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Healing Line

Healing Line

How Soaking Prayer Works!

by Francis MacNutt
February 1989

I want to share with you a marvelous account how God heals through "soaking prayer." Soaking prayer involves immersing a sick person for an extended period of time in healing prayer.

Over the years I have come to believe that about two out of three sick people can be cured, provided we really take time to pray with them. In large healing services, time is often extremely limited. The healing evangelist comes to town, speaks to several thousand people, prays, and gets on the next plane. Wonderful healings take place at large healing services, but usually only a small minority of the crowd are healed.

In contrast, I find that when people minister individually and spend time praying with the sick, results dramatically improve. Perhaps this is why Jesus spent so much of his time ministering to the sick one by one. Local churches and prayer groups, then, have a special opportunity to utilize this power of soaking prayer.

To illustrate this fact, I want to tell you about one ordinary pastor and six reluctant members of the congregation who prayed with a young woman terminally ill with cancer. Celeste Formby, her husband Doug, and two young children, moved to Sparta, N.J., in January of 1987. Celeste thought that she had been cured of Hodgkins disease, a cancer that eats at the lymph system. While rejoicing in the news, a routine check–up discovered that the dread disease had returned.

The doctors offered only one hope: an experimental bone marrow transplant. The treatment is very painful and dangerous — ten percent of those who undergo the treatment die from it. Then, if Celeste survived treatment, she had only a fifty percent chance of remission.

At this point the Formby's pastor, the Rev. Rick Constantinos, returned from a seminar about soaking prayer. The church already had prayer teams, but soaking prayer was new to them. After praying about it, Rick offered to arrange a team pray with the Formbys three or four times a week for an hour at a time. They agreed.

Next, Rick prayed for the names of people for the team. Six unlikely people came to him in prayer, and when he proposed this to them, all except one felt disinclined to do it. They did not know what they would be doing. If Rick had asked for volunteers, these people never would have offered. Yet these were the people God wanted. This offers an important teaching: if you obey what the Lord sends you in prayer, it will be very creative and perhaps unexpected, but it will turn out better than planning your own agenda.

Doug Formby prayed with his wife Celeste every night. Then whenever two or three of these people could get together, they began to pray with the Formbys. The first time they prayed together little seemed to happen. The team was encouraged that an hour seemed to pass like 15 minutes. Celeste enjoyed the prayer time and looked forward to more. Yet Doug felt frightened and could not escape his fear that Celeste was going to die.
At the second prayer session Celeste felt power flowing into her body as if she were being filled with light and energy. She had never experienced a physical sensation during prayer before, so it encouraged the group, and helped to calm some of their doubts. Celeste also sensed a shrinking in her abdomen.

After this, the team experienced a change in their attitude of worrying about Celeste's physical condition. Increasingly they felt concern for her spiritual condition, until eventually the physical was their least concern!

The group came to each session with no planned agenda. They tried to listen to the Spirit, and go with what began to happen between Jesus and Celeste. Each session, therefore, was different in emphasis, a gradual unfolding of healing. Doug, who prayed with Celeste each night, also began to see a change in his wife's spiritual attitude.

Team members experienced their own changes or healings. Previously, Rick had prayed for a woman with cancer and she died. As a result, he felt discouraged and troubled with self–doubt. As he prayed with the team he found himself making prophetic statements in spite of his doubts. For example, he proclaimed that Jesus wanted Celeste whole in every way (although he was not sure if she would be physically cured).

In the fourth session, one of the team began to weep, and repentance became the focus of the session. One team member found herself saying, "This is not unto death, but is all for the glory of God." When she said this she felt like a fool, and was asking God, "Do I really have to say this?"

Meanwhile the medical treatments were delayed in mysterious ways. Celeste's heart started skipping beats and she had to be treated for that. The cancer treatment center, one of the nation's most prominent, seemed to be blocked from giving Celeste treatment. They failed to receive x–rays from Florida. They lost Celeste's records and other delays ensued. Yet ultimately God's purpose was revealed. Without the treatments, it would be clear if God was healing Celeste through prayer.

As the weeks went by, Celeste found that she could hardly wait for prayer. The team found that the Spirit was using them in ways they never expected. One member received a prophecy that Celeste was going to undergo the marrow transplant, but she was not sure about the chemotherapy. One turning point in the process came when Celeste realized that who she was in Jesus was far more important than her physical health. Something more happened with each prayer.

Finally the hospital got Celeste's records and removed her bone marrow. After this Celeste suffered terrible pain. She felt like she had been beaten, and in fact was covered with bruises.

The next day, however, Celeste was back at her prayer session at church. Shortly afterward, her heart was healed of palpitations. At another session, everyone started laughing with joy in spite of the fact that Celeste faced a painful, dangerous medial treatment. At a later session, Rick (the Formby' s pastor) saw a vision of a cross of white suffusing Celeste's body. It was located in the place where he later discovered that Celeste's affected lymph system was located. Later while Celeste was resting at home she experienced heat throughout that area of her body.
Celeste's new doctor ordered a lymphangiogram to determine where to make incisions. After the x–ray, the technician reported that there was a white light on the x–ray. They repeated the process, and again the light appeared.

Back home, waiting for the hospital to call with the schedule for chemotherapy, the Formby family decorated their Christmas tree. They felt encouraged because their pastor had received a message in prayer, "It's over. It's done," as if they had graduated in spite of the discouraging medical prognosis. They were listening to "Joy to the World" when the phone rang. It was the doctor. "I don't know how to tell you this, but..."
Celeste interrupted him. "I know what you're going to tell me: there is nothing there." He was astonished and asked how she knew, so Celeste told the doctor about her pastor and team and soaking prayer.

''I'm not into that," said the doctor, "but your x–rays are in front of me. The tumors are gone."

In subsequent months the doctor continued to monitor Celeste's condition. That was December, 1987. Now, a year later, Celeste not only feels well, but she and Doug are expecting a baby!

Their pastor's conclusion: "From the outside it may seem strange, but I would encourage anyone to enter into soaking prayer. Something is going to happen. And regardless, Jesus is going to be praised!"


Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. February 1989 Issue