Some of my friends on FB know that, back in May, I was at a friend’s house during a late night power outage, and slipped on an unusually shaped/sized step going into her kitchen to get a candle, and simultaneously broke a bone in my foot while tearing a tendon in my ankle. It was a VERY slow-healing fracture (the 5th metatarsal is a notoriously difficult bone for fracture healing) and it turns out that the torn tendon is an even bigger, more long-term issue than that.
Four months later, and I was just starting to be able to walk again, albeit with the help of crutches and physical therapy. Here, at the fifth month mark, I can now hobble around the house without crutches, but generally when I go out in public I still use the crutches for otherwise painful occasions, like shopping, where I’ll need to walk more than a few feet at a time. This past weekend I was not feeling all that ambitious, so I took my crutches with me as I visited…a new [charismatic] church.
My friend who went with me remarked on our way to the car, “Do you think they’ll call you up to the front to pray for you to be healed?” I replied, “No, I doubt they’d do that. I don’t think what from what I know of this church that that would be their style. But – I bet they’ll get me in their lobby after the service is over.” I was really actually not hoping this to be the case – but we were mostly teasing each other with the comments.
So I walked into the church, feeling like I had a bullseye on my back, saying, “Aim prayers here.” I was glad when we found an empty pew, and I could lay down my crutches and be “normal” again. It’s not that I don’t like prayer – I actually do like prayer. It’s just that there’s something about the way people accost people when they want to try out their healing ju-ju on them that is very uncomfortable to me in some ways – especially when the prayer is not asked for, and the person is a stranger.
Anyway, we sat through the service, and both my friend and I found the teaching time to be really down-to-earth, basic, but solid stuff. So solid in fact that we sat there for at least a good 5 minutes after the meeting was over, just processing together some of the heart issues that were brought up for both of us. Meanwhile, the room grew emptier. So we finally got up to leave.
Back in the lobby, my friend went to look for a pen to fill out the visitor card that would earn us a “free CD” as first time visitors, and I stood there a moment waiting, when an attractive and trendy guy came up to me and introduced himself. He talked to me for a little bit and seemed strangely friendly and interested in me, beyond what I would normally expect from an attractive and trendy guy on first meeting. I honestly wondered at his interest in me – was he trying to pick me up? Call it low self-esteem, but that seemed highly improbable. So what was with this dude? Men of this caliber, unfortunately, rarely even speak with me – let alone speak to me with such a level of personal interest.
And then came the question – the question that instantly brought me back to reality and immediately removed all questions from my mind. “So,” he asked, “on a scale from 1 to 10, how bad would you say your ankle hurts right now?” And right then and there, I knew. Not because I was intuitive, no, but because he was following the ‘script’ – the latest charismatic formula for how someone who has been trained in ‘healing’ in any of the big name ‘healing schools’ or conferences is trained to approach their victim – I mean – the person they want to try healing.
How the script is supposed to go is like this: you ask the person how bad their pain is on a quantitative scale, from 1 to 10. Then you ask to pray for them. You ask to touch them and lay your hand on the part that hurts, if possible. Then after you command that part of their body to be healed, you ask them if they felt anything. And you ask them if the pain has decreased – and you get another number on the scale from them. Then you ask to pray again to get the pain to go down the scale further. Then you check your ‘patient’ and ask again if the pain is any less. And you keep repeating the process, over and over and over, until the patient finally says they are in much less pain, or that they are healed. Then you ask them to do something that would have been painful earlier, like if they had shoulder pain, to lift their arm above their head or something. This is a pattern – a template even, for how the interaction between the healer and healee is to be carried out.
So my new friend of the moment asked me how my foot felt on a scale of 1 to 10, and I instantly knew that my earlier prognostication that I would be the recipient of healing prayer ministry in the lobby after the service, was instantly proven accurate. Yay.
I cut to the chase. I told him, “The pain is only around a 2 right now, because the crutches are bearing my weight for me. But if you want to pray for my foot, you’re more than welcome to do so.” Heck, it’s not the prayer itself that bugs me. Since he was here, I’d receive the prayer. So he prayed…and commanded…the ankle to heal. Then he got up and predictably, asked me if I felt anything happening. I told him, honestly – no, I didn’t. I saw him getting ready to go for round two…and I just didn’t want to go through that whole entire process of pray, ask, repeat – pray, ask, repeat. I wonder, if this formula was designed knowing that people eventually feel so much pressure to say, “Yeah, yeah, the pain has gone down” that they eventually just give in and say that? I know from my past run ins with this form of prayer that there comes a point when I feel so pressured to just say something has happened just because it feels like the person will never let you go otherwise. Anyway, I didn’t want to go through the whole process, so I cut to the chase again, thanked him for his one prayer, and told him the honest to God truth: I have experienced healing before. But it has never, ever happened to me while someone was actually in the process of prayer with me.
So my benefactor kindly nodded, smiled, and let me go. And I was glad. But as I look back on the encounter, I realized a few things. And mostly it was this:
There are people in churches and groups I have been in that have never been interested in knowing me, or being friends with me. But when they host an Avon party or an Amway party or some other sort of “get everyone who has a checkbook to come to your party” type party, they never fail to invite me. And for me, it always goes something like, “Wow, you are talking to me? You are inviting me to a party? Wow – thank you – I’ve been really hoping to get to know you all this time and i always got the impression you didn’t think I was cool enough to know.” And then, just as my hope is rising, I realize – oh, wait. It’s not a real party. It’s not a social invitation. It’s a business. They only invited me to THIS party because of the fact that they need customers.
And unfortunately, that’s sort of how I felt with Mr. Cute Healing Guy. (He was married it turned out – which is fine. He’s probably married to someone as cute as he is – but wow, it would have been so amazing for my friend and I to get invited to go to a meal with Mr. and Mrs. Trendy after church, and all get to know each other. That would have been totally banging. But that’s not what this was about.) You see, this is what I think it was about. No, he didn’t want money from me. But, I can’t help but think he saw me, not as a someone to know, but as someone to practice on. In these healing seminars, where these methods are taught, one other thing is taught: that the big guys, like John Wimber, who learned how to “do the stuff” and really heal people, prayed for something like 500 people first without a single miracle, before they got their first healing. So you have to just get out there and practice, practice, practice. And how do you practice unless you can find people to practice on? That’s what I think I was to this guy – an injured object for him to practice on. Not someone he wanted to know…. not someone he even really truly cared about, but just, a chance for him to try out his stuff.
Does that sound bleak and bitter? I suppose I could go to that church 10 more times, and see if he ever talks to me again – or if he ever talks to me about anything other than, “How is your foot? Would it be ok if I tried praying for your foot again?” But I will concede: perhaps I am wrong about this guy’s intentions. The thing is, even if I am reading the wrong thing here with him, I know one thing is certain: this blog post is worth publishing, because there are thousands of other people being taught to do exactly what this guy did, and this blog post would not be wrong about the intentions of the majority of them.
Thus, I now hit publish, and you are invited to comment.