Funny faith healing stories at Oral Roberts' funeral

Monday, December 21, 2009
By Frank Lockwood

Pentecostal televangelist Marilyn Hickey preached the sermon at Oral Roberts’ memorial service today. And she shared an insightful story about her faith and ministry, laughing while she told it. And the audience laughed along.

I’ll share it with you.

She said the first time that she preached at an Assembly of God Church, she commanded a man in a wheelchair near the back of the sanctuary to stand up and walk. But the man didn’t budge. So she hollered at him again: Stand up and walk. But still he did not move. So a third time, she thundered: Stand up and walk. But still no movement.

About that time, the pastor of the church stepped to her side and whispered: “Mrs. Hickey, he’s not going to stand up and walk. He has no legs.”

Oh, the story brought laughter to Oral Roberts’ memorial service. And Hickey laughed along.

I didn’t laugh, however. I’ve seen too many self-proclaimed faith healers use desperately-ill people as props over the decades.

And if Hickey’s Almighty God is incapable of healing legless men, he isn’t much of an Almighty God.

No Responses to “Funny faith healing stories at Oral Roberts' funeral”

  1. cheese

    You may call it “faith healing,” but I think the technical term is sorcery.

  2. Niall

    I remember a poor mentally handicapped young man at my church who was constantly dragged up to the altar and “prayed over” to heal him from his “affliction”. Even sadder, the young man was smart enough to realize what was happening, and must have felt totally ashamed every time it happened.

  3. nancee

    All I can say is WOW. I’m guessing the christian writer of this newspaper and the two people that made comments so far do not believe in healings at all. Well healings do go on. Marilyn Hickey is a good preacher and missionary. She said she was embarrassed after that incident – she was trying to use her faith in God. Maybe in United States we don’t see enough healings – but it goes on all the time overseas. Nial – are you a Christian – if so shame on you !!!

  4. G Corry

    When I was 8 years old my father had a back problem that was so intense that he was losing the feeling in his right arm, and was nearly unable to use it. He later told my mother that he was contemplating suicide. He was healed and his soul saved one sunday morning in 1959. He went on to live, work and raise his family. He even pastored a church for a number of years. It can be a lot more than “sorcery”.

  5. Caleb Powers

    Cheese, I suspect most of it is not sorcery, but the placebo effect. If sugar pills can induce people to cure themselves, so can faith healers. Of course, the placebo doesn’t often work.

  6. cheese

    How is it not sorcery? The “healer” says some words and maybe lays on the hands, and poof! someone’s supposed to be healed. How is that any different from casting a spell? Let me guess: because the power comes from god and not the individual spellcaster? If the power to heal comes from god, then it’s faith healing. If the power to heal comes from the spellcaster, then it’s sorcery. Right?

  7. Caleb Powers

    Let’s look at a third possibility, Cheese, that the healing comes from the person being healed, either in response to some outside force (God, sorcery, whatever), or simply from that person’s own natural healing ability, fortified by believing that someone or other out there in the universe cares and wants the sufferer to be healed. I don’t claim any sort of divine intervention for faith healing: I suspect it mainly works because people believe strongly enough in it to heal themselves. It’s a question of motivation, not sorcery.

  8. It’s very sad that anyone considers that a funny story. There’s nothing funny about it; it’s sad and painful and cruel.

  9. cheese

    You think those “faith healers” see it the same way you do?

  10. Caleb Powers

    No, I don’t imagine they do. But then, I don’t imagine they see it the way you do, either.

    The traditional Christian theory of faith healing is that one is healed not by the faith of the healer, but the faith of the person being healed, which is impressive enough to God for God to heal the person. The faith of the healer is irrelevant.

    The pentecostals, at least the sub-part of them who handle snakes, say the same thing about snake handling, that it is the person’s faith that prevents the snake bites from being deadly. That way when someone gets bitten and dies, all they have to do is say “His faith wasn’t strong enough.” When I was growing up, we used to use that phrase as a joke. Whenever someone got hurt by something, we’d always say that their faith wasn’t strong enough.

  11. cheese

    I understand that they may not want to acknowledge it as sorcery, but really what’s the difference? If the healer is entirely irrelevant to the equation, why is there a healer at all? This is not one and the same as positive thinking, which I agree can help people mentally and physically. This is something else. That person standing up there putting their hands on people’s foreheads and telling them to walk again are not simply advocating positive thinking techniques. They’re practicing a sugar-coated sorcery.

    Not to say that it’s bad or anything. By all means, cast whatever spells you want. But there are groups out there who view any mention of sorcery or spellcasting as akin to blasphemy and devil worship. And I just like reminding them that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The folks who used to practice magick, many got converted to Christianity, and magick is still well and alive in our society today.

  12. Caleb Powers

    I think there is a legitimate difference between praying to God, which requires no magic, and practicing sorcery, which requires the sorcerer to have some independent power or ability. The theory of faith healing is that anyone can do it, because it’s God and the sick person’s faith that does the healing, not the healer. It’s an entirely different theoretical construct.

  13. cheese

    Then I ask you again: What is the purpose of the healer? Why do people seek out specific healers, such as Benny Hinn, if, as you claim, anyone can do it? If the healer truly has no power, then they’re misleading people by calling themselves healers. They should rename themselves “motivational speakers.”

    Look at the story again. A “spell” is simply making something happen with the sound of your voice alone. Hickey is saying “Stand up and walk! Stand up and walk!” Does that sound like a prayer to you?

  14. Caleb Powers

    The healer is merely motivational; there’s no theological reason the same thing couldn’t occur without another person present. As for why people single out people like Benny Hinn, it’s simply because they believe that he can direct the healing power of God. I suspect that there is some self-selection here: That is, people who seek out people like Benny Hinn are probably more subject to the suggestions of others than the average.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that Benny Hinn is legitimate, or that these tent shows are the way to go about this. I’m merely saying that, despite the fact that most of these faith healers are frauds and do what they do merely to get people to give them money, faith healing does actually happen, and I suspect that the reason it happens is the placebo effect.

    As for what Benny Hinn is doing, he’s putting on a show. And that’s part of the deal. The way you motivate people to heal themselves is to convince them that God will do it for them. And you convince them of that by putting on a show. As for whether Hinn is praying when he tells people to walk, no, he’s putting on another part of the show. It’s not a prayer because he’s not talking to God, but to the afflicted person. He would tell you he’s encouraging them to accept the gift of God, but I’d say that he’s encouraging them to heal themselves. He’s not suggesting that he’s casting a spell by the sound of his voice, but rather that God has already healed the person. This hearkens back to the Biblical stories of healing, in which Jesus always tells people they’re healed and to get up and walk.

    In the Episcopal Church, we have healing services all the time, but instead of doing it the way Benny Hinn does it, we use the form in the Book of Common Prayer and annoint people with oil. I’ve conducted some of these services myself, and have seen healings that might or might not have been miraculous; certainly, they were very welcome to the people who received them. That doesn’t make me a faith healer, it simply means that, either by the grace of God or because the person believed they’d be healed, they were. I’ve always figured it was more placebo than divine intervention, but who knows.

  15. cheese

    The placebo effect has a compliment, the nocebo effect, where people actually feel worse due to expectations of pain. Do you suspect that faith healing has an equivalent counterpart, a la “faith harming”?

  16. José

    I have heard some sermons that left me with a stomach ache.

  17. Caleb Powers

    I haven’t seen it, Cheese, so I don’t know. I’d imagine, though, that after someone had attended many healing services and not been healed, they might think a lot less of the concept of faith healing!

  18. David Duke

    “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.” James 5:14-15

    “And whoso shall ask it in my name in faith, they shall cast out devils; they shall heal the sick; they shall cause the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk.” Doctrine and Covenants 35:9

    “And whosoever among you are asick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy.” D&C 42:43

    We believe that the power and authority of the priesthood (the Authority of God shared with man) contains within it the power to heal, by the faith of the giver and receiver. Without going into great detail, I have been part of such things and testify that they are real. I’m sure that some could have been present at these things and thought they were a “placebo” effect.

    Do I think that “faith healers” such as Benny Hinn accomplish some good? Maybe. But let’s just say that I believe they have no power or authority but that those few that they might “heal” have faith in and of themselves to believe that God can heal them, which He can.

  19. William

    There is no sorcery. There is no magic. There are no spells.

    There are only truth and ignorance.

  20. Caleb Powers

    David, I would think that anyone could be a faith healer, not just someone who is somehow “annointed” by your church. The power, after all, comes from God, not from man. I agree that Benny Hinn and his ilk have “no power or authority,” but I’d also have to say that no one else does, either. Otherwise, if people have part of the power, Cheese is right, and it’s just sorcery.

    The problem with setting up some human being as being “holy” in some way is that that person is going to be no more holy than anyone else, which is to say not holy at all.

  21. perplexed

    Benny Hinn is a product of religion in today’s world. Those who taught him and his organization continuously study and educate themselves on what the flock wants, needs and demands all for a contribution towards building a better church, Seems like most Churches have this goal in mind.
    This article seems to bring back the memory of The Green Mile, a good movie that can get you thinking. I thought the healers were mainly Baptists these days. I have worked from some people who claim its real, reputable people, they told me an aunt could heal burns, no reason not to believe them.

  22. David Duke

    Luke 9:1-2. The power to heal the sick was given by the Savior to his disciples (apostles), so yes, Caleb, it does come from God. We would be in agreement on that point.

    There is a difference between one who claims to heal and holds public meetings to aggrandize himself in the public eye and who occasionally find someone who has the faith in Jesus Christ to be healed through His grace, which is what I hold that Mr. Hinn and his like do, and one who, by the authority of God shared by Him, anoints as the scriptures teach to bless the sick that they might be made well by His authority.

    The kingdom of God is one of wisdom, order and authority, not one of circus shows and flashy jewelry.

  23. perplexed

    I wonder if this could mean that the ability to heal comes to the descendants of the Apostle’s.

  24. Caleb Powers

    Well, perplexed, if by the descendants of the Apostles you mean bishops in the Apostolic succession, I would think not. The gift of healing is a gift of the spirit according to I Corinthians, a gift given to everyone, or at least a gift everyone has the potential to use. I agree that the Apostolic succession is important, and that, of course, is where both the Catholic and Episcopal Churches receive their legitimacy.

  25. perplexed

    Caleb, I’m talking about direct biological descendants.

  26. I didn’t think the story was that funny myself, and I’m an ORU graduate. I do happen to believe that to some there is given “gifts of healing” as 1 Cor. 12:9 indicates. I see no reason to doubt this passage and have heard too many stories of people who have been unusually used by God to pray for people’s healings to chalk it up as coincidence. God’s gifts are given as he pleases, ultimately we’re accountable to him as to how we use them.

  27. Nancee,
    I’ve seen seemingly fake “healings” and seemingly real healings over the years.

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