Often at these events, there is an expectation of miracles and signs and wonders. To claim that there is a formulated approach to getting a miracle can only mean one of three things: it is Liturgical (ie: Mass), it is superstition, or something on the natural plain is occurring. In Jason Evert’s book St John Paul the Great: His Five Loves (pg. 187) he states that JPII had many miracles occur because of his prayers while alive on Earth; but when he was asked about this JPII stated that miracles are up to God and no reason to dwell on it or attempt to figure it out. Generally, God honors creation and human reason and has given us many natural methods for healing; and while it is certainly up to him to bring about a miracle whenever he chooses, it is presumption on our part to claim that we have a foolproof way of getting that miracle. Precisely for this reason, the “Guidelines for Prayers for Healing” issued by the Congregation for Doctrine of Faith in 2000 was written in a language that moved away from “healing prayer” to “prayers for healing.” Making this shift is crucial because ‘healing prayer’ denotes automatism while ‘prayers for healing’ puts the practice in the realm of intercessory prayer and leaves true openness to the response of the Holy Spirit. This echoes the previously used quote from A School of Prayer.
Practically speaking, often there is a claim that one is healed from the prayer experience when in fact they are not. They leave the conference thinking that they are healed and no longer continue the work of good psychotherapy. This is a problem and a direct result of false claims or assertions made by these leaders. Worse still is when someone is lead to a traumatic memory and there is no appropriate follow-up care to help them deal with their pain. They go home far worse and without care.
We must trust and appeal to the prudential ways of the Catholic Church. It is hard to determine the work of grace in our lives. Precisely for this reason, the Church is slow to make determinations about miracles, sainthood, and apparitions. Inner Healing ‘prayer’ disregards that prudential approach that is part of our Catholic tradition and falls well into the realm of presumption. Rather a healthier alternative honors both faith and reason, which as JPII stated in his opening of Fides et Ratio, “are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”
Here it must be stated that emotional healing and spiritual healing are not synonymous terms. To do so leaves no room for the role of redemptive suffering in the growth of the person’s soul. Benedict Groeshel in Spiritual Passages (pg. 118) describes that as one progresses in the spiritual life, there is a decrease in deep existential anxiety. I believe this to be true, however suffering often is the vehicle that allows that deep peace to abide in our hearts. Let us not pigeonhole the work of the Holy Spirit through fundamentalist approaches to healing, but rather take a fuller approach that truly honors the whole person.
When Inner Healing “Prayer” does work it is because of the natural healing that occurs when we bear our deepest longings to another and feel their unconditional acceptance and love. As I alluded to earlier, this vulnerability needs to be done appropriately and not forced by groupthink. We absolutely need people in our lives that can see us as we really are, but usually that takes time and trust to be achieved. Brené Brown in, Daring Greatly, states that shame gets washed away in the empathy of another (pg. 75). JPII goes further in Love and Responsibility (pg. 181), by writing that shame gets swallowed up by love. True intimacy and relationship are what brings healing, not the overly spiritualized magic tricks. The real miracle is the grace of baptism and confirmation that allows one to become a sacramental sign of God’s love and to be capable of receiving that love. The body and only the body makes visible what is invisible, as stated in the Theology of the Body (19:4). This is the gift of authentic relationship that leads to Christ and it does not need to be contrived by emotionalism or superstition.