It was a great loss to Christianity when the idea developed that spiritual part of our being was somehow higher than and essentially separate from our bodies. Many Christians wrote as if our bodies were somehow evil and enemies of our spiritual nature. Our bodies are, in truth, temples of God’s spirit. God calls on us to love our neighbors “as ourselves”. This includes loving and caring for our bodies in every way we can. Thankfully many today are moving towards a holistic appreciation of the oneness of our bodies, minds, our feelings, and that of God that is alive within each of us.
Spiritual healing of our bodies
Accounts of healing play a major role in the accounts we have of Jesus’ ministry in the gospels. Jesus admonished his followers to preach repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God—and to heal the sick. Healings also play a significant role in accounts of the early Church in the book of Acts.
George Fox was also known as a healer, although this aspect of Fox’s ministry apparently was embarrassing to subsequent generations of Friends. Henry Cadbury edited George Fox’s Book of Miracles as a way of reacquainting modern Friends with early Friends’ healing work. The re-issue of this book by QuakerBooks in 2000 includes two new introductory essays by Paul Anderson & Jim Pym describing how Fox’s work as a healer was suppressed. Here is an article on George Fox’s healing ministry.
The Friends Fellowship of Healing based in Britain YM has over 1000 members and offers a formal training program for Quaker spiritual healers who utilize hands-on healing methods.
Richard Lee, a member of Red Cedar Friends Meeting in E. Lansing, Michigan, pioneered work on Quaker healing prayer in the United States.
For a number of years, Powell House, a Quaker Conference Center located near Albany, NY, has held an annual gathering for Friends Involved in the Practice of Spiritual Healing (FIPSH).
Meetings for Healing
A Meeting for Healing offers a relatively new practice of focusing the prayers of a group of Friends on a given person or situation. Here are three descriptions of the practice. This practice was developed and used by a number of Friends including Richard Lee of Lake Erie YM, Elaine Emily of Pacific YM, Buffy Curtis of New York YM, Richard Simon of Ohio YM, Jennie Isbell-Shin of New England YM, and many others. These have been held at many yearly meetings, Quaker retreat centers, and local meetings. Here are some articles describing this practice.
Quaker Healing Prayer by Richard Lee
Meeting for Worship for Healing: A Friendly Guide by Richard Lee
Friends as Healers is a 2001 Friends Journal by Bobbi Balin & Buffy Curtis article describing the first of a number of gatherings held at Powell House on Friends interested in spiritual healing of bodies.
Introducing Meeting for Healing by Elaine Emi
What Is a Meeting for Healing? by Buffy Curtis
Meetings for Healing from Homewood Meeting in Baltimore MD
Requests to Hold Specific Friends in the Light
Intercessory prayer was rare just a few years ago among FGC Quakers. Many meetings today have a period where Friends “hold others in the Light” at the conclusion of meeting for worship. Often these prayer requests are around illness, surgery, and other bodily issues and needs. Peter Blood’s On Praying for Others – and Ourselves first appeared in Friends Journal. See also Marcelle Martin’s Holding One Another in the Light, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #382, in 2006.
Experiencing God’s Love through Health Changes
Willingness and Health is a paper Peter Blood wrote in 1987 while studying spiritual direction at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. It is a reflection on ways that holistic health can lead to blame or self-blame towards the person who is ill and suggests an alternative: “contemplative medicine”.
The 2006 annual conference of Quakers in Pastoral Care & Counseling (QPCC) on the subject, “We Shall All Be Changed: Experiencing God’s Love through Health Changes”. It was planned and led by Peter Blood, Elaine Emily, Bill Ratliff, Elisabeth Dearborn & Maureen Flannery.
Friends may find the Queries used in small groups during the gathering useful for going deeper in their efforts to experience their own bodies as being held in God’s love.
Body Prayer is a guided meditation used at the same QPCC Conference in which one focuses on imagining holding a part of one’s own body in God’s healing love & light.
Here is the Bibliography from that gathering.