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Why do people pray for and believe in miracle healing?

(24 Posts)
LoverOfCake Mon 30-Oct-17 13:58:40

Asking this here rather than in aibu or chat because more likely to get balanced comments perhaps?

I will state here that I am more agnostic than religious or atheist iyswim, but grew up in an incredibly religious country, think fire and brimstone and constant atonement and the devil is in everything we do sort of thing which put me off the idea of any kind of faith being in any way a positive thing.

That being said, I do see that people take comfort from having a faith and that prayers for healing and wellness in the initial stages of severe illness are of course natural if you have a faith because you want to believe that the person will recover rather than the alternative.

However, I have a friend whose dh is currently terminally ill with cancer which has spread to multiple parts of his body. They have now ruled out all but one drug to prolong life and this one appears to have very little hope although they will be given an answer this week. She is naturally distraught and wants prayers for her and her dh, not least because they are going through an incredibly difficult time with e.g. Their medical insurance (they're in the US) and what they will and won't provide and so on.

But the reality is that he is not going to survive this. sad and yet her timeline is full of messages from people saying things like "praying for you, healing is the only outcome here, God has already healed him and it will happen when you least expect." Not just one, but dozens of these messages from different people, all in the apparent belief that all they have to do is pray and there will be a miracle.

But there are no miracles. He cannot survive this. His family needs peace and strength to face the next step of the journey which will be him going into a hospice. sad and yet there are people talking about how he is going to be healed and nothing short of that can possibly happen. This is just a test of his faith and so on.

So what happens when he dies? Will it then be said that obviously his faith wasn't strong enough as healing didn't happen? Even though healing at this stage is not going to happen? If people were just offering up prayer for strength, courage, even just prayer with no attached value I could absolutely understand. But the prayers for complete healing and the apparent promises that it will happen because his faith is obviously strong enough for it to happen make me incredibly uncomfortable and doubt the basis of any kind of faith even more.

So can someone explain to me how it is that in the modern day of modern medicine people still perpetuate this stuff?

steppemum Mon 30-Oct-17 14:22:14

The simple answer is that people pray for it because they hope their loved one will get healed, and there are times when miracles do occur, even in last chance cases.

I am a Christian, and praying for healing is definitely part and parcel of my faith, I have been healed of minor things and seen it in others. I know of one or two severe cases too.

BUT there is a problem I think amongst Christians who strongly believe this, which is that they often find it hard to accept that it doesn't always happen. In fact the other way round it more often doesn't happen than it does. For some people, knowing that it does happen sometimes, but it hasn't happened to them or their loved one is the breaking point of their faith.

It can be terribly destructive too, you don't get a chance to say goodbye properly as the person is constantly hoping for last minute healing. It doesn't allow much space for a 'good death' if you know what I mean.

I have an older friend at the moment in last stages of cancer, he has seen many answered prayers along the way - when some symptoms were really bad and everyone prayed they got much less etc. But he is not seeing any healing to his underlying cancer. I know he only has a few months, actually more likely a few weeks. He is in and out of hospice care. I would love to go and see him, and thank him for all his lovely friendship, he has been a mentor to me in some ways, but that all smacks of saying goodbye, and he is insistent that God will heal him.

For me, my faith is more complicated than this! I know that God CAN heal and sometimes does, but we live, as does everyone, in the world as it is, and to me, I don't expect to be rescued out of the crap situations that the world sends us, I expect to try and be a testimony to God's love in the middle of the crap, if that makes sense. I have seen a friend die very young of cancer and her faith and her love shone out right to the end. She did get an amazing remission of over a year, against all the expectations of the doctors, and she saw that as a answer to prayer. But in the end she got ill again, and she knew this time she would probably die. She spent the time making amazing memories for her kids and blogging about what she was learning along the way. It was the most wonderful thing to read. Totally broke my heart.

The Bible promises that in the end, in heaven there will be no more illness or death, and to me, that is the place where most healing happens. I continue to pray for people who are sick, and sometimes we do see lovely answers.

LaurieFairyCake Mon 30-Oct-17 14:30:50

I don’t believe in physical healing (I’m also a Christian) as then I’d have to get into the why does God heal some and not others - and there’s no answer to that which doesn’t make God look capricious or mysterious. And honestly, fuck mysterious - my Christianity is grounded as much as it can possibly be when I’m talking about a universal spirit

So I pray for people to cope with it and gain strength

BigApple11 Mon 30-Oct-17 14:31:26

I don’t have any answers. But I just had to say, what a wonderful post @steppemum flowers

steppemum Mon 30-Oct-17 14:37:21

thanks big apple blush

thegreenheartofmanyroundabouts Mon 30-Oct-17 16:09:43

I've been involved with the healing ministry in the past and my experience is that healing that happens is not of the cancer going and legs growing back variety. What often seems to happen is the strength and courage to go on, to face the past, to be reconciled with a diagnosis and to forgive past hurts. To say that healing is often of the spirit might sound like a cop out but that is what seems to happen.

I have no truck with the 'if you had more faith you would be healed' school of thought. I've been both hospice and hospital chaplain and it doesn't work like that. I'm sorry your friend is going through this. It must be hard.

Lozmatoz Mon 30-Oct-17 17:27:48


Caulk Mon 30-Oct-17 17:34:34

I agree with steppemum.

I was definitely on the fence, believing that healing didn’t really work. Twice I’ve been entirely healed though, and I know other people they have. I had scars from self harm and one time they just faded in front of me. It was a total miracle, I see no other way of it happening.

I don’t know why some people are healed in the way they want and some people aren’t. For me, heaven is really important in this - we might not be healed on earth but we will be in heaven.

Jason118 Mon 30-Oct-17 19:29:31


steppemum Mon 30-Oct-17 21:22:25

I have no truck with the 'if you had more faith you would be healed' school of thought

couldn't agree more. Awful thing to say to anyone too.

I agree too that much healing is of the soul or spirit.

Strawberrybubblebath Mon 30-Oct-17 22:55:52

I think that sometimes people with terminal illness (religious and non religious) need that slight glimmer of hope that some kind of miraculous healing may occur. It can help keep them from tipping over the edge into terrible despair.
Others may be calm and accepting of their impending death and gain comfort by making memories for their loved ones or making a bucket list or even planning their funeral service.
I cannot say which is the best way to be. I guess there isn't a best way - perhaps it just depends on the individual.

Perhaps those people praying for healing for a terminally ill person can't cope with the distressing situation themselves and want to try and make everything alright for the person who is dying. Not everyone can handle the distress involved in someone dying and perhaps they can't accept the reality themselves. Perhaps they think they might inadvertently upset the person who is dying by talking about their death. Maybe they are just trying to avoid the reality.

Perhaps the dying person has asked them to pray for healing as they need that hope to be able to face what each day brings.

I honestly don't think the people praying would mean to cause distress. They are probably thinking they are helping the situation by offering a glimmer of hope. They may be mistaken but like I say not everyone has had much experience of people dying and may not know the best way to handle it.

If someone wanted me to pray for them to be healed then of course I would. If they wanted me to pray for strength for their surviving loved ones or relief from pain, etc then of course I would do that.

Madhairday Fri 03-Nov-17 08:28:13

I love steppemum's post and agree.

I think that some of the terminology used around healing can be markedly unhelpful and sometimes downright damaging. To say that 'theyre already healed, just have to step out and claim it' is not okay at all. To say that it is to do with the sick person's faith is also not okay.

I've experienced a whole lot of this stuff, growing up with a degenerative disease. I've had some lovely helpful prayer and some hateful stuff. My belief in God as a healer has not wavered; like steppe I think we live in a broken world and are thus not immune from all the broken stuff. In my experience God sometimes steps in and heals. I like the paradigm of 'the now and the not yet' - we live in the now with all its crap and disease and chaos and decay, and sometimes see glimpses of the not yet' - God's kingdom breaking through. I've been undeniably healed of other things, like the time I had a leg injury and it was healed instantaneously when someone prayed, but my long term condition remains with me. I don't think it's to do with God being capricious and picky. I just think we sometimes see a glimpse of how things should be.

I do know folk who've been healed of something more serious, including cancer, but like greenheart I think God tends to work more in the emotions and spirit. However, I also see a lot of differences between the western experience of this and some other places in the world, where there is somehow more expectancy and they see the miraculous more in the everyday. It's interesting - I think we're very cynical and guarded, but there is a place for being careful about this stuff.

What I do know is that within the bonds of my own pain I know God working in the everyday, in the mess with me and alongside me, working incredibly in my spirit and emotions. When I look to God, I'm taken not out of my pain but somehow the pain becomes less all consuming, and I love that God gets it because of Jesus and what he experienced.

I believe in the miraculous because my God is a God of miracles. I don't always see it. But I am careful not to close myself off to it.

Wanderlust1984 Mon 06-Nov-17 18:51:12

It's ridiculous. Both believing in a god and additionally believing a prayer could heal anybody, in this day and age ffs

OldWitch00 Mon 06-Nov-17 18:58:19

I think of positive thoughts and prayers for the terminally ill in relationship to peace, pain control, and family presence. Not necessarily healing of the physical condition.

Iamahppy Mon 06-Nov-17 19:44:07

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the whole thing-

Tim Minchin - Thankyou god for fixing the cataract of sams mum (in case the link doesn't work)

Vitalogy Mon 06-Nov-17 21:08:14

Why people think that man is funny I'll never know.

Mishappening Mon 06-Nov-17 21:17:21

It is a strange thing because those who pray for healing (for themselves or for others) often find a way to interpret the outcome (whatever it might be) as a good gift from their deity. e.g. healing can consist of dying.

I do however think that having others praying for you has some value - when I was very ill I knew that those of my friends who were religious were praying for me and that lifted my spirits because I appreciated the kindness; just as I appreciated the kind messages and thoughts of those who were not religious.

Wanderlust1984 Tue 07-Nov-17 08:20:56

I live Tim Minchin and actually was just showing a friend that video the other day! A certain level of intelligence is needed to understand his humour and he's very switched on so you never meet thickies at his gigs either 😁

Wanderlust1984 Tue 07-Nov-17 08:22:05

I appreciate the irony of my typos in my post, new phone 😂😂😂

Vitalogy Tue 07-Nov-17 14:42:07

A certain level of intelligence is needed to understand his humour Now that's funny.

Iamahppy Tue 07-Nov-17 14:55:38

Whether you find him funny or not his message is valid - how egotistical do you have to be to believe that a god has chosen to heal you, 1 person while many millions are dying or in pain.

With the advent of social media you can now watch how for example Facebook or Mumsnet can whip up thousands of very specific prayers for individuals in a short space of time, I've yet to see any genuine miracles and have only been saddened by stories.

I also find it horrific in USA how church leaders like Joel Osteen have become millionaires off the backs of folllowers with little to give.

claraschu Tue 07-Nov-17 15:36:44

Love Tim Minchin- that's a wonderful song, I think.

I will add this, for the atheists among us:

Gingernaut Tue 07-Nov-17 15:42:44

Desperation. Poor education. Seven Stages of Grief.

cheapskatemum Sun 12-Nov-17 18:17:26

Philip Yancey wrote about this in his book “Where is God When it Hurts?” I’ve nearly finished it & can recommend it to anyone asking such questions as OP. For example, he grapples with the fact that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I have prayed for people who have made miraculous recoveries. It’s power given by the Holy Spirit to believers in Christ. I’d rather do it in faith in the hope it will work, than not do it knowing it won’t.

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