By Larry Harrelson
“Does God heal today?” Answers vary, depending on one’s religious orientation (or not) and the church or religious group to which one belongs. I have affirmed God’s ability to heal from a rather early age.
Speaking autobiographically, I grew up in Pentecostalism, which vigorously preached and practiced divine healing. As a teenager with a toothache, I remember being in pain while listening to a 45-rpm rock-and-roll record in my bedroom. Since my tooth was hurting, I prayed for the toothache to go away. I was amazed when the pain stopped immediately and did not return. An epiphany came to my house that day.
Fast forward several years. After college and Army duty, I became an Episcopalian. Imagine my surprise to learn that those Episcopalians anointed with oil, laid on hands, and prayed for healing – just like the Pentecostals of my youth, albeit often in a more formal manner. After a while, I went to seminary and began a ministry as an Episcopal priest.
As a priest, I have anointed with oil, laid hands on, and prayed for healing of people in churches, hospitals, homes, nursing homes, mental hospitals, and other places. I, too, have been the recipient of healing ministry several times in church, hospital, and home.
I believe that God wants our wholeness. Surprising things can happen in response to prayer, as well as more subtle and progressive healings. I have discovered that healing is multifaceted and that there is healing for our memories, thought patterns, and interpersonal relationships, as well as our bodies.
Being able to accept God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves, as well as others, is no small healing matter. Opening ourselves to and welcoming the Holy One brings “peace that passes all understanding.” We are complex human beings and yet a whole. Healing in one part of our lives positively affects other parts.
Moreover, I believe God heals through medicine – such as physicians who have performed surgeries and developed the right mix of medications for me. My wife, family, and friends who love, support, and forgive me are agents of God.
Wise counsel and friendship have brokered wholeness/holiness on more than one occasion. The right words from holy scripture have uplifted, corrected, and sustained me. The real presence of the risen Christ in communion has brought tangible evidence of love in times of not feeling well. The body of Christ in the people who surround me brings life, belonging and hope.
God works in subtle, behind-the-scenes ways and in direct, dramatic ways. With open minds and hearts, the divine healing initiative may be intuited if not always fully comprehended.
Does God heal today? Yes – in many ways. Look and behold.
The Rev. Larry Harrelson is retired from parish ministry and lives in Meridian, Idaho. This article was first published in the September 28. 2008 issue of The Living Church.