Cold call healing ministry

I was fast asleep on the train on the way home from Prince of Wales hospital Wednesday (the joys of the tilt back chair) when I was woken by a gentleman offering me his business card to “Padstow healing rooms” and weekly healing meetings on Thursday night.

My initial thought was to offer him a phone number for Weight Watchers. He could, after all, benefit from their services and presumably he would be happy for people out of the blue to offer him weight-loss advice…

I resisted the temptation and accepted his card. Elly certainly didn’t understand my frustration and, to be honest, I’m not sure I did either. Certainly, my internal dialogue was obnoxious – what right had I to judge any one’s weight, especially in the light of my own “pregnancy” (see previous blog).

Yet the fact is that I experienced an immediate visceral annoyance, one that surprised me. It is fascinating how our own minds can be a mystery to us, and the question I was left to ask myself is, why did this offer of prayer annoy me? Maybe I don’t have enough faith or perhaps I have some latent disappointment with God, given the thousands of prayers that have yet gone unanswered.

More likely the difficulty was with the nature of the approach. This out of the blue offer of prayer felt a little like a Saturday morning cold call doorknock by a Jehovah’s Witness. It felt like I was being “sold” something – a business card, a prayer, a miracle.

Perhaps more likely again, I just don’t like being “that poor man in a chair who needs pity and prayer.” Of course at one level I am pitiable and I do need prayer – but aren’t we all and don’t we all? What I want is to be treated the same as any other person. If I’m asleep on the train, left to rest. If I have my head in a book, left to read. If I seem to be open to conversation, chat away. No topic is off-limits (well, almost none). Talk about the chair and the body by all means – they are a big part of my life. But strangers on a train shouldn’t launch straight in with an offer of a miracle. They just don’t know enough about me to presume they have the answer to my problem.

Having said this, please understand that I value your prayers and I know many of you pray that I might get out of the chair. Such prayers are an expression of your love and that means a lot to me. The truth is, however, I don’t expect a miracle and I am not looking for one. That might disappoint some of you. It might seem like a capitulation, the elevation of doubt over faith. I think, however, that faith is best expressed by taking life as it comes, by making the most of it.

Of course, according to this measure, getting annoyed at well-meaning healers is unfaithful and uncharitable. Next time I will let him pray for me then and there. Not because I expect his prayer to be more effective than that of my family and friends, but because faith is gracious and I don’t want to be a surly toad.

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


  • Deborah Bond
    June 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Wow, Shane – you expressed that really well. I think the man was rude, and kind of wish you had given him the weight watchers number!! 🙂

    It is as though he assumed the only thing worth knowing about you is that you’re in a wheelchair, and that is also the thing to rectify. He really missed out – there is so much more in Shane than the state of his spinal cord!

    I think when dealing with disability we often try to live the closest version of ‘normal life’ that we can….and it can shatter a precious moment of just feeling normal to have a stranger approach you with a healing plug. It can feel like the ‘real version’ of you isn’t acceptable. They won’t consider your potential need for anything but physical healing (things like sleep, normal conversation, being treated with respect)…all they want to do is hound you/God until they get the ‘healed version’ of you.

    Anyway, why give you a card for a healing room? Why do people assume healing has a territory or a famous name or something? So I checked their website to see what they do at the healing rooms….and discovered as you leave, they hand out a book called “How to Keep Your Healing”?!! This makes me mad!! To me, it sounds like it’s a blame-passing book….the ‘Healer’ can claim they healed you if you feel a bit warm and fuzzy at the time, or just have to say ‘yes I felt something’ in order to get away from them – and then if your symptoms/conditions prevail, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough on “keeping your healing”?!

    hmm, you ended your post deciding not to be a surly toad but I’m just angry. Maybe I need to write an anti-guerilla-healing-officer tract to do something ‘productive’ with my anger….?

  • Craig Benno
    June 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Well said Shane.

    In many aspects, this recent approach hasn’t taken into account the difficulty you have in mobilising, and Padstow isn’t the easiest place to get to. Nor has it really enhanced or tried to build a relationship.

    I was / have been invited to countless miracle prayer sessions / events. But, the reality is that I came to the point where I didn’t trust Christians / the wider body of Christ with myself and my disability. It’s truly ironic that I continued to study at Alphacrucis, as I would run – well hobble away as quick as possible from any Pentecostal’s. Earlier this year I visited a healing room at a church around the Hill’s area with my wife, who really wanted to go. I found the experience pleasant, encouraging and no mention of ‘Just have faith!” came to pass. I even received a word which resonated with me, which I have filed away as being a great encouragement.

    When it comes to having faith, this is what I have learnt. Faith, hope and love are the big ones. Paul never says to anyone, just have faith – he says that Love is the greatest. For love builds up hope. Hope doesn’t disappoint us as it builds up faith. And sometimes it takes all the love around us, just to grant us enough hope to have some faith to live.

    And so the question to really ask is if this guy’s actions were truly love in action?( I’m not talking about his motivations, which were most likely well intentioned) Did they build up hope and did that hope lead to greater faith? Or, perhaps in many ways, did the fruit of this encounter result in a form of condemnation.

    Praying for you big fella. May our gracious Lord cover you with a blanket of peace, well up in you to overflowing with joy and may rivers of life continue to flow through you.

    • Craig Benno
      June 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      P.S.Sorry about the formatting with the italics.

  • Clare Harrison
    June 8, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Shane, I am not surprised that you had such a negative reaction. If you knew my ‘disabled’ husband, you would know a man with a gentle spirit who has spent 30 yrs helping kids to achieve skills in athletics for nothing more than the pleasure of it. As you know, C4/5 spinal cord break means constant affliction, and only those who see behind the scenes can appreciate the everyday impact. My husband does not profess to be a believer, but if anyone really took notice he would be a canonised saint! He says he ‘attracts’ people like the guy on your train. He has been accused of being stubborn because he has politely said ‘no thank you’ to prayer. Once someone barred his way and called him ‘disobedient’ because he would not accept ‘a prayer for healing’. One day someone even approached me and asked me if they could pray for him like he was my ‘minor’. I think there are a lot of insecure Christians around who see people in wheelchairs as someone they can approach and ‘witness’ to, even though they would never have the courage to give their cards and prayers to other people. It’s insulting, but just shows the smallness of their spirits and their insecurities, which after a day of dramas with carers, rucked clothing and chair problems is just the straw that….well you know…..My heart goes out to you because you will cop a lot more of that disrespectful crap. Always be sure there are those of us who know that you have not been diminished by all that has happened to you.

  • Harry Phelps
    July 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Hi shane, I was just checking the internet what came up under padstow healing rooms and found your comments. Its me the guy who gave you the card. I am sorry for making you angry and maing you feel any less than normal. Yes i am 20kg over weight have been battling with it for years, and you are right, why dont i give the cards out to others, i guess you were a easy target. I thought to myself if i am involved in a healing ministry and just walk away without giving you a card then where is my faith. I felt Gods love for you as any other person. I dont have the courage to go up to most people and that was new for me. I guess i cared enough to give you a card, and I wasnt judjing you and yes we dont have a relationship but willing to make a start. I am not full of myself and claim to have all the answers but beleive Jesus can heal and just want to help. We have had many incredible healings but have also had people not healed and die, dont have all the answers but just being obedient. Any way my name is Harry and if you do want to come in one thursday night it is a safe gentle place, we are not syched up freaks. Thanks for your honesty. I also have a disabled son with autism and he has had degrees of healing but not yet 100% so I understand pain a little.
    cheers mate

    • Shane Clifton
      July 7, 2012 at 10:23 am

      dear Harry, if I was honest, I would have to admit your reply you has given me a bit of a shock. There is no doubt that you are a magnanimous and gracious person. So please accept my apologies for the post – it really is much more of a reflection on me than you – on the issues that I am facing and the way in which my character is not where I hope it will be. So, perhaps a coffee might be better than a visit to your healing room – I would like that. Blessings to you, Shane

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    May 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm

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