Faith / Pentecostalism / prayer / spinal-cord injury

another week in paradise: Faith healers

sick of talking about myself, but for those of you interested in my health I was allowed up today. Yippee! The bottom is almost clear (to hairy for me to say it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom, but you get what I mean – and are now grossed out).

I’m writing this post in response to a comment made by Lee – anne Bryant in her discussion of my earlier post on prayer. Lee – anne suffers from scoliosis and so has been in a wheelchair for much of her life (actually, I should get Lee -anne to tell her own story because I’m probably getting it wrong). In any event she often feels singled out when she attends Pentecostal and charismatic church conferences, especially when the altar call relates to healing. She recounts one experience as follows:

  • I visited a smallish church once and the pastor asked if he could pray for me. I said sure, why not? Ensue fifteen+ people surrounding me, casting things out of me, telling me to repent and be healed. Two of the ladies and one of the guys literally picked me up by the arms and made me stand, I had bruised biceps for three weeks and strained back muscles from being stretched standing straight with scoliosis. It went on for around fifteen minutes, and every time I yelled at them to let go of me they yelled back at my ‘demon’ to shut up. After this adventure they gave me a copy of Jonie Erickson-Tada’s book – Totally contradicting themselves. So I never visited again. I’m really nervous around conferences, prophetic stuff etc now because I really don’t want that to be repeated. I hate being made a fuss of at the best of times, and crazies just seem to enter their element when they see me coming.

I am somewhat sheltered in hospital and, with an injury only six months old, I have not had experiences this disturbing. I do have one of my night-time attendants tell me regularly that if I have enough faith I will be healed. He is a Pentecostal who encourages me to read books by Kenneth Hagin. anyone who knows me will appreciate that my theology is a long way from that of Hagin and the faith healers of his ilk, but it is not my purpose to debate the point now. I actually love this night-time attendant, with his straight forward faith and encouraging personality, and just nod my head and say ‘yes, yes’ to his encouragement. He and his wife pray for me regularly and I welcome such prayers.

I actually enjoy all the different sorts of prayers that have been spoken over my life. I appreciate people with faith that is stronger than mine (perhaps stronger is not the right word. I probably mean different to mine, more outspoken).   I have been prayed for by people believing in my total healing, by others who pray God’s will be done, by others whose faith stretches to littler things (such as pressure marks rather than total healing) still others pray that I will be able to cope with whatever God’s will for me is.  I’ve been prayed for by tongue-speaking pentecostals, and by more formal Anglicans and Catholics.  I’ve even been prayed for by an Imam.  And I love it all!

As for me, I have to admit that it seems likely that I will remain in a wheelchair.  This may seem to be a position of lesser faith, and it may well be.  But I can only deal with life as it is and trust that God is with me.  I am sure that a miracle is possible (so if you’re so inclined, please keep praying for one).    Right now, however, my wife and I just need God in the little things of everyday life.  As the tag line of my blog says, ‘we are just taking life as it comes, the same as everyone else’.


About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Dave Keane
    April 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Hey mate, you and Elly really are an inspiration to us all. Whilst I totally believe in healing (as the Bible is way too forward about it – both in teaching and example) to believe anything else, I am also confused at times as to why my (our) own experience fails to match that which seemed evident in the early church and in some parts of the world today.

    I guess a theology is easy to hold when it does not personally affect someone; once you are sitting in a wheel-chair the idea of ‘a doctrine of healing’ must take on a whole new meaning.

    Can God heal? Absolutely!
    Will he heal in a particular situation? I don’t know!

    But one thing is certain – God is good, and God is with you always.

    Meanwhile, I will be praying for your healing. At the same time, I will be praying that the Lord will help you and the family through every day of your lives; whatever they look like. And that he will bring resolution to all of the ‘practical issues’ surrounding your situation too; funding for carers, transport, insurance, etc etc.

    One thing I have always appreciated about you Shane is your honesty. Whatever the ultimate outcome of your situation, I think honesty and authenticity is refreshing, and much needed in the church. (Oh, and I totally agree with you in respect to Kenneth Hagin & his ilk).

    May the Lord bless you and keep you my friend!!

  • Lee-Anne Bryant
    April 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    limb-girdle musculardystrophy

    Ahh, you’re so inspiring, butt hair and all!

  • David
    April 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Shane, wonderful update that you for being such an inspiring person. I am really blessed to have met you, I have been blessed because you helped me shape my theology and blessed by your honesty. God bless

  • Tanya Riches
    April 7, 2011 at 9:10 am

    At the moment, Shane, I’m working at the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Sydney. I’m tempted to introduce you to my mum, and some of the staff – because I think both would benefit from the interaction! I got really overwhelmed yesterday after talking to a string of carers, some who told me they were lucky because their son “wasn’t like other Autistic children and was a gentleman to live with’, some were despondant when I had to ask their child could learn “what’s the point in trying to teach her anything? She has an intellectual disability! We’re tired enough just trying to get through the day”. I wonder how my faith applies to them – obviously I can see the realities and challenges of their situation. And I also believe in healing.

    The only thing that I can say at the moment is that I strongly believe that a wheelchair does not affect a person’s value in the slightest. Obviously we want you NOT to have to deal with these things. But at the same time, for so many other things we are waiting for the ‘Not yet’. I hope you keep thinking about prayer because I’m seriously struggling through the emotions that I’m exposed to in the hour I chat to these people, and as a pastor I want to learn how to love people with disabilities.

    Prayer is all I have at the moment… in my own Pentecostal way… which is not that of Kenneth Hagin…

  • Matthew
    April 7, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Mate the legacy that you have left us will be beyond what you can ever think of. We are now teaching other people what you have taught us.

    Thank you so much for your authenticity and I’ll keep on praying for you, Elly and the family. You’re a good man mate.


  • Timmy Holah
    April 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Heya Shane,

    Wow…what an inspiration you are… still blessing us with your deep profound thoughts..while going through the storm..I am encouraged!

    In response to ‘faith healers’.. I have been blessed to see and exeperience all sorts of amazing healings in my short time as a christian in my own life and others. However this has not always come in a physical way to a person’s life…as some people I have prayed for have died.. but I saw healing in their heart…which is what God really cares about… a heart for him.
    Sometimes we can be like Job’s friends in the Bible we can be quick to judge with why a sickness has fallen on someone, but what does God think, and what is he doing?
    Only he has the answers…. And I know in my heart and have seen in my dreams.. that God is doing a great work in you Shane! (As you can see my grammar is shocking…God is working in this area for me…LOL)
    God Bless 🙂

  • Deb
    April 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Along with the physical challenges of having a disability, there are implications for emotions (eg. grief), and mental adjustment to lifestyle changes.

    [Quick refresher on simplistic stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance].

    Sometimes, praying for/hoping for/expecting change takes you out of the ‘acceptance’ stage. It’s hard to come to grips with your loss and ‘make peace’ with your body if you refuse to accept it. It’s hard to make adjustments that will help you cope with a condition long-term if people brainwash you into believing you will be healed ‘any moment now’. It’s hard to celebrate the ‘little wins’ (eg managing a condition, overcoming a challenge) if you refuse to accept anything less than complete healing, ASAP.

    At the same time, if God wants to do the complete healing ASAP, bring it on!! But I have found it much less unsettling to function as best I can with my body’s current state and medical services available, and if there’s an altar call etc for healing, to quietly pray ‘God, if now’s a good time for me to really seek this, please make it very clear to me.’


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