Laying on of Hands

Wednesday 14 October 2009

What does the term "laying on of hands" mean to you (if anything - good or bad connotations)?

Have you ever experienced something like this? What happened?

(Methinks it's all a bit too wild and mystical for the overly intellectual Western Church to know what do with :)


  1. experienced it a number of times. Nothing happened. Obviously because of my lack of faith.

    I think the pentecostal branches of the western church have actually turned this practice into a prescriptive formula. Ive seen it used like you would use antibiotics or vitamin C tablets.

  2. I have experienced it a few times too. When I worked at the Jesus Film it was pretty common practice to lay hands on someone who was going through a difficult time, ill, etc. I don't remember why they did it to me...I know once was recent and related to Keven. Nothing happened.

    Yeah, just read Urbs comment. Its another formula, a "things to do to be holy and spiritual" kinda thing.

  3. the term has christian connotations as per the previous comments

    but could it not also refer to energetic healing techniques such as reiki?

  4. I wonder how many people have experienced what you both described here, Urbanmonk and Barbara - ie nothing, which a residual feeling of failure?? Seems almost superstitious in the way that it has been practised in the past with so little seemingly happening.

    Which is why Kel segues me so very nicely into the reiki I had on Monday :) This is the fourth or fifth lot of reiki I have had, from someone who does not claim Christian labelling. What it basically is is laying on of hands, and what transpired out of it I have described on here before and felt like a dick when I described it that time, haha. I could feel this sort of ball of ... something - energy? - making its way out of my body. Not right then but afterwards. I don't know what to make of it all, and once I would have felt it was maybe evil or demonic but now I don't think that way at all. I think we really don't have any idea about what this laying on of hands means and seemingly like so much else, the institutionalised church has taken something which could be an amazing gift and forked it up.

    This could have been a blog post in hindsight :)

  5. Like anything God really does, it can be imitated into religious ritual by foolish folks - but it can be truly a way for God to touch you, or so I've found. If I were pressed, I'd have to say my experiences were overwhelmingly positive, and only very occasionally disappointing or icky.

  6. Mike - so what actually happened? Was there a particular sort of healing that occurred? My reiki sessions seem to work on the energy level. I have talked on this blog before about the weird experiences I have had of "expelling" things afterwards, like blockages of energy, or a clump of something that should not be there. I don't even know how to describe it but it's really wild!!! After my session Maggie had to remind me to ground myself a bit because I'd gone all mad, the way the dog goes after a bath :) She said my eyes were all glittering haha

  7. I don't know. I have been the and the prayer, and generally it's not the hands laying on that is the problem for me, but the prescriptive prayers that go with it. Making demands of God, like he is a little doggie trained to jump and do tricks for the treat of us condescending to speak to him. Jump. Heal. Stay. Good doggie.(In 25 years of charismatic-ism, never saw anyone healed for real.)

    Spoken like a truly embittered ex-charismatic who believes it is only when we cease with the circus acts do we really begin to know God. :)

  8. [previous comment deleted cos I noticed typos!]

    Couple of points, Erin...

    Firstly, if you read The Mercy Blog you'd know I wasn't the kind of person to be into making demands on God. Romans 8:26 man, me.

    Secondly, prayer ministry (sorry for that word, Sue) which is what the laying on of hands is part of, if properly taught specifically excludes either manipulating the pray-ee or attempting to manipulate God. It's God's thing, not ours. See Wimber's writings on this.

    Very often, prayer ministry takes place - esp. in Anglican churches - in a quasi-liturgical setting. Now this does seem a bit stiff to some people (me included) but it does have the advantage of excluding all "circus acts" from the start.

    I'm not saying I have never seen nonsense, or unregulated and therefore a bit flaky, prayer; but, both in the Vineyard and in the good old CofE, as I said before, I've encountered far more good, and genuine healing (often of subtle, emotional etc. things, not broken bones) (though I have experienced genuine physical healing myself on one occasion), than I have bad.

    Don't mean to invalidate what you say about your undoubtedly unfortunate experiences, people; all I do mean is that your unfortunate experiences don't invalidate my positive ones, either ;-)

  9. Mike - I was simply answering Sue's questions based on my personal experience. It had no bearing on and was no reflection of what you said.

    All I can tell you is that I was a committed charismatic from age 12 to age 35, and never once had a beneficial experience with this. No personally, nor anyone I have known closely. Yes there were apparent emotional healings, that only lasted a week, a month, a year. Then a person would invariably revert to their previous state. It could very well be that the denomination I was part of had completely twisted and decimated this practice. However, since that is the only experience I have had, it is the only frame of reference I have, and it was not good.

    However, never meant to insinuate that your experiences were invalid because of my experiences. Not at all. Personal experience is just that, and varies greatly. I never said that authentic healings through the laying on of hands weren't possible, just that I never witnessed them.

  10. Oh I am sorry, Erin, truly! I read your comment as a reply to mine, and not to Sue's post as such. Typical self-centred male ;-)

    Your point is very well taken, being part of a much wider problem in a church, maybe a whole denomination. We fallen humans always will find a way to make a silliness out of things!

  11. Not a problem, Mike. My comment could have used some clarification, anyhow. :)

    I will be the first to admit I'm embittered by the abuses I witnessed and the ways people were made to feel they had failed if their "healing" didn't "take". As well, the prayers were often in the form of "demands" and I was never comfortable with it, no matter how they scripturally justified it. It was very much like a circus.

    But, and a BIG but, I know there are valid experiences out there. I'm just tainted and have no real interest in them for myself anymore. I'm also the first to say that I don't know much at all, and if other people have had real and valid experiences, then that's wonderful.

  12. Yes, I see what you mean, Erin. Experiences like that would leave anyone feeling somewhat odd about the whole thing.

    The abuses you describe - and they are abuses - are almost textbook examples of what you're taught to avoid at all costs in formal prayer ministry training. At least that's the case in both the Vineyard and the CofE, which are the only churches in which I've had this kind of training.

    It makes me very cross to hear about things like this. If people come forward for prayer it's presumably because they have some kind of woundedness or sickness or grief or whatever, and then what they receive is more hurt, compounded with guilt. Of course a big part of what's going on is that the insecurities of the pray-er (am I doing it right etc.?) are being projected onto the poor pray-ee, so that our "failures" are their "fault" for lack of faith etc.

    It's such twaddle anyway. It's only God who does this stuff: all we can do is try and help people trust that, and then ourselves to get right out of the way, and let God and the pray-ee get on with it between themselves!

    The best thing we can say for ourselves, the greatest amount of credit we can take, is that we become a part of, a tiny and momentary signpost to, Christ's mercy, and to the infinite healing he accomplished, still accomplishes, on the Cross.

    Blessings & things


  13. Can I ask you this, Mike? You say that it's about getting out of the way and allowing God to do his thing. How do you think people can avoid making it all about them? I saw it so many times where someone who is a "good" prayer a (where 'good' is humble and really leading people into reliance on God) eventually becomes egotistical about it...where they may have had some authentic experiences early on, but as they become "better" at it (and therefore more in demand to pray for people) they get caught up in the self-centeredness of that, putting more pressure on the prayee for healing to occur.

    I had extensive training in this in the charismatic denomination I was part of (not entirely unlike Vineyard)...I was "gifted" in encouragement, the prophetic, healing prayer...and while there were many times when a "word" was meaningful to a person, I never saw true and authentic healing of a person...what I saw was emotional reaction to the presence of God, but no emotional (or otherwise) healing that truly lasted.

    As well, everyone I worked with (including myself) eventually became egotistical about it. I hate that so much that I have completely abandoned this for myself, for fear of becoming again who I was then, the person I've struggled for 5 years to unbecome.

    So that's my story.

  14. The short answer, Erin, is I just don't know how to safeguard against it entirely. If you remember, even Jesus' original disciples fell into this kind of trap.

    I suppose the obvious answers are: working as a team; looking out for each other; kind and careful oversight; reading and teaching about humility; always listening more than speaking, feeling more than acting. But you'll know these from your own training.

    I'm aware, even as I write these comments, of the danger of appearing to myself, let alone anyone else, as some kind of an expert. None of us is ever an expert. We are all beginnings, and we all remain beginners. To forget that for a minute is to risk the abuses that have hurt you.

    Even writing that, I worry about taking pride in humility ;-)

  15. Wow, what a fascinating conversation. Thanks Erin for being so transparent about your experiences. I totally understand why you would want to stay away from anything remotely associated with it ... those kinds of shitty Pente circus freakshows would require a pretty extensive detox.

    Much to ponder here. I think what you describe Erin is why I feel so wary about this kind of thing happening in a meeting setting. This should be a rather intimate and private thing behind closed doors amongst one or two people, in a safe environment, take it out of the sideshow spotlight.

    I'm not surprised there was no real healing of a person in those situations. If I was God (ain't you glad I'm not) I'd be keeping away from anything that had the faintest whiff of inauthenticity about it. Sometimes I wonder if the laying on of hands is not so much about magically healing someone instantaneously as it's about aiding the person to enter into their own healing????

  16. Mike, I love your approach to this. If Christians were more intent on cultivating beginner's mind instead of presuming from a particular reading of the Bible that we have to be superamazing spiritual giants (thereby blinding ourselves, especially seeing we are rich people and blinded in many ways anyway) I wonder how much more healing there would be that spontaneously flows out of a great sense of trust. There's nothing stronger than love. Imagine what communities of believers would look like if the people inside those communities were able to have a level of trust for each other.

    (PS: I had a look at the website a week or so ago of your community you inhabit - wow! The things you guys focus on, the ecological side, it's quite beautiful.)

  17. Thanks Sue!

    I realise I got so caught up in the discussion with Erin I never did answer your question. Sorry!

    I've never experienced anything dramatic subjectively - at most a great sense of God's love, of "being held" if that makes any sense.

    The physical healing was dramatic, in that major damage following the farm accident was put right in a way that wasn't medically likely - or that years of slow recovery (that might not have occurred naturally) were compressed into a short space of time.

    But - I felt nothing much at the time I was prayed for. I can't actually remember who prayed for me, (It was at a big Vineyard conference) and I'd only asked to know God's will for me now that I wasn't able to continue farming, not for physical healing.

    What I do know was that I noticed improvement an hour or so later; and great improvement, with externally measurable change, by the following morning.

    Interestingly though, I wasn't completely healed from the damage caused in the accident. I still suffer from many of the after effects. Yet both the healing, and the continuing issues, have helped me serve God in ways I couldn't have done otherwise.

    At the risk of getting boring, Romans 8:28...

    Good grief, this has turned into a discussion and a half. Thanks for starting this one, Sue!

    Love & blessings



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