Editor's note:

Pow­er Heal­ing by John Wim­ber and Kevin Springer, first pub­lished in 1987, con­tin­ues to pro­vide valu­able insight for Chris­tians into the Why, What, and How of seek­ing heal­ing from God. Richard Fos­ter penned this intro which even with­out read­ing the book offers a help­ful view of John Wim­ber’s min­istry and heal­ing gifts.

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Power Healing

I thank God for [the book] Pow­er Heal­ing. I do not say this because I believe divine heal­ing is the most impor­tant issue in Chris­t­ian life and expe­ri­ence. I don’t. Nor do I say this because it answers all the knot­ty prob­lems that sur­round the issue of heal­ing. It does­n’t.

No, I thank God for Pow­er Heal­ing because it reminds us that at the heart of God is the desire to give and to for­give. It encour­ages us to believe that God is good and that he longs to pour out his good­ness into our hearts and lives. It warns us against lock­ing God into a safe, dis­tant past. It urges us to invite the winds of the Holy Spir­it to blow freely — sav­ing and heal­ing, lov­ing and forgiving.

Mir­a­cles and heal­ings of all kinds and class­es are sim­ply part of what it means to live in the king­dom of God. They should be received glad­ly as one vital aspect of the nor­mal Chris­t­ian life. While these endow­ments are won­der­ful beyond the telling, noth­ing spe­cial needs to be made of them since sim­ple good­ness and dai­ly obe­di­ence are far more cen­tral to our life with God. Under­stand­ing these mat­ters is of supreme impor­tance, for one of the great­est hin­drances today to the free exer­cise of the min­istry of divine heal­ing is the ten­den­cy to view it as some sort of big deal.” Frankly, the reli­gion of the big deal” stands in oppo­si­tion to the way of Christ. It is this spir­it that can lead to the cru­elest of excess­es. But when we see divine heal­ing as sim­ply part of the nor­mal life of the peo­ple of God, we are freed from ele­vat­ing one min­istry above anoth­er. Seen in this light, heal­ing prayer is mere­ly a way of show­ing love to peo­ple in need. Heal­ing — phys­i­cal and oth­er­wise — is the nat­ur­al out­flow of com­pas­sion, God’s and our’s. 

Pow­er Heal­ing exem­pli­fies this spir­it of com­pas­sion. Rather than exploit­ing the human lust for sen­sa­tion­al­ism it is a sane and thought­ful dis­cus­sion of the place of divine heal­ing in the con­tem­po­rary Church. Its pages abound with exam­ples of God’s liv­ing pow­er and love dwelling in the midst of his peo­ple. Reflect­ing on the con­tent of Pow­er Heal­ing, sev­er­al words imme­di­ate­ly come to my mind. 

The first is bold­ness. John Wim­ber always spoke with the con­fi­dence of one liv­ing out of the divine Cen­ter. Because of this he was able to face mat­ters of intense con­tro­ver­sy bold­ly, firm­ly, con­fi­dent­ly. Prayer for the chron­i­cal­ly ill, res­ur­rec­tions from the dead, the work of inner heal­ing, and much more are all top­ics of frank dis­cus­sion. The ques­tions of demons and the demo­niza­tion” of indi­vid­u­als are faced with such can­dor that many peo­ple will have to gulp hard just to read about them. 

The sec­ond word that comes to mind is hon­esty. John Wim­ber dis­cuss­es with frank­ness the fact that some of those prayed for are not healed. He speaks can­did­ly of his own ill­ness. (And the con­clu­sion of that mov­ing, inspir­ing, and sad per­son­al sto­ry is now a mat­ter of pub­lic record.) In shar­ing some of the back­ground of the Vine­yard move­ment Wim­ber allows us to see the very human stum­blings and fum­blings that we all know so much about. He refus­es to hide the warts, and for this we can be grateful. 

A third way to char­ac­ter­ize this book is with the word bib­li­cal. In say­ing this I am not sug­gest­ing that John Wim­ber was a bib­li­cist who would scour the Bible for vers­es to proof-text every jot and tit­tle of life. No, he rather sought to allow a bib­li­cal world-view to inform all expe­ri­ence and teach­ing. All of life is scru­ti­nized in the light of bib­li­cal rev­e­la­tion. Fur­ther, Pow­er Heal­ing is intent­ly bib­li­cal in that it fol­lows the scrip­tur­al path wher­ev­er it leads. John Wim­ber took divine heal­ing seri­ous­ly because the Bible takes it seri­ous­ly. He took deliv­er­ance seri­ous­ly because the Bible takes it seriously. 

The fourth word is teach­able. I find this aspect of the book par­tic­u­lar­ly appeal­ing. James reminds us that one of the marks of the wis­dom from above is that it is open to rea­son” (James 3:17). The moment we stop being teach­able is the moment we become spir­i­tu­al­ly dan­ger­ous. In con­trast, John Wim­ber’s entire life stands as an icon of teach­a­bil­i­ty, a con­tin­u­al open­ness to learn from oth­ers. The end­notes for Pow­er Heal­ing are a gold mine in this respect. The inclu­sion of a study on the signs and won­ders man­i­fes­ta­tions by a social anthro­pol­o­gist from Oxford is fur­ther evi­dence of this spirit.The whole­some humil­i­ty here is gen­uine­ly refreshing. 

The fifth thing that strikes me about this book is the empha­sis upon team effort. The min­istry of John Wim­ber was nev­er a one- man show! I have dis­cov­ered that the most effec­tive prayer min­istries — that is, those with last­ing ben­e­fi­cial results — are those that are nur­tured by a lov­ing com­mu­ni­ty and which empha­size teams of pray-ers. John Wim­ber and the var­ied min­istries that grew up under his lead­er­ship have devel­oped this con­cept exten­sive­ly by care­ful­ly train­ing prayer teams to min­is­ter to a needy world. In this book Wim­ber right­ly stress­es that the gifts of the Holy Spir­it are not pri­mar­i­ly giv­en to the indi­vid­ual but to the whole body and for the build­ing up of the whole body.” This healthy empha­sis safe­guards against any one per­son dom­i­nat­ing a sit­u­a­tion. It places the focus upon God who does the heal­ing, rather than upon those who do the pray­ing. This is a wel­come empha­sis for one clear sign that any move­ment is of God is that no sin­gle human being can (or should) con­trol it. 

Final­ly, allow me to share a per­son­al note. In May of 1978 I was walk­ing alone along a beau­ti­ful stretch of coast­line in the Pacif­ic North­west, USA, when I had an unusu­al expe­ri­ence of the pres­ence of God — an expe­ri­ence that last­ed for per­haps an hour and a half. I was nev­er the same again. One of the sev­er­al instruc­tions from that encounter was to pray for the ris­ing up of new prophet­ic lead­ers who could gath­er the peo­ple of God into fresh, bold expres­sions of faith­ful­ness and obe­di­ence. Since that day I (no doubt along with mul­ti­plied oth­ers) have been seek­ing God to raise up an incen­di­ary com­pa­ny of Spir­it-led, Spir­it-ordained, Spir­it- trained lead­ers … lead­ers who are, 

Lone like the Tish­bite, like the Bap­tist, bold;
Cast in a rare and apos­tolic mold.

I believe John Wim­ber to be one of that company.

Intro­duc­tion by Richard J. Fos­ter tak­en from Pow­er Heal­ing by John Wim­ber and Kevin Springer. Harper­One 1987.

Originally published September 1987

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