the doctor with the honor that is his due, in consideration of his services; for he too has been created by the Lord. Healing itself comes from the Most High, like a gift received from a king. The doctor's learning keeps his head high, and the great regard him with awe. The Lord has brought forth medicinal herbs from the ground, and no one sensible will despise them. Did not a piece of wood once sweeten the water, thus giving proof  of its power? He has also given some people knowledge, so that they may draw credit from his mighty works. He uses these for healing and relieving pain; the druggist makes up a mixture from them. Thus, there is no end to his activities; thanks to him, well-being exists throughout the world. My child, when you are ill, do not rebel, but pray to the Lord and he will heal you. Renounce your faults, keep your hands unsoiled, and cleanse your heart from all sin. Offer incense and a memorial of fine flour, make as rich an offering as you can afford. Then let the doctor take over -- the Lord created him too -- do not let him leave you, for you need him. There are times when good health depends on doctors. For they, in their turn, will pray the Lord to grant them the grace to relieve and to heal, and so prolong your life. (Ecclesiasticus 38: 1-14)

Had Protestants valued this passage as inspired scripture many of the problems of the early Faith-Cure movement and Pentecostalism would have been avoided. Many of these early healing pioneers took a “faith vs medicine” stand. If the Christians wanted God to heal his or her disease they had to renounce medication and rely solely on prayer for healing.[5]  Echoes of this tragic mistake crop up every so often when some fundamentalists Christian denies medication such as insulin to his diabetic child. This causes scandal and heathen sneer at the ignorance of Christians.

In our household Carolyn is now the principal “health foods and supplement” person. This is reversal of role from when we first married. In 1970 I was the supplements guy and avid reader of Prevention, etc. With time I eased off, but have always taken some supplements daily. Carolyn’s schedule permits her to watch “The Doctor’s” most days, and she monitors many health food sites. She is the one who now shares new tips on supplements and healthy eating (and how dangerous belly fat is – which she informs me with divine stubbornness and repetition).

Doing the tourist thing in Chattanooga with my sister/sister on the left and Carolyn on the
right. Sister Gloria has been a nun for over 60 years, and was one of the first in her
order to embrace the Charismatic Renewal of the Catholic Church. She is on duty now
days as novice master in Guatamala

Carolyn’s journey:

But now to the main point, how prayer has eased our transition to old age.  I will describe Carolyn's process first.

Her family was originally from Nova Scotia of Scotch descent, and apparently had a genetic tendency for macular degeneration.Her grandfather went totally blind by the time he was 50, as did one of her uncles. Carolyn has been diagnosed with several eye problems at various stages of her "golden years," including the first signs of macular degeneration. Last week when she went to the eye doctor again he was surprised that it had not progressed at all. (Prayer, thank you Lord!)  Twelve years ago an eye specialist told her that she had an extremely thin retina, and that she would probably soon go blind, "In a few weeks, months, or at most few years." She has not lost her sight, although she has now cataracts that restrict her night vision and driving. Again, the difference between total blindness and adequate vision comes from prayer. She has also been careful to take the new vitamin formulations for eye health.


Carolyn coaching healing prayer at one of our workshops.


About seven years ago Carolyn was diagnosed with a kidney disease that the doctor feared would lead to kidney failure and dialysis, etc. The doctor put her on a low sodium diet, and warned her that kidneys do not heal, and that eventually they would fail. I am the cook of the house, and learned to cook without any added salt, and have avoided processed foods, etc. The low sodium diet has done us both good, as my blood pressure continues to be in the very good range.

Two years after her kidney diagnosis she returned to the same doctor for a check-up. Her kidneys had shown improvement. He was surprised, as the normal “best” result is stabilization of the kidney function. She explained to the doctor, “We pray together every day.” He said, “Hum, yes, prayer is good.” Indeed! Note the difference between the hardships of dialysis and living with a low sodium diet (which is actually no real bother). Prayer made the difference

A month ago her primary care doctor took a sample of a spot she had in her cheek. The doctor feared it was melanoma deep in the skin. We prayed. The biopsy came back negative.

Bill’s Journey:

I have had only a few health issues, none of which have been life threatening. But as a middle aged man I already had a weakness in my right knee. A dozen years ago I had arthritis in that joint and at one point was in considerable pain and severely limited in motion. Carolyn and I began praying for the knee regularly, and I also learned that alfalfa tablets would help. I tried them and they helped greatly. I was soon walking in complete normality – again, a combination of prayer and supplements. But occasionally there would be a flair up in that knee. I remember one Sunday I hobbled into church, and a young boy in our congregation came up to me and offered to pray for my knee (we trained them right!). He laid hands on my knee and prayed and my knee was healed immediately.

Years later, at a service in the assisted living ministry, I was preaching energetically and as I turned to demonstrate a point, “snap” went my knee. Horrible pain!  I had to finish the service sitting down and then hoped to the car on one foot. I made it to the VA hospital the next day on crutches. The orthopedic doctor showed me the x-ray and said that arthritis had worn down the cartilage on my knee joint. There was nothing that could reverse it. She solemnly added, “This will never be healed. It will only get worse. When the pain gets too bad we will do a knee replacement for you.”  She gave me a prescription for a strong pain killer, and I was fitted with a hefty knee brace.


For a month Carolyn and I prayed consistently for my knee to be healed. At night in bed as we cuddled she placed her hand on my knee and prayed for and commanded complete healing in Jesus’ name (command healing is the New Testament standard, and is now just coming into broader use among Christians).  I began taking the supplement glucosamine-chondroitin consistently

It is now two years since my knee "event" and I walk completely without pain and walk normally. Between walking the dog and my duties at work I average about a mile a day. I use a light brace only when I plan walking longer. I continue to take one or two tables of generic Aleve and several alfalfa tablets every day as anti-inflammatories

Note that like Carolyn's healing of her kidneys and her non-use of dialysis, my lack of a need for knee replacement surgery has saved a lot of money and personal bother. (Insurance executives note well!)  Carolyn and I pray for each other every day without fail. We try to stay ahead of or infirmities, and to an amazing degree have succeeded.

Go thou and do likewise!



Announcements:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my 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





Just released is my first book of  plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.

The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.

Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.

The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.

The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4




Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

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.











[1] For a glimpse of our ministry together in healing, see Carolyn Koontz DeArteaga''s, Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles (Alachua: Bridge-Logos, 2013). Can be bought HERE
[2] I am known  as a strongly anti-cessationist minister and writer. The Rev. John MacArthur, the cessationist-in-chief of American Christianity, singled me out for criticism in a chapter in one of his books, called Reckless Faith, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1994). You can pretty much guess what he said.
[3] Gumprecht. Jane. Holistic Health: A Medical and Biblical Critique of the New Age Deception. (Moscow: Ransom, 1986).  Dr Gumprecht also wrote another exceedingly stupid and ill informed book. This one was on Agnes Sanford, called Abusing Memory; The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford. (Moscow: Canon, 1997). This work unfortunately pops up when one googles Mrs. Sanford, the great pioneer of Christian healing prayer and developer of inner healing. She claimed, among other things, that Mrs. Sanfrod was a New Ager (not true) and that she had no “sin consciousness” as in other New Age folks. This proves she did not read Mrs. Sanford’ most important work, The Healing Light where she talks about the sacrament of confession which she used and which she described as important to the Christian's spiritual and emotional health.     
[4] Quenching the Spirit, (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1992, 1996 rev.) Chapter 13, "What Does a heretic Know About Truth?" This work can be bought HERE
[5] Ibid, chapter 9, "The Evangelical Healers of the 1800s."