A guest post written by Stewart Moses from Torrance, California
The Gospels record an event in Jesus’ ministry where a father brought his child, suffering from what we today call epilepsy, for healing. The father was understandably distressed because of his child’s condition, but he was also frustrated because he had taken his child to Jesus’ disciples to be healed and they had failed. After giving his disciples some stern words, Jesus quickly cured the child.
In the accounts in Matthew and Mark, the disciples ask their teacher (for disciple derives from the Latin word for “learner” or “student”) why they had failed to heal the child. Jesus replied that healing only comes about through “…prayer and fasting.” This reply is interesting for both what it does and does not say.
It does not say that healing only comes through special powers derived from God, or because of a unique relationship with the Divine, or by birth in a manger in Bethlehem. Jesus fully expected his disciples to be able to heal and voiced his disapproval when they didn’t succeed.
Jesus stated that his disciples should be able to heal through prayer and prayer was one of the things the New Testament says he taught them to do. Jesus gives them the Lord’s Prayer in response to their specific request to learn how to pray. Jesus was not just teaching his disciples comforting words, but also a method for spiritual healing.
Jesus also explained that fasting facilitates healing. We know from the Gospels that Jesus was not particularly concerned with strict dietary observances, so he must have meant something more than just what and how much is ingested. Fasting requires discipline and a willingness to look beyond the physical condition of the body. Jesus was telling his students to focus their attention on the spiritual and not the material.
What was true in Jesus’ time is still true, and this is what Mary Baker Eddy, 19th-century healer and the founder of Christian Science, wrote about in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In her book Eddy says that “man is not material; he is spiritual,” which is something that I was taught at a very young age in Christian Science Sunday School. A few years ago, I recalled this teaching when I experienced severe physical distress. I was about to leave for a several-hour flight to get back home from a trip, but I was in intense pain and couldn’t imagine enduring boarding a plane in that condition. I prayed using that quote from Science and Health and after a few moments the pain subsided, something passed from my body, and I was in perfect comfort for my flight.
Jesus taught his disciples to heal – it was not a special dispensation only for himself – and the Gospels recorded his teachings to continue his ministry. Eddy established Christian Science to remind us of his teaching and reintroduce Jesus’ healing methods to the modern world. What I’ve come to understand is that spiritual healing is something that can be learned and practiced by anyone willing to become a dedicated disciple of Christ.