Wineskins Archive

February 5, 2014

A Healing Ministry That Makes Sense (Nov-Dec 1999)

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Tony Campolo
November – December 1999

I have started to anoint people’s heads with oil, lay hands on them and pray for their healing. Unlike the healers I see on television, not much sensational happens. Nevertheless, I do it. During most Sunday morning preaching services, I tell people that if they want me to pray for them for healing, I will give it my best. I tell them that I am not good at this sort of thing and that I don’t have any special “gift,” as some would claim to possess. But then none of us are really healers. It is God who heals!

And there’s just no telling what the answer will be if we ask. “I have tried asking, and I’ve tried not asking,” I say, “And I’ve found that asking works better.” I tell them that I have taken to praying for healing because Jesus told us to, and that I am only trying to be obedient to his command.

What I think have been the most important consequences of this ministry have been the ways that people have been blessed by it all — in spite of the rarity of physical healings. One Sunday, I prayed with a man who had an advanced case of cancer. The following Wednesday his wife called me to tell me he had died. When I told her that apparently my prayers didn’t do much good, she answered, “Don’t say that! They did a lot of good! Before you prayed with him, he was angry with God and filled with fear. But afterwards a peace came over him. The last three days have been among the happiest we have ever had together. And when he left me, he was holding my hand and he said, ‘I’ll be waiting for you!’ ”

In a church out West, a couple of dozen people lingered behind after morning worship to receive the anointing and the laying on of hands. The pastor of the church accompanied me as I went from person to person. Surprisingly, only a couple of them had physical ailments. The rest were people with sicknesses of the soul. There were women who wept over marriages that were coming apart, a man whose life was being consumed by pornography, a teenager who was guilt ridden over an abortion and several men and women who were suffering from depression. I was with them for a couple of hours, because I refuse to rush these things. I want to share in peoples’ pain. I want to cry with them. And I want to spend long minutes in silence with my hands on their heads, hoping that the Holy Spirit will flow through me into them.

It seemed like nothing special was happening to them, yet it was obvious that it all meant something very special to them. When I finished this healing ministry to these people, I could see that the pastor was upset. He told me, “I’ve been at this church for twenty years. I thought I knew these people. But as I listened to them talking to you this morning, I realized that I really don’t know them at all.”

So often people come to church and go away without even having had the chance to unburden themselves in a passionately personal way. They hunger to be heard, to be touched, to be healed — especially if the healing that they really seek is the healing of their souls.

I don’t know why I didn’t start ministering in this way before. I wonder why every pastor isn’t into it. Perhaps it is because we are afraid of looking bad if nothing physical happens. Maybe it is our modern scientific approach to things keeping us from believing that healing really does happen. I don’t know the reasons, but from now on I am going to ask people if they want prayer, and if they do, I will give it a try and leave the results to God. There’s just no telling when God will surprise me with the kind of physical healing that the Catholic saints and so many Pentecostal preachers experience normally, and refer to as miracles.Wineskins Magazine

Tony Campolo

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