MacNutt Prays for Healing

MacNutt_review_20200515Francis MacNutt.  2009.  Healing (Orig Pub 1974).  Notre Dame:  Ave Maria Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Chess. On the chessboard of life, what piece are you; what piece is Christ Jesus?

If you are Christian, our creator God is the crafter of the chess pieces; not one of them.  Still, when we pray, God is often assigned the role of a pawn in our lives.

For example, I have a neighbor who thinks of prayer as nothing more than happy thoughts that bounce off the ceiling.  In a world where people talk about prayer as nothing more than happy thoughts, what is authentic Christian prayer?

Francis MacNutt, in his book—Healing, observes that:  most traditional [Christians] have little difficulty in believing in divine healing.  What was difficult to believe that healing could be an ordinary, common activity of Christian life (10).  Citing Matthew 10: 7-8 [1] and a talk by Alfred Price in 1960, MacNutt observes:  if the church still claimed Christ’s commission to preach, what happened to the second commission to heal and cast out demons? (9)  In his own experience with healing prayer, about half of those he prayed for with physical ailments experienced healing or substantial improvements and three-quarters of those prayed for with emotional or spiritual problems experienced healing (11).

What is your experience with healing prayer?

Francis MacNutt is a Dominican priest, a leader in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and founder of Christian Healing Ministries[2].  He studied at Harvard University and Catholic University of America in Washington DC, and holds a doctor of philosophy degree in theology [3].  His book divides into four parts which are preceded by a preface and followed by appendices and an epilogue.  The four parts are entitled:

  1. The Healing Ministry—Its underlying Meaning and Importance;
  2. Faith, Hope, and Charity as They Touch Upon the Healing Ministry;
  3. The Four Basic Kinds of Healing and How to Pray for Each; and
  4. Special Considerations.

Although I often skip appendices and epilogues in my own reading, here it would be a mistake.

The epilogue includes the fascinating testimony of a Lakota (Sioux) Indian who attended a healing service in South Dakota and experienced miraculous healing of a mouth full of cavities (264-266).  As I read this story on a Saturday, I was experiencing an extreme toothache (I had trouble eating because of the pain); needed medication just to finish the reading; and I had already made a dentist appointment for Monday morning.  However, the story induced me to pray to God about my tooth—something that I had never done before.  Before Monday morning the pain was gone and my dentist found no evidence of an infection.  Meanwhile, the arthritis in my right foot that normally bothered me was mysteriously absent.

In talking about healing ministry, MacNutt cites 5 basic arguments why prayer cannot lead to healing:

  1. We want nothing to do with faith healing—faith healers are religious quacks (32-33).
  2. My sickness is a cross sent from God—as if God wanted you to suffer (33-34).
  3. It takes a saint to work a miracle and I am no saint—asking for healing is a sign of excessive pride (34-35).
  4. We do not need signs and wonders anymore; we have faith—the apostolic era is over (35).
  5. Miracles do not take place; they only represent a primitive way of expressing reality—a pre-scientific explanation (36).

MacNutt’s review of these arguments against the possibility of healing is helpful in establishing a balanced conversation—especially if you have witnessed the healing power of prayer first hand.

Prayer for healing needs to be specific in MacNutt’s experience.  As such, he list 4 types of healing needs (130), including prayer for:

  1. Repentance of sin (spiritual healing).
  2. Emotional (or relational) healing.
  3. Physical healing. And
  4. Deliverance (healing from spiritual oppression).

Distinguishing the different types of healing needs is important because many charismatic writers lump all healing needs into deliverance prayer.

The Apostle Paul writes:  the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26 ESV).  The Holy Spirit is the conduit between us and the Triune God in prayer.  Healing prayer is accordingly the work of the Holy Spirit and an important sign of God’s sovereignty at work in our lives.

One of the signs of God’s answer to healing prayer is that more healing is offered than is asked for—this is God’s abundant grace overflowing into our lives [4].  My healed toothache is not unique.  Although I prayed about tooth pain, I experienced healing both in teeth and feet—a sign of God’s abundant grace.

Reading Francis MacNutt’s Healing helped expand my prayer life. Stepping out to pray for healing fully expecting God to intervene and heal is risky. Healing prayer assumes we truly believe that God exists, cares for us, and is powerful enough to intervene in our lives—things that I and most postmodern Christians struggle with.  MacNutt’s clinical writing style and systemic thinking makes him a credible writer and makes the book helpful in advising people about healing prayer.  I commend the book. I have gifted friends with this book for years.


[1]The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay (Matthew 10:5-8 ESV).


[3] After leaving the Dominicans, MacNutt received a special dispensation

[4] The Apostle John writes of recognizing the risen Christ through the miracles of abundance:  abundant wine (John 2), abundant loaves of bread (John 6), and abundant fish (John 21).

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Tailwind Prayer

Albrecht Dürer, Ship of Fools, 1494

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sustaining Spirit,

Blessings and all homage are yours because you guide and protect us when everyone else fails and runs away. We praise you for the tailwinds that ease the strain of life and break up the recurring doldrums that suck the joy out of life.

We confess that we do not always  follow your example lifting the burdens from those around us who depend on our support.

Thank you for your sustaining and empowering presence when our strength fails and demons nip at our heals.

Grant us the strength to face each and every day with joy and the confidence that you are with us. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

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Tennant Highlights Five Gifts

Carolyn Tennant, Catch the Wind of the SpiritCarolyn Tennant. 2016. Catch the Wind of the Spirit: How the 5 Ministry Gifts Can Transform Your Church. Springfield: Vital Resources.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Statistical estimates show that Pentecostals (including Charismatics) are one of the fastest growing Christian groups. Their growth through evangelism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America swamps that of North American and Western European Christian groups that appear to be in decline.[1] While such statistics can explain what has happened, theology is required to explain why.


In her book, Catch the Wind of the Spirit, Carolyn Tennant points in an interesting direction, writing:

“Catch the Wind of the Spirit grew out of the context of need and emanated from a deep study of Ephesians 4. After pondering the five ministry gifts for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that our emphasis has been all wrong. The vast majority of teaching on this has focused on church leadership. I’m firmly convinced, however, that God is focused upon the ministry currents that each person is supposed to oversee. He means for the whole church to get involved.” (5)

Currents Demonstrate God’s Power

Tennant focuses on “currents” as a concept in the electrical sense, where God himself provides the power that flows through believers to accomplish his will for our lives and the lives of those we come into contact with. The “currents” of evangelist, teacher, pastor, prophet, and apostle (6-7) are in view here and are certainly not titles of church leaders in the manner that she uses them. Clearly, Tennant’s focus on the work of the Holy Spirit, as suggested by her title, marks her as a Pentecostal.

Tennant cites an old Yiddish proverb: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” (16) She then begins her exposition with a curious analogy for being led by the spirit offered by the early Celtic church. Celtic monks would sail in coracles, small boats shaped like a walnut, taking neither a rudder not paddles, but allowing the wind to blow them where it may: “believing that God would take them where they were supposed to go to share the gospel.” (9) The idea of current is also analogous to flow of water as it, much like the wind, carries a coracle along.

Ephesians 4

The key verses in Tennant’s exegesis are:

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service…” (Eph 4:11-12 NAU) [2]

Tennant highlights the verb, gave, making the point that these currents inform the ministry of the entire church; they are not titles given to leaders set apart from the body of the church to undertaken these currents independent of the church (26-27).

Structure of the Book

Tennant structures the chapters of her book around five pairs of discussions. In each discussion, she first introduces a chapter on a current; then she follows that current with a discussion of the leadership role that focuses on that current. In the first pair, she writes about the “Powerful Wooing Current”, then discusses the role of an Evangelist. The second pair starts with the “Radical Forming Current” and is followed by a discussion of the Teacher. These five pairs therefore outline ten chapters with summary material before and after for a total of fourteen chapters.

Example of The Radical Forming Current

Because my own ministry focuses on teaching, Tennant fascinated me with her outline of sixteen different roles where teaching was the primary focus. They are: counselor, mentor, life coach, facilitator, luncheon discussion, training leaders, leading a new converts class, blogging, leading workshops, leading Sunday school, leading retreats, youth ministry, facilitating small groups, Bible quizzes, leading a men’s or women’s group, developing curriculum, and teaching seminary students (78-79). Tennant admits that her listing is incomplete, yet she shows that teaching goes beyond Sunday school. A lot of teaching takes place, for example, in a thoughtful sermon.


Carolyn Tennant[3] is an adjunct professor at the Assembly of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri and professor emerita from North Central University in Minneapolis. Her doctorate is in Educational Administration and Supervision, University of Colorado at Boulder. Carolyn Tennant’s Catch the Wind of the Spirit highlights the work of the Holy Spirit. This is through the Christian church from a Pentecostal perspective based on an exegesis of Ephesians 4. Because the Pentecostal church has grown rapidly over the past century, we might be led to believe that it has done a better job of balancing the five gifts of the spirit than other Christian groups.


[1] Status of Global Christianity, 2017, in the Context of 1900–2050. Summary Data Abstracted from: Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo, eds. World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed October 2016),

[2] The underlying Greek manuscripts offer no punctuation, but scholars have offered their best guess and the English translation offers a second guess.

[3] @CaTennant

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Prayer Day 15: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

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Almighty Father, Beloved Son, Holy Spirit. We praise you for creating and re-creating our world. Bless the church with the Holy Spirit’s continuing presence and spiritual gifts that we may minister with power and grace to a fallen world. And in all circumstances grant us peace. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Padre Todopoderoso, Amado Hijo, Espíritu Santo. Te alabamos por crear y re-crear nuestro mundo. Bendice la iglesia con la presencia continua y los dones espirituales del Espíritu Santo que podemos servir con poder y gracia en un mundo caído. Y en todas circunstancias da nos paz. En el precioso nombre de Jesús oramos, Amén.

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Prayer Day 2, A Christian Guide to Spirituality By Stephen W. Hiemstra

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Heavenly Father:  We praise you for creating heaven and earth; for creating all that is, that was, and that is to come; for creating things seen and unseen.  We praise you for sharing yourself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; our role model in life, redeemer in death, and hope for the future.  We praise you for the Holy Spirit, who is ever present with us; who sustains all things; who showers us with spiritual gifts.  Open our hearts; illumine our minds; strengthen our hands in your service.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Padre Celestial, te alabamos para creación de los cielos y de la tierra; para creación de todo que es, que fue, y que sera; para creación de las cosas visibles e invisibles. Te alabamos por compartir ti mismo en la persona de Jesús de Nazaret; nuestro modelo en la vida, redentor en el muerto, y la esperanza para el futuro. Te alabamos por el Espíritu Santo, quien está presente con nosotros que duchar nos con dones espirituales y sustentar todo las cosas. Abierta nuestras corazones, iluminar nuestros mentes, fortalecer nuestros manos en su servicio. En el nombre de Jesús, Amen.

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Prayer Day 1, A Christian Guide to Spirituality By Stephen W. Hiemstra

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Almighty Father:  thank you for the person of Jesus of Nazareth; who lived as a role model for sinners; who died as a ransom for sin; and whose resurrection gives us the hope of salvation.  In the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire the words written and illumine the words read.  In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Padre Todopoderoso, gracias por la persona de Jesús de Nazaret, quien vivió como un modelo a seguir por los pecadores, quien murió como un rescate por los pecados y cuya resurrección da nos la esperanza de salvación. En el poder de Tu Espíritu Santo, inspire las palabras escritas y iluminar las palabras leídas, En el nombre de Jesús, Amen.

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The Holy Spirit

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” [1]

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Holy Spirit, sometimes called the Holy Ghost, is the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit goes by a number of names and descriptions in scripture including: Spirit of the Lord (Judg 3:10), Spirit of God (Matt 3:16), Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), Spirit of Life (Rom 8:2), Spirit of the Living God (2 Cor 3:3), Spirit of Wisdom (Eph 1:17), Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:19), Eternal Spirit (Heb 9:14), Spirit of Glory (1 Pet 4:14), Spirit of Prophecy (Rev 19:10), Helper (John 14:16), and God of Endurance and Encouragement (Rom 15:5).

The wide range of titles suggests that the Holy Spirit plays a wide range of roles and suggests a God of power who is anxious to confer many different spiritual gifts. The Apostle Paul writes:

no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (1 Cor 12:3–6)

By gifting and empowering spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit makes Christian unity possible because these gifts make the Christian life, community, and mission service possible.

The Holy Spirit sometimes makes avian (or bird like) appearances. In creation, for example, we witness that: “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:2) The word for hovering here in the Hebrew later describes an eagle (Deut 32:11). In all four Gospels, the Holy Spirit descends in baptism on Jesus like a dove—a fitting symbol of God’s peace [2]. For this reason, in part, the Holy Spirit is often associated with the sacrament of baptism.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit saying: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26) The Greek word for helper here transliterates as the Paraclete, which also means advocate, intercessor, and mediator [3]. The verbal form of Paraclete also means to comfort, to encourage, to console, and to exhort [4]. John 14:26 equates the Paraclete to the Holy Spirit.

Although we frequently think of the Holy Spirit in highly personal terms, the supreme act of the Holy Spirit began at Pentecost in the founding of the church. We read:

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2–4)

The word for Holy Spirit in both Hebrew and Greek means both spirit and wind. The church’s evangelism and service illustrate the Holy Spirit’s continuing provision for reaching the world.

[1] The references in this chapter to the Apostle’s Creed are all taken from FACR (2013, Q/A 23). Another translation is found in (PCUSA 1999, 2.1—2.3).

[2] Matt 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32.

[3] (BDAG, 5591).

[4] (BDAG, 5590).


Faith Alive Christian Resources (FACR). 2013. The Heidelberg Catechism. Cited: 30 August, 2013. Online:

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PC USA). 1999. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—Part I: Book of Confession. Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly.

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1 Corinthians 12: Spiritual Gifts Point to the Holy Spirit

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (vv 4-6).

Are your talents a gift?

The Apostle Paul is not shy about discussing the role of the Holy Spirit.  In 1 Corinthians 12 he begins a 3-chapter discussion of spiritual gifts.  Hays (207)[1] sees this chapter divided into 4 parts:

  1. Introduction (vv 1-3);
  2. Manifestations of the Spirit (vv 4-11);
  3. Body analogy (vv 12-26); and
  4. Application to gifts and offices of the in the church (vv 27-31).

In his introduction, Paul grabs the bull by the horns and says:  Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed (v 1).  This direct approach is most interesting—these days we often read of churches torn up by controversies—often outright sin—that were allowed to grow in the shadows.  Paul does not let mold grow in the shade; he confronts controversy head on.  And he claims all things for Christ—no one can say Jesus is Lord, except through the Holy Spirit (v 3).

In discussing manifestation of the Spirit, Paul sees a Trinitarian (Spirit, Lord, and God) variety of gifts, services, and activities (vv 4-6).  In claiming all gifts, services, and activities for God, none is excluded and none is more important than the other.  Theologians get excited about Paul’s Trinitarian statement because it seems off the cuff rather than the focus of his comments.  In other words, Paul experiences God in three persons even though his does not articulate a formal theology of the Trinity (Hays 210).

Paul use of the body as an analogy for the church is interesting, in part, because he reframes the analogy from his peers.  Ancient authors often used the same analogy to argue for hierarchy in the social order; Paul uses it to illustrate diversity and interdependence (Hays 213).  In undertaking his discussion, he tailors his comments to the particular needs of the Corinthian church which becomes obvious in comparing the list of spiritual gifts with other lists that he provides, for example, in Ephesians 4:11-13 and Romans 12:6-8.  Neither alternative list, for example, cites speaking in tongues (v 10).  Clearly, Paul’s emphasis in listing gifts is not on the list, but on the legitimacy and use of each gift to build up the body of the church.

In wrapping up his comments, he exhorts the Corinthians to strive to work in building up the church and in attaining the “higher gifts” (vv 27 and 31).  One suspects in reading this section that Paul prioritizes spiritual gifts, in part, because Corinthian priorities were different.

One clue to this deficiency is Paul’s switch in words used in the Greek for gifts.  In verse one, a gift is πνευματικός, (BDAG 5999; mostly in the sense pertaining to wind or breath) already in verse 4 Paul switches to χάρισμα (BDAG 7896; that which is freely and graciously given, favor bestowed, gift).  In switching from an emphasis on the receiver of the gift to an emphasis on the giver, Paul highlights the role of the Holy Spirit.  A spiritual gift is a talent used to build up the body of Christ.

Are you musical?  Do you work well with kids?  How might your gift be used to build up the church?


[1] Richard B. Hays.  2011. Interpretations:  First Corinthians.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press.


  1. How was your week? Did something in particular?
  2. What questions or thoughts do you have about 1 Corinthians 11?
  3. What is your definition of a spiritual gift? (v 1) What is Paul’s? (vv 7-11)
  4. Why does Paul ask the Corinthians about spiritual gifts? (vv 1-2)
  5. How does one speak in the spirit? (v 3)
  6. Read verses 4-6.What stands out?  Where do gifts, service, and activities arise?
  7. What spiritual gifts does Paul list? (vv 7-11) Why?
  8. Who gets what gift? (v 11)
  9. How does Paul’s example of the body relate to his discussion of spiritual gifts? (vv 11-27)
  10. What does Paul say about divisions in the body? (vv 24-26)
  11. What does Paul say about suffering? (v 26)
  12. What are the higher gifts? (vv 28-31)
  13. What is the higher way that Paul describes? (v 31)

1 Corinthians 12: Spiritual Gifts Point to the Holy Spirit

First Corinthians 13

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Prayer Day 16: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

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Loving Father. You clothe the birds that neither spin or reap (Matt 6:26). You send the rain and the sunshine on the just and the unjust without discrimination (Matt 5:45). You make the day and the night to bless us with activities and with sleep (Gen 1:5). We cast our obsessions and addictions at your feet. In the power of your Holy Spirit, heal our relationships and soften our hearts that we might grow more like you with each passing day. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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