An OSL Mission: Lessons on Divine Providence

An OSL Mission: Lessons on Divine Providence
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At the International Order of St. Luke (OSL) convention last July, I received an invitation to come to the Hedersonville, North Carolina, for a workshop on healing. (The OSL is an organization that seeks to promote the healing ministry in all churches,[1]) Actually, there is nothing I’d rather do than present the workshop I have developed called “Every Believer a Healing Evangelist.” It is a synthesis of teachings from the greats of the Christian healing movement, such as Agnes Sanford and Francis MacNutt, but mostly teaches the insights and prayer techniques of the “Happy Hunters.” They were a Pentecostal couple that revolutionized the Christian healing ministry in the 1980s. They pointed out what was obvious in the New Testament, but almost never recognized, that healing prayer is always done by command, just as exorcisms are. They combined this with a series of arm and leg extensions, already practiced by Pentecostal evangelists, into an extremely effective healing system.[2]  This way of healing prayer is especially effective in presenting the claims of the Gospel to unbelievers, as it produces almost instant results.

 

I was looking forward to teaching the workshop, as it is always great fun. Invariably, several people in the audience have never seen or practiced effective healing prayer, and the exercises take the person step by step to achieve this. When they do, their eyes glisten with joy. One of the last exercises is called “healing at Walmart” where one person plays a customer plodding along in obvious pain, and another asks the person if they want prayer, and then do the arm extensions, etc. On one occasion a role player feigned dropping dead of a heart attack, and the other member of the role playing team didn’t miss a beat and proceeded to “raise him from the dead.”  Great fun!

 

The Rev. Art, a retired Lutheran Army chaplain and my contact for Hendesonville, set the initial dates as a weekend workshop, with Friday night as a preliminary talk on Agnes Sanford, and Saturday morning and afternoon for the workshop – the usual schedule. I then sent the pastor of the host church a thank you email and invited him and his congregation to attend. The OSL chapter members use specific churches, but are not necessarily part of the host congregation, as many come from surrounding churches. I also sent the pastor my bio and bibliography, imagining that would suitably impress him. (Hey, six books on Amazon with two translated into Spanish and one into Hungarian, what could be more impressive than that?)

 

Lo and behold, my little vanity backfired. The pastor in one of these folks who believes in healing prayer, and that’s why he supports the OSL group in hi church, but is also deeply suspicious to “too much” Pentecostalism. He saw me as a Pentecostal fanatic and vetoed the weekend, but at least would allow me to come to the usual monthly OSL meeting on a Thursday evening.

 

I had already created in my mind a scenario of a full church, with many from his congregation attending and from other nearby churches, etc.  Alas… Rev. Art asked if I wanted to cancel the whole thing since the drive from Canton, Georgia, to Hendersonville, North Carolina is a long drive for just a two hour presentation. I agreed to come, but was deeply disappointed.

 

Several days later He called back and said the OSL steering committee did not want the “Every Believer a healing evangelist” workshop, but rather a talk on Agnes Sanford as prayer intercessor, which was to be the subject of my Friday presentation. Again, I was disappointed, having visions of multiple persons healed and seeing the faces of Christians discovering that they too have a part of the healing ministry. Alas… “OK I would do that.”

 

So I gathered the materials for the new workshop, and mid-way began to sense how God was turning my disappointment into something new and useful for the Body of Christ. Although there are many Christians who know little or nothing of healing prayer, there are also many, like the Hendersonville OSL group, who know about it and don’t need the basics taught to them again.

 

So I arrived in Hendersonville on Thursday evening, November 21, as scheduled and was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful group that came. This was not just six or eight older folks, but a vibrant group that obviously had things well organized, about forty folks in all. The first thing they did was give me a personally knitted “prayer square” with a prayer card. They give those to all newcomers. As the people came in, several were in obvious physical distress and I was able to model the “Hunter” technique of prayer with great results. (For some it was their first view of this).

 

After prayer and announcements I began the presentation, entitled “Praying for others as Agnes Sanford would.”  I began by stressing the importance of intercessory prayer – it is at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, and citied a case of a woman I ministered to in an assisted living facility.

 

This person was depressed because her active life was at an end. She had been in business, raised a family and did many ministries in church. Her mind was still as clear as ever, but her body was run down. I suggested that her physical limitation were now an opportunity to concentrate on her gifting as intercessor. She was on a ministry team at church we both attended for three decades ago, so I knew her gifting. She could “pray the news,” as in the local news with all its horrible tales of murders, drug dealing, etc. In fact, every bit of bad and tragic news is fodder for prayer, as in praying that the relatives of the murdered be consoled by the Holy Spirit, and police quickly apprehend the perpetrator without violence, etc. She should also note the problems and conflicts at the facility and pray for God’s resolution in those. The lady’s daughter reported to me several weeks later that her mother had bee completely transformed, and was now joyful and full of life.  She had discovered her spiritual calling for this stage of the life – which is actually a general calling for the elderly.[3]

 

I then slid into telling about the Life of Agnes Sanford, again one of my favorite things to do. I recalled how dead the Church was in the 1930’s to healing prayer. Agnes had no models in the mainline churches and had to look to Christian Science and New Thought to see where some healing was happening.  Her task in the first decade of her healing

ministry was to seek discernment as to what was true and false in these movements.  There was much heresy indeed, but early on she made a determination to use the four Gospels as her discernment anchor. Yes, there was some truth in these movements, mostly exaggerated, but could be usefully cherry picked.[4]

 

When the discernment process finished, she possessed an excellent and innovative theology of healing.  It recognized that the “energies of God,” a biblical motif ignored in Western theology, but often experienced as warmth or “vibrations” flowing from the prayer intercessor’s hands. This was important to understand. She later discovered from one of her mentors, an ex-Baptist, that to effectively pray for the sick at long distance, when hands could not be laid. One had to imagine the person as well, not in the sickness of his or her current situation, and add mental or spoken prayer to the imagining.

 

I led the group through such an exercise, which was praying for someone they know who is ill, but not present at the meeting.

 

We went on to discuss how Agnes developed inner healing, one of the major innovations of healing prayer in the past centuries. It developed after she ministered to a wounded Jewish soldier at Fort Dix Army hospital right after World War II. He was miraculously healed and a two inch bone fragment that was blown away from his led recreated. But when he went home, he had terrible bouts of anger, not from the war, rather from his treatment as a Jewish boy living in pre-war Czechoslovakia.[5] Agnes learned from Anglican nuns that she could share soldiers’ burdens, and the anger and insult in his childhood, and heal them by taking his sorrow and anger to Holy Communion. (This is rightly identified by John Sanford as “burden bearing,” a Gospel imperative, Gal 6:2)[6]

 

At some of my workshops, where I have the liberty to do a Holy Communion service, I do so at the end with a “burden bearing” exercise of someone known by the communicant in need of inner healing prayer. At Hendersonville I could not, but we did a simple inner healing exercise in which one chose someone in the past who had been hurtful, and in their imagination saw him or her next to Jesus and then imagine the two figures blend together while saying “I forgive you.”  This exercise was made famous in Ruth Carter Stapleton’s The Gift of Inner Healing, but was original decades earlier in Agnes Sanford’s first book, The Healing Light.[7]

 

We did not do the Walmart exercise in this workshop, but we did an exercise on how to stop a heart attack in progress. This was modeled after an incident Agnes wrote about in the Healing Light.[8] In this exercise, made with three person groups, one would be the person afflicted, another, the prayer intercessor, and another one who calls 911 and then joins the prayer. It proceeded very nicely and I pray that the participants will recall it whenever they may be confronted with an ongoing heart attack.

 

Other aspects of Agnes’ intercessory prayers were discussed, as in prayers for soldier’s protection during wartime, but we have to limit this report.

 

The spiritual lesson to me for me was one of God’ providential working when things seem to go wrong (Rms 8:28). I drove to Hendersonville in a depressed mood, thinking the workshop would be of little success or influence. I came back with the understanding that the Lord had showed me, under a bit of duress, that I had another workshop within me from my research that was valuable to the Body of Christ.  I can now offer thoes to churches and groups who already have knowledge of healing prayer, but would like to know more about effective intercessory prayer.

 

[1] William Dearteaga, “A Healing Guild for America, The OSL,” blog posting originally in Blogger, but removed, now at http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/a-healing-guild-for-america-the-osl/

[2] Their most important book on this is Charles and Frances Hunter’s, How to Heal the Sick (Kingswood: Hunter Ministries, 1981). For information on the Hunter’s discoveries on healing prayer see my work, The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Lexington: Emeth Press, 2018), chapter 2, “Discovering the Hunter’s innovations in healing prayer.”

[3] I discuss this case in my most resent book, Aging Gracefully with the Graces of Healing Prayer (Lexington: Emeth Press, 2019).

[4] I fully discuss this phenomenon in Church history of heresy containing truth and forcing the Church to face various issues in my work, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions (Eugene: Emeth Press, 2019). The classic work on the heresy to truth issue is Harold O. J. Brown’s work, Heresies (Garden City: Doubleday, 1984).

[5] I tell the ful,l story in my book, Agnes Sanford, chapter 17, “Harry and the Healing of Memories.

 

[6] John Sandford, and Paula Sandford, The Transformation of the Inner Man (South Plainsfield: Bridge, 1982).

[7] Ruthe Carter Stapleton, The Gift of Inner Healing (Waco: Word, 1976) Agnes Sanford The Healing Light, (St. Paul: Macalaster Park, 1947).

[8] Sanford, Healing Light, 28

William DeArteaga

William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations.

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