We read in the Gospels that Jesus ministered healing to the multitudes. The needs were great, seemingly overwhelming at times. Jesus wanted helpers. He empowered the apostles to minister in His name. He sent them out to preach and to heal, to cleanse lepers, and to cast out demons.
The disciples returned from their mission enthused, because the ministry was powerful, and their prayers were effective. They prayed for healing, and healing took place. They found that “even demons are subjected to us when we use Your name.” Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus too was filled with joy. He prayed, “I bless You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for what You have hidden from the learned and clever, You have revealed to the simple and the childlike” (see Luke 10:1–24).
We should understand what happened with the disciples, because what they did, we are supposed to do. So how did they heal the sick and cast out demons?
We know what the disciples did, but we know precious little about how they did it. The Gospels tell us only that they used the name of Jesus and anointed with oil. The prayer that Jesus utters when they return, however, gives us insight into the nature of their ministry and ours.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 1:3-4)
The ministry that Jesus was calling for is not something that the learned and clever can uncover by research and study. Rather, the ministry is for the simple of spirit and the childlike. It comes from the heart rather than from the head.
Throughout the centuries many have attempted to understand the healing power of Jesus. People have looked for techniques, methods, or even an occult science or some secret knowledge that Jesus might have taught His disciples. One might hear a minister say, “Step out in faith, claim your healing, and you will be healed.” Some people would teach that laying hands on the sick is the only way to pray for healing. Some ministers demand a definite and explicit response to their prayer. Others ask quiet acceptance of the prayer without any outward sign of that acceptance.
Relying on a technique probably arises from a combination of insecurity and the need to control. The truth is that there is no prayer formula. The healing power of Jesus, and hence that of His disciples, is not so much a technique as a working of the Spirit of Love. It is simply a deep compassion for people who suffer and a quiet confidence in the Father’s love.
Search the Gospel stories to see how Jesus healed. What you will find is that there does not seem to be any one way of doing it. In more than half the cases, Jesus gave a command accompanied by a touch. In some instances it was a touch without a word, and at other times it was a word of command without a touch. Sometimes He touched the sick; sometimes they touched Him (see Matthew 8:3; 9:20, for example). Occasionally Jesus called upon a person’s faith; other times He gave commands without asking for a faith response (Matthew 9:6, 27–30).
Jesus used physical things — some rather unorthodox. He put His finger in the ears of the deaf-mute and His saliva on the man’s tongue (see Mark 7:33). He rubbed mud, made from His saliva, into the eyes of a man born blind (John 9:6).
Sometimes it seems as if Jesus did nothing, as in the story of the ten lepers who came to Him for healing. He simply told them, “Go and show yourself to the priest.” As they went on their way, they discovered that they were healed. It seems to have happened quietly and in a hidden way (see Luke 17:12–15).
Whether it was a spoken word, a command, a touch, a gesture, or simply silence, healing happened, and people were deeply blessed. It is love that touched hearts, minds, and bodies. It is the love of Jesus that is important to imitate, not the technique.
We see in Scripture that Jesus met each situation differently, because each situation, and each person in each situation, was unique. Jesus was in communion with the Father, and He knew what was needed in each case. Jesus knew that each heart, each person, and each situation was special. Knowing the inner needs of each person would produce the appropriate approach to each.
Healing gifts include not only the gift of healing but also gifts of discernment, wisdom, healing touch, prophetic utterance, the word of knowledge, and especially the gifts of compassion and love. All these gifts and more are needed to effectively minister healing in the name of Jesus.
Father Richard McAlear has decades of service in the healing ministry as both a teacher and one called upon to pray for healing.
This is an excerpt from "The Power of Healing Prayer: Overcoming Emotional and Psychological Blocks." Read the book to learning more about healing ministry, including six defining qualities: gentleness, touch, positive prayer, teamwork, imagination and open and grateful hearts.