Healing is central to the Christian Gospel. Healing the relationship between God and humankind is the very essence of Christ's work in his life, death, and resurrection.
During his ministry, Jesus healed lepers, blind men, the lame, a haemorraging woman, the demon-possessed, and even raised the dead. He also involved his disciples in the work of healing. The Book of Acts contains accounts of healing by Christ's followers, and the Epistles of Saint Paul discuss healing as a gift of the Holy Spirit. For nearly 300 years, physical healing was an integral component of Christian life and faith as a sign of God's love, compassion, and care.
Healing ministry was a normal part of early Christianity. Justin Martyr, who lived around AD 150, tells in several places how Christians healed and cast out evil in the name of Jesus. Rome was converted to Christianity with the help of healings and exorcisms. Irenaus who lived around the same time as Justin Martyr, attested to “almost the same range of healings as we have found in the Gospels and Acts.”
Copies of ancient prayers used by a bishop to bless the oil of anointing show that the early Christians expected this blessing with oil to bring healing to the whole person, body, mind and spirit. For the first 300 years of the church people prayed for and received the so-called charisms of the Holy Spirit when they were baptised. Everyone prayed for healing. Healing ministry was a normal response to someone who was sick.
“Healing was a normal part of early Christianity ... In recent years, many have rediscovered Jesus’ commission to bring forgiveness, healing and deliverance from evil to God’s people. "
From about the 4th century onwards, for reasons which are too complex to go into here, the healing ministry of the church declined. For centuries, church authorities discouraged any interest in prayer for physical healing. It was only during the 20th century that there was a gradual reawakening in some churches to the power of healing prayer. In recent years, many have rediscovered Jesus’ commission to bring forgiveness, healing and deliverance from evil to God’s people.
At St Nicolas’ Church, an evening service of Holy Communion with Prayer for Healing is exactly like any other Communion service except for a short pause in the middle when those who wish may come to the front to ask those presiding at the service to pray, individually, quietly and confidentially, for their healing or that of someone else. We use the ancient tradition of anointing those who come forward with holy oil and ask God to fill each one with “his healing and his peace”.