|Healing for the Hurts of Losses;
a Healing Retreat Febuary 9, 2002
A. To begin
with let's make a distinction between curing and healing.
Someone who is ill because they have a disease is looking
for a cure. The cure is accomplished by the attention of a
physician and proper medicine. Prayer can help by mobilizing
the healing resources within the patient and clearing the
way for the medicine to work properly and minimize side effects.
Someone who is hurting because they have somehow been damaged
need healing to restore their wholeness. Prayer can help in
the same was as above and by providing a channel for God to
offer the gift of healing.
We will explore three
ways we are damaged, grieve and need healing.
- First is the loss of something important
that we had.
- Second is the absence of what we wanted
but was never there.
- Third is the pain of being denied what
One of the ways we may be used by God as instruments of healing
is by listening. In James 5:16 we are advised; "Confess
your sins to each other so that you may be healed.
The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective."
Tom Weakley, who previously served on this committee, advised
the telling of our stories as a means of healing, and that
we encourage them by good listening.
I want to give you some experience in doing
this by telling three very brief stories of things that happened
to you: one from early childhood, one when you were a teen
or young adult, and one more recently. I want you to pair
up with someone, decide who will be first to tell their stories,
and who will be first to be listener then I will give you
Listeners may prepare
- Praying that God will use you as a channel
of healing and will give you whatever faith, discernment,
and love is needed.
- Asking God to gently remove anything in
you that might get in the way and affirming that God can
use you despite these things.
- Feeling love and compassion for the person
to whom you will be listening.
- Asking God to give you discernment of
the needs of that person.
- Listening for common elements in each
of the three stories.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to share
your insights with that person when they have finished telling
the three stories.
Story tellers may prepare themselves simply
by praying to be open to the Holy Spirit to guide them in
selecting what stories to tell, and to trust the listener's
caring and confidentiality. Then, without any more thought
about it, share with your listener whatever comes to your
You will have 12 minutes for this then I will
signal you to switch roles.
C. Now I
want to explore how we react when we suffer damaged from losses.
These can include the sudden loss of things we hold dear such
as the loss of our home by fire, flood, tornado, or eminent
domain, the loss of personal property by burglary, or the
sudden death of someone we love. This can happen to us personally,
as a family, church or community, or as a nation. These things
can send us for a loop.
One morning everything began as usual. People
went to work high up in their offices. Other people boarded
airplanes for routine trips. The twin towers stood proudly
against the blue sky in the sunshine like in this picture.
Then suddenly they are smoldering ruins and
we are all in shock. Our world has changed. The skyline of
New York looks different now. There is a big ugly hole in
the ground where the towers once stood. The world feels different
now. Some of our security has been replaced with fear. What
will happen next? There is self-doubt, how could this have
happened without anyone suspecting? We are angry, we want
to strike back. We forget the mistakes of the past like the
innocent Japanese-Americans who were held in prison camps
during world war 2. We want to close our borders and build
an anti-missile shield. We blame our faltering economy and
our inability to return to normal on the attack. But gradually
we are regaining our confidence and setting new goals for
ourselves as a nation.
The loop looks like this:
Other losses are less traumatic, but just
The minister was more than just a pastor,
but also a close friend, then there is a change and someone
new has come and things are different. They were happily married
then the marriage began to fall apart, until there was a divorce.
For each of them it means the loss of a spouse and companion.
for the children it meant loss of a home and family. For the
grandparents it meant the loss of a son or daughter-in-law.
When the last child goes off to college or Grandmother goes
to the nursing home the house becomes an empty nest. The company
goes bankrupt and plunges everyone into financial crisis.
I ran over our cat while backing the car into the garage on
a snowy night.
Then there are physical bodily losses that
we can never get back. A lovely high school girl headed for
a championship year as a track star, lost her leg above the
knee to cancer. She and her parents wrote about her experience
in a book, "What God gives when Life Takes Away."
She was able to overcome her loss and go on to help others
with similar losses and became a ski instructor in Colorado.
A college professor suffers a stroke and is forced to retire.
MS robs someone of their job, and their sense of self-worth.
A friend of mine upon reaching middle age lost his eyesight.
Many of us through aging, lose our hair, our memory, our mobility,
or our independence. When these things happen we may go through
the same grief process loop. We come out of it as different
persons and healing prayer can help us redefine ourselves
as children of God, and discover how we are called to and
equipped for new ministries.
Healing Prayer can help people resolve many
of the problems that interfere with the grief process. There
may be the need for forgiveness toward the person who caused
our loss, toward God, or toward our self. Bob Libby has written
a wonderful "Forgiveness Book" in which he tells
many stories about healing through forgiveness. In her book,
"Godly Glimpses, Discoveries of the Love That Heals."
Peggy Eastman describes her journey of recovery following
the death of two husbands. It is important for us to be good
listeners, to discern problems interfering with healthy grief,
and to pray patiently with those who have suffered losses.
Another form of loss is deprivation. We feel
deprived of something we never had. Judith MacNutt told a
story about a woman who never had a chance to say good-bye
to her father when he died. She was only a little girl and
not allowed in the hospital room but sat outside in the hall.
Her mother came out, took the girl by the arm, and as they
left the hospital she said, "Your father is dead, and
I don't want you to ever mention him again." Judith took
the woman to Jesus in prayer for healing. In prayer the woman
went back in her memory to that chair in the hall outside
her father's hospital room and waited for Jesus. When Jesus
came he took her by the hand and brought her into the room
where her father was dying. She climbed up on the bed and
hugged him and told him how much she loved him. Then Jesus
asked, "Will it be all right for him to go with me now?"
Happily she gave permission for her father to go with Jesus
and said good-bye. With that came the healing of her loss
and the completion of her grief.
A woman came to our prayer group grieving.
Her only teenage daughter had just been operated on for uterine
cancer and would never have any children. She suddenly realized
that she had been deprived of all the grandchildren she had
dreamed of and hoped for. As we prayed with her, Jesus took
her in her imagination back to a Baptism service at her church
when the pastor had brought a newly baptized baby to the congregation
and had told them, "This is your baby now." In her
imaginative prayer, Jesus took that little baby, placed it
in her arms and comforted her. Then she realized with rejoicing
that she was the grandmother of all the children in her church.
An adopted child abandoned as a baby, had
not been treated very well and always felt deprived of his
father's love. Then through a prayer process called "Faith
Imagination" he was led by a prayer partner to go back
to being a little baby and imagine Jesus taking him in his
arms. Through that prayer Jesus was able to fulfill all the
parental love that had been missing.
Tilda Norberg and Robert Webber in their book,
"Stretch Out Your Hand, Exploring Healing Prayer."
describe this Faith Imagination process this way: "In
this process, using our natural, human capacity for imaginative
thought, we invite Jesus to join us where we hurt. This may
mean going back in time with Jesus to a painful memory and
imaginatively reliving it with Jesus present." My own
most dramatic personal healing was through the reframing of
such a traumatic childhood memory.
There is yet another form of loss that can
respond to this kind of prayer. That is rejection. There was
an element of rejection in the case of the adopted child who
felt deprived of parental love. Rejection can bring about
a loss of self-esteem, a feeling that something must be wrong
with me; what am I missing that other people seem to have?
After you lost your job, your resume` seemed so good, the
best you could honestly make it, but when you applied for
a new job, you were rejected. Sometimes the ending of a romance
or a marriage is accompanied with feelings of rejection.
Feelings of rejection may come from something
as simple as having someone stop sending you Christmas cards,
or no longer stopping to visit.
In her book, Tilda Norberg tells of a woman
who had been abused by her father as a child. In prayer she
envisioned herself lying on her bed, filthy dirty, then Jesus
came into her prayer. He took her by the hand and led her
out to a stream where he gently and lovingly bathed her. She
came up out of the water a new person as if she had just been
baptized. Then Jesus gently brushed her hair and dressed her
in gorgeous new clothes. Following that prayer she was healed
and found a new self-confidence.
Bob Libby tells of Jim whose mother-in-law
had rejected him and never approved of his marriage to her
daughter. While on a pilgrimage to Yugoslavia a priest told
Jim to pray: "Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle the fire
of love within me." For 40 years Jim had hated and nursed
resentment against his mother-in-law until it became a terrible
festering wound that he carried around everywhere he went.
But he continued to pray even though it was difficult in regard
to his mother-in-law. But gradually the resentment was healed
and he was able to forgive her.
When I was young I had astigmatism so bad
that I couldn't see to catch or hit a baseball. I didn't know
that my eyes were bad, but I felt rejected when nobody wanted
me to play on their baseball team. Even after I got glasses,
I felt unloved and rejected when people disagreed with me.
Then in prayer Jesus said, "You don't know God very well,
do you, now listen." So I listened and this is what I
heard, "You are my beloved, and I am delighted with you."
Wow! And I still believe it! Henri Nouwen's book, "Life
of the Beloved" reinforced my new self-image.
D. I want
you to try this kind of healing prayer. Please find your listening
partner and try praying with each other. Decide who will pray
for healing, and who will listen and offer silent prayer support.
The person who is to be the listener will pray for the person
seeking healing, and may offer encouragement or ask for clarification
as the prayer time proceeds. The person praying for healing
- Identify some loss, deprivation,
or rejection you remember having suffered and for which
you would like some healing. Perhaps it may be something
revealed in the listening session, or perhaps some other
hurt that you feel needs healing. It is best to begin with
some little hurt, not the most traumatic. Share it with
your prayer listener. You may hold hands or lay on hands
for prayer if you are both comfortable with that.
- In imaginative prayer go back and re-experience
the feelings you had as vividly as possible. Because this
prayer will be in your imagination you must tell your partner
how you feel and what is happening as you go along.
- When you are really feeling the intensity
of that pain again, invite Jesus, however you may envision
him, into that memory. Say: "Jesus be with me in this
painful time, speak to me and/or show me what you want me
- Pay attention in your imagination to what
happens next. Let Jesus appear in your mind's eye. Let Jesus
speak in your mind's ear. Let your body experience Jesus'
presence. How does Jesus respond? What does he do? What
does he say. Be patient and let the experience play out.
Then share what has happened with your prayer listener.
- If nothing discernible has happened trust
that the Holy Spirit may be working some inner healing miracle.
- If you feel that there is need for more
healing, arrange for more prayers.
- Finally thank your prayer partner and
thank God for whatever has happened and pray that the healing
may continue until your sense of wholeness is fully restored.
In this exercise please switch roles
When you are finished praying for each other
you may want to share your experience with the whole group?
Be aware that as you listen to the needs of
another person your own needs may surface and need to be handled.
If you want to use this form of prayer in your church or prayer
group I suggest that you read the book "Stretch Out Your
Hand" by Norberg and Webber.
Bob Boutwell, chairperson of the Committee
on the Healing Ministry of the Vermont Conference of the United
Church of Christ.