Praying for Healing: Helpful or Often Offering False Hope?

I had a heart breaking patient the last 2 days in my job as a hospital nurse. She is a 23 year old young woman with end stage brain cancer. She is non-responsive and receiving tube feedings. She is dying, with other systems in her body starting to fail.

She and her mother are from Russia. The mother is involved with the Four Square church. All treatment options are exhausted in this case, the mother is not handling the impeding loss of her daughter well and is still wanting everything done, is not realistic, and is still hoping that her daughter will be miraculously healed. This is her only child.

The Foursquare church minister is coming in every day for healing prayers. I notice that they have a different approach to this situation than a Catholic priest would have. They are mainly praying specifically for a miraculous healing. The Catholic approach would be more holistic, IMO, and would more address the spiritual needs of all parties to help them deal with this suffering and prepare for death.

The mother’s faith in God is being challanged because God is not providing this miracle that she wants. Since these miraculous types of healing are very rare, it seems as if she is being offered false hope that is making it more difficult for her to face this tragedy realistically.

I’ve been very upset over this spectacle, and crying for two days. It’s so sad and suffering is so ever present in this world. Anyways, it got me to thinking of different approaches within Christiandom toward healing, expectations for divine intervention, and dealing with death and dying. Any thoughts?

The Four Square approach is not much different from that of Benny Hinn and all the other charlatans out there.

This kind of “praying for healing” can be dangerous because it can lead to a massive loss of faith when the prayer does not seem to be granted.

The Catholic approach for the same kind of thing, that is the anointing of the sick and dying is definitely more holistic in its approach. The patient is being prepared to meet death in a far better way, and the family are better prepared for those final moments. With the anointing there is the forgiveness of sins and when it comes to that final moment… I think I want my sins to be forgiven.

I also have questions about this practice, about the methodology of the Faith Healing mob, as well as those who tout Theophostic Prayer. They are not doing what Jesus did, and they are dangerous. However, there is a far greater danger.

Have you read all the details of the Terri Schievo case? Have a good look at what organization is involved. The whole thing is very sinister.


The situation you describe seems to belong to the “name it and claim it” brand of Christianity. The problem with it is that it is a very superstitious approach in that it presumes to force the hand of God. When God doesn’t grant the prayer, those who believe in this are faced with two options; 1) be angry at God for not doing what they believe he promised or 2) believe that their own faith is somehow lacking and be angry at themselves for failing to believe sufficiently.

The spiritually educated Catholic (along with many Protestants, I hasten to add) knows that we can pray with true hope because miracles do occur. However, we also realize that we have no basis for demanding that the particular miracle we want must be granted. God always answers our prayers but, sometimes, the answer is no. This is the heart of how Jesus taught us to pray. We ask that the Father’s will be done; not our own will. Does this fly in the face of the assurance that whatever we ask will be granted? No, because if we listen to all of what Jesus taught, we would always begin our prayers of petition with something along the lines of, “if it is your will, please…”

The way I look at it, there is nothing wrong with praying for something, as there are some wonderful miracles, yet we cannot be resentful if we do not get what we asked for. We must be realistic at the same time. We must realize that God knows what is best for us. He does EVERYTHING for a reason. He knows what is best for us, and has an ultimate plan for all.

God Bless,

Elizabeth is correct here. I do know that God answers prayers that are offered up for sick people. I have known of several miracles of this nature, including miracles involving my niece and great-nephew.

I have known a few occasions when Mass has been said for the well being of certain people, and have heard of a near miraculous recovery. A first example involves my great nephew who was born with some heart defects and was a very weak baby. On the day of his exploratory operation, we offered up Mass for him. Not only did he not have the same condition as his mother (and that would have necessitated immediate surgery), but there was a turnaround in his health after that day. He is now thriving and continues to need a heart operation for a hole in the heart.

In the case of my niece I had the whole school praying for her as she underwent serious major surgery as a two year old. She nearly died on the operating table and miraculously she has survived

A third case involves a boy of around 12 who suffered from a brain haemorrage. Again we offered up Masses for him, and he is doing well.

Prayers are answered by the Lord, but demands are not answered as we expect.


There is nothing wrong with praying for healing but at the same time accepting Gods will for whatever the situation might be I had to come to this realization when a friend of mine at my parish lost her battle with ovarian cancer

It’s much less fuss simply to accept God’s will and not bother praying, because accepting God’s will is what that kind of prayer implies anyway. (By “praying”, I mean praying for others; prayer of impetration, as it used to be known).

So why complicate matters & risk raising false hopes ? :shrug: “Que sera, sera” - all anyone can do is go to the doctor or hospital or [fill in name of service] - and if healing comes, it comes; if it doesn’t, well, that’s the way things are. That way, if there’s no change for the better, no one will be able to say that prayers that were not made were a waste of time.

Praying for healing was understandable in a pre-scientific age, when what medical care was available was as likely to kill as to cure, or more likely, even - but science has taken over the healing function God used to have. It’s precise, where prayer is imprecise & unfocussed & unable to deal with a problem directly: prayer is no use for locating, recognising, diagnosing, & attending to a tumour - but science excels at doing such things. Now that medical science & a host of therapies are available, there is nothing for prayer to do: it has no* function* in medecine; we don’t need it. If the objection is made that science does not always achieve its purpose - that’s no difficulty, & can be admitted; and, neither does prayer always achieve its purpose. As for the fact that people die as a result of scientific or medical procedures: again, granted. Maybe it was God’s will that those people should die. Praying to him for a very sick person does not rule out that possibility either. So why bother praying ? What does it do that good medical care cannot ? It doesn’t give life, sanity, youth, restoration of missing body-parts, or anything else medicine is equally powerless to give. If people want to meditate - fine: that may do some good. One does not have to be a Christian or even a theist for it do good. But what good is prayer ?

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