Touch is almost instinctive when wanting to heal or comfort. It seems healing touch is built into our DNA. So it is no surprise that it was used to impart healing long before Jesus came to earth. It is also no surprise that non-Christians use the laying on of hands in attempts to heal.
Rising to the fore in popularity is Reiki which was developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui. The theory is that “Universal Life Form energy” is transferred from the person laying hands to the sick person. More info.
In a much publicised article, a number of mice were injected with a substance that caused breast cancer. Then people who had received some training, but were not even believers in laying on of hands for healing treated the mice by holding them each day. Nearly all of the mice who were held were completely cured of their cancer, while most of those who were not, died. There are currently many more experiments being conducted but not published in reputable scientific publications.
I describe in God in the ICU how a young boy was desperately ill until the family and I, and later, the nurses started laying hands on him and praying. Only then did he improve, although we had been praying earnestly before that. Jesus instructs His disciples “You will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.”
What are we to make of this? Here is my take, and I’d be interested in yours:
Perhaps there is a dynamic whereby we can induce change in a person’s immune system or autonomic nervous system by laying on of hands. Perhaps it is a tool that God has given us. Nevertheless, if we use it to our own ends it has no lasting benefit. If the healer ascribes this power to himself, or to other gods, he is allowing himself to be deceived and ultimately it will be to his destruction in spite of the accolades he might receive. Likewise, if people allow themselves to be treated by such a person, they give permission for the transfer of energy from someone who is under the influence of the enemy of Jesus. (It is significant that many Reiki healers rely on spirit guides to show them where to lay their hands).
An alternative explanation is that true healing comes from those who lay hands in the name of Jesus and that other healing is counterfeit. Counterfeit in that the condition may be cured only for another condition to appear. Or the physical condition may be cured, but the spiritual state of the person damaged. I have personally seen this in a Christian friend who had a goitre disappear under the hands of one of these healers. For the next two years she suffered severe, debilitating depression.
And let’s remember that all physical healing is temporary. Unless Jesus comes before, we will all die. It is spiritual and emotional healing that is a priority.
Let’s not shrink back from laying hands for healing just because there are those who practice it in the name of other gods. But let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.