FR FRANCIS MACNU'TT, OP, is a firm believer in the healing power of prayer. In the first of two extracts from his new book, "The Power to Heal" (Redemptorist Press, £230) Fr MacNutt describes some of his experiences in the healing ministry which he has practised all over the world for the last ten years.
To give you an idea of the different ways that prayer works I would like to share the case of Lisa with you.
The case of Lisa Scarbrough has just begun, and I have no idea what eventually might happen. Perhaps nothing much more will happen; or quite the opposite, an extraordinary and complete healing may eventually take place. But these beginnings will give you an idea of how you sense that God may be calling you, or a group of people, to pray for a sick person over a prolonged period of time. At the time of this writing, Lisa is eight and a half years old. At the age of two and a half, Lisa was thought to have a brain tumour, but after two and a half years of testing, the doctors diagnosed it as a demyelinization of the nervous system. Over a period of six years, the disease progressed until she lost her speech, her sight and her muscle coordination. She was completely bedridden and had to be tube fed.
Her spine was severely curved, causing the left rib cage to protrude and the right leg to be approximately two inches shorter than the left leg.
After one week of intermittent soaking prayer her mother, Mrs Elyse Scarbrough (of Dallas, Texas), sent me_ her journal, from which the following passages are excerpted:
ThUrsday, April 22, 1976
Fr Dominic Tamburello, OP, called and invited me to come with Lisa to the Mass that would end the Dominican priests' retreat at Bishop Lynch High School. After the Mass Fr MacNutt, Fr Tamburello and Bob Cavnar prayed with Lisa after anointing her with oil. The base of her spine straightened about an inch. (We prayed about 10 minutes.) Fr MacNutt offered to come to my house the next morning to pray again with Lisa.
Friday Morning, April 23
Bob Cavnar drove Fr MacNutt to my house on the way to the airport. Some of the members of my prayer group (St Pius X. Dallas) were also present. We marked the curve a her spine with red ink to see it more clearly. After praying about 20 minutes the curvature of the spine moved inward about an inch, and the right leg came down about a quarter of an inch. Praise the Lord! Different members of the prayer group remained throughout the day with Lisa after Fr MacNutt and Bob Cavnar had to leave for the airport.
Friday Afternoon, April 23
That afternoon I noticed the right leg had come down some more — only a little bit. Friends continued to come and pray with Lisa throughout the evening. Lisa could lie flat on her stomach, whereas she couldn't before.
Saturday, April 24
Prayer group members continued to come. I noticed the spine in the neck area had straightened somewhat. Her neck was more limber. The rib cage on the left side of her chest protruded less.
Sunday, April 25
I took Lisa to the prayer meeting at Bishop Lynch. A man came over during the middle of the meeting and asked if he could pray with Lisa. I nodded my head.
Toward the end of the meeting we sang one round of "Alleluia, My Father." Bob Cavnar said that we were going to sing the song again, and during the singing we could meditate on anything we wanted to ask God for — big or small.
I was thinking about Lisa putting her arms around my neck, and. without looking down at her, I reached over and placed my hand on her chest. My hand started quivering, and I felt a sensation of warmth, then heat. When 1 felt the heat my hand started tingling.
The man who had prayed with Lisa earlier during the meeting noticed — by my face, I guess — that something was happening. He came over and began to pray, laying his hand by mine on Lisa's chest. I couldn't move my hand. I felt the area of the protruded rib cage get soft like putty; then it went flat. More people became aware that something was happening and began to come over and pray ...
The man who had asked to pray with Lisa earlier came over and told me that when he first came in and sat down and saw Lisa, the Lord had told him that her name was "Lisha" and that he was to pray for her ... There was great jubilation that night!
Monday, April 26, 1976
A group of four of us from St Pius X prayer group were praying with Lisa. I had my fingers at the back of Lisa's neck massaging it. Once again I felt heat and a tingling sensation in my fingers. Involuntarily I began rubbing her larynx with my thumb. Later that day, I noticed the some in the neck area had straightened completely,
Thursday, April 29, 1976
The curvature in Lisa's spine is still moving. but an gradually that is is not noticeable at the time it is happening. We are continuing a daily routine of prayer with members of St Pius X prayer group. And Lisa has been receiving Communion daily since April 23.