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Asking the clergy about faith healing

Faith healing, using religious belief and prayer rather than medical treatment to cure one's ills, is a controversial topic. This week's clergy look to Scripture to shed light on the concept.

Rabbi Gordon Yaffe, L'Dor V'Dor-Oakland Little Neck Jewish Center, serves western Nassau County and Little Neck, Queens:

If what you're referring to is what you see on TV as the miraculous healing with prayer, I don't think anything supports that. But there is a strong tradition in the Jewish faith of praying for the health and well-being of people. Every Saturday morning during readings of the Torah, we ask God to send complete healing of the body and souls for all those who are ill. Those in attendance can call out the names of loved ones, and they're included in the prayer.

The scriptural basis for faith healing is also the shortest prayer on record in The Torah. Moses asks in Numbers 12:13: "God, heal her." He was asking God to heal his sister Miriam of leprosy, and she was healed.

I do think you have to be very careful about looking to God as a magician or a miracle worker who can push buttons to make things happen. I think that is a very primitive, even dangerous, perception of God. The concept that a minister or some other clergy can invoke or be God's messenger and bring this miraculous healing power is not a theology I can embrace.

The Rev. Vincent Williams, Heritage Baptist Church, Bay Shore:

Many people think that what they see on television -- the speaker laying hands on the person and the person being healed -- is faith healing. That's not faith healing. I do believe in divine healing. I believe God heals, and I have personally seen it. There are things that are not known to man that God can do.

In Matthew 9, as Jesus is getting ready to heal a blind man in the temple, he asks the man, "Do you believe that I can do this?" It was not about how strong the man's faith was. It was about whether he believed that Jesus could heal him. The main focus was "I," meaning Christ.

In Matthew 8, when the Centurion asks Christ to heal his servant, the man says that Christ doesn't even have to go to his home. He just has to say it, and it would be done. The Centurion didn't claim to have power. He was trusting in Jesus' power. Faith healing the way many use it is changing the focus to our part in it. People make the error of claiming a healing or claiming a blessing.

There is a dangerous teaching out there that is unscriptural, and I believe it does a lot of harm to Christianity and even to the nonbeliever. The term faith healing is not in the Bible. We also aren't told to "claim our power, claim our blessing, claim our healing." The danger of such things is that they redefine terms in the Bible and redirect the focus.

God is not under any biblical mandate to heal everyone all the time. Faith means belief and trust, not an individual's power. We are instructed in the Bible to have faith in God, not to have faith in faith.

Father Roy Tvrdik, director, Shrine of Our Lady of the Island, Manorville:

It depends on what you mean by faith healing. The Catholic Church performs the Sacrament of the Sick, which is one of the seven Sacraments of the Church. During the service, we anoint people with oil and pray for healing for them.

Here at the Shrine, we have a healing Mass every two months (upcoming Masses: 11:30 a.m. Jan. 25 and March 22). We anoint people with blessed oil on their head and hands, lay hands on them and pray for healing. Whatever God does, he does. Of course, we also recommend they see a doctor, because God gave us doctors, too. We tell them, "Don't just trust in prayer, because God gave us both to use."

For a scriptural basis for the Sacrament, we look to James 5:14-15: "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."

The oil used is the oil that the bishop blesses during Holy Week that goes out to all the parishes and hospitals. If God wants to make miracles, he can. We just have to have faith to leave it up to God.

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