Questions and Responses
Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services
When we are sick, it is easy to become frustrated by our limitations. We do not have our usual energy, we may be physically restricted, and our emotional and mental resources can be depleted. One thing sickness cannot limit, however, is our ability to pray.
St. Therese of Lisieux described prayer this way: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” St. John Damascene wrote, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”
The essence of prayer comes from what is in the heart. In the Gospels, people brought their requests to Jesus in a variety of ways. He never stopped them and told them to kneel first or to use the “proper” words. Instead, he heard the cries of their hearts and answered them.
There is no sickness that can prevent us from lifting our hearts to the Lord. He sees into the depths of our hearts, and he knows our desires and intentions even if we are unable to communicate them clearly. In fact, illness can dispose us to pray for healing even more effectively. It can open our eyes to the pain and difficulties that others suffer. We gain a greater sense of their needs and can pray with greater fervor.
Can I pray for healing for myself?
The Gospels recount many instances of sick, disabled, or afflicted people coming to Jesus to ask for healing. In every case, the Lord welcomed their requests with compassion and healing. The Gospels contain not a hint of reproach for these petitions. So we too should not hesitate to ask the Lord for healing. He loves to answer prayers prayed with great faith!
If we are not healed immediately, however, we can lovingly embrace our suffering, trusting that the Lord will use it for his glory and our good. This may seem to be in contradiction to asking for healing, but it is not. It is a stance of active surrender: bringing our request to Jesus, but trusting him to answer it in his perfect timing and his perfect way.
Can I pray for healing for others?
Sickness may necessitate some common sense decisions. If you have a flu or other contagious illness, for instance, it is obviously not prudent to attend a prayer meeting or lay hands on people. It is more loving to pray at home and avoid the risk of spreading illness. Even if you are not physically present to those you are praying for, Jesus is not limited in his power to hear and respond.
If your illness is not contagious and you are taking the appropriate medical steps toward healing, there is no reason not to pray over others. You do not need to worry about passing on a spirit of sickness.
When you pray for healing, you are asking the Holy Spirit to come and minister to the person in need, and he will always respond to your prayer.
If you sense that you are being harassed or oppressed by evil spirits, however, you should receive deliverance prayer yourself before praying over someone else. The Lord wants you to be free and to be led by the Spirit without hindrance.
When we are not sure how to pray for a sick person, praying in tongues is a good way to start. Often as we pray in tongues, the Spirit will give us further insight as to how to pray. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27).
There is a special gift hidden in sickness: the gift of uniting our sufferings to Christ’s. When we are afflicted, we share in his passion in a very tangible way. He gives us the privilege of offering our sufferings in union with his, participating in his redemption. St. Paul wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).
When we are healthy, we do not have this gift to offer. But when we are sick and choose to offer our sufferings as St. Paul did, they become a powerful prayer for the sake of others. We participate in the triumph of his cross! What a profound honor.
“As we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2 Cor 1:5-6).