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A listing of biblical references to healing that may be useful as bibliotherapy to the empowerment of rehabilitation clients.

Spirituality has become an important influence in the lives of many Americans. There has been an awakening of late that has filtered through the media and popular literature that encourages us to take advantage of forces that are beyond our own immediate control. There has been a flow of documentary case studies in the media that reflect the power of faith in an ultimate supreme being who provides help in the healing of our physical and psychological distress. News presentations in television and in periodicals are telling stories of people who have experienced healing in ways that don't follow an exclusively medical approach. Many cases of healing occur in conjunction with medical services where the patient has seen the importance of their whole being in the process of healing.

Belief in an ultimate rescuer is a mechanism for defense against the anxiety created by the awareness of death according to existential thinking (Yalom, 1981). Another defense is the belief in personal inviolability or immortality. Although these beliefs may be considered irrational they may be effective in reducing anxiety regarding illness and the ultimate concern of death. Persons with disabilities who hold to faith in God may find benefit from these beliefs in their adjustment to their disability and in the managing of ill effects associated with disability. These beliefs may be helpful if they are not displayed in a passivity or dependence that removes the individual entirely from the process of rehabilitation. If the belief in an ultimate rescuer can be sustained there may be more opportunity for sustained adaptation to the circumstances of disability. The holistic principle of Gestalt theory (Perls, 1969) suggests that the organism strives for balance. The body, mind, and soul are all considered to be parts of the whole organism. They act in an interdependent way to create balance for the person. Our emotions have thinking, feeling, and acting aspects, all of which contribute together to the wholeness of the person. Acting includes the physiological component of the organism and depends on the thinking and feeling aspects. Perls (1969) rejected the idea of the duality of body and mind, body and soul, thinking and feeling, thinking and action, and feeling and action.

In addition to existential and holistic thinking, the concept of empowerment provides some basis for providing the client, family, and service provider further resources to enhancing the rehabilitation of persons with chronic illness associated with disability. Emener (1991) describes empowerment as a mind set. Unless the individual in need of rehabilitation believes in their own empowerment beyond that of the empowerment of the agency, facility, professional worker, and family, little effect will take place. Empowerment must come internally as well as externally according to Emener (1991). A source of power may come through prayer. In an article written by Woodward, Springen, Gordon, Glick, Talbot, Fisher, Miller and Lewis (1992) in Newsweek the consciousness of the potential power of prayer is described within the contexts of individuals, family and religious organization. Prayer and religious activity are becoming more a part of the behavior of a cross section of individuals. Survey data suggests a large portion of us pray (91% of women and 85% of men), many with a deep sense of peace (32%) and a sense of the strong presence of God (26%). Answers to prayers may be perceived less often with 15% receiving a definite answer to a specific prayer, 27% never having received an answer, and 25% only once or twice. Increased faith in God and the action of prayer may provide additional resources for persons with disability who experience associated chronic illness.

The power of prayer has received attention by researchers who are interested in its interaction with human needs ranging from acquiring a sense of well being to the relief of physical symptoms (Poloma & Pendleton, 1991; Bearon and Koenig, 1990; Mitchell, 1989). Poloma and Pendleton (1991) concluded that prayer is multidimensional in that it can be seen as a resolution to a wide range of problems, and may be expressed in a variety of ways. Prayer expressed meditatively in the privacy of one's own thoughts and expressions to God as well as prayer spoken and shared in a worshiping environment can contribute to a profile of well being. Bearon and Koenig (1990) discovered that prayer and meditation are not perceived as mutually exclusive by the suppliant and that they may be used for symptoms considered to be serious. Mitchell (1989) reported that an internal locus of control may lend itself to needing assistance in goal setting and managing outcome of prayer as would be in the case of other areas of our lives. Although there may not be a concrete answer for each submission of prayer there is the possibility for recognizing that answers are forthcoming in ways that may not necessarily meet our needs as we perceive them.

Byrd's (1990) research on the frequency of disability depiction in the Bible suggests that illness and chronic disability are issues of great importance in the Christian religion. Although the labels used to describe illness and disability and many of the disabilities have changed since the Bible was written, it may be helpful to recognize the contexts in which some of these conditions are mentioned and how healing took place.

According to the World Almanac (1992), as of 1990 religious bodies in the United States break down as follows (membership in thousands): Protestants, 79,387; Roman Catholics, 57,020; Jews, 5,944; Eastern Churches, 4,057; Old Catholic, Polish National Catholic, Armenian Churches, 980; Buddhists, 19; and miscellaneous (officially non-Christian bodies, e.g. spiritualists, Ethical Culture Movement, and Unitarians), 197. The World Almanac (1992) also notes that 33.3% of the world's population adheres to the Christian religion with the following breakdown: Roman Catholics, 18.8%; Protestants, 6.9%; Orthodox, 3.2%; Anglicans, 1.4%; and other Christians, 3%. The four most frequent remaining religious adherants are Muslims, 17.7%; non-religious, 16.4%; Hindus, 13.3%; and Buddhists, 5.7%. The world population reflects more diverse religious choice than the United States and other single nations. In the United States the largest portion of the religious population finds its membership in Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. These churches do focus their teaching on the Bible and Christian influence but with doctrinal differences that their membership are encouraged to adhere.

It should be noted that although there is a large concentration of Christian teaching in the United States, other religious groups are present that discount the importance of Christ and Biblical teaching. These religions, however, do worship a supreme being and rely on their prayer and meditations to remove the influence of illness that may come in the form of influence from a more evil source. Illness is rarely seen as coming from the supreme being. In any event, they pray and worship to their chosen rescuer in order to enhance their well being and the well being of others. The focus of the present research is to look at a body of teaching, in the form of the Holy Bible, to which a large portion of persons adhere in the United States. Although these teachings do not represent the beliefs of all Americans, there is some representation to other religions that depend on faith in an ultimate rescuer who can control the effects or even presence of serious illness or disability.

The present study examined the instances where illness and disability received healing therapy through intercession by principle figures in the Bible in their supplication to God. References were accumulated where healing took place noting who received the healing therapy, what the condition was, who interceded to God in the healing, who made the referral for the healing, what treatments were applied, and other benefits and signs of healing that occurred.


Procedure for Gathering Data

References to healing in the Bible were selected for this study. Two individuals who are members of a prayer and Bible study group were asked to record all instances of healing in the Bible as they read their Bible. Another individual, the first author of this manuscript, also recorded all instances of healing as he read the Bible. These three listings were compiled into a larger list so that all instances of healing were recorded in a single list. The researchers also recorded references in the Bible that utilized the word heal or some form of the word heal, as well as the words sickness and illness, or some form of these words using Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1984). This list of references was cross referenced against those of the three readers to enhance the comprehensiveness of the compiled list.

Procedure for Tabulating Data

Each reference to a healing was read by the researcher using The Guideposts Parallel Bible (1981). This source contains four versions of the Bible printed in parallel columns so that the reader can refer to all four versions by glancing across two adjacent pages of printed material. The four versions contained in this reference are King James, New International, Living Bible, and Revised Standard. Use of all four versions enhanced the researcher's review and tabulation of data on each of the noted healings.

The following data was recorded for each reference to healing: Biblical reference, recipient of healing, illness or disability, intercessor to God in healing, individual making referral for healing, treatments applied, other benefits to the healing, and signs of healing. The variables were tabulated using the compiled list of healings in the Bible. References to healings of large groups of people, usually referred to as the multitudes, were not included since they did not yield data on the variables listed above. Also references to raising the dead were not included.


A total of fifty-eight references to healing were noted by the three readers cross referenced with Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1984) using the descriptors mentioned in the method section. The conditions (e.g., illness or disability) are listed in Table 1 along with the person receiving the healing, who referred them, and the Biblical references. Many of the conditions are cited more than once. Some of these instances of healing are reported two or three times because they appear in more than one of the gospels in the New Testament. A review of Table 1 illustrates the frequency in which self referrals were made ( n = 15) and how friends, relatives, and other persons present participated in referral for healing. In some cases Jesus' disciples requested the healing and in other cases Jesus himself saw the need and interceded directly without another person making a request. Most of the references are in the New Testament (n = 52) probably because of Jesus' influence and emphasis on spiritual as well as physical renewal in that portion of the Bible. Table 2 lists the sources of intercession to healing and the frequency of intercessions for each. Jesus prayed most often for healing in those healings reported in the Bible. This too can be explained by the emphasis of the New Testament to record both spiritual and physical renewal, with Jesus as the central figure. There are instances where no one, other than God, (n = 6) was involved in the healing. Paul too was an important figure (n = 5) in the New Testament, sent as an apostle for Jesus after his death to lead the new Christian religion and to develop its first church congregations.

Sources of Intercession to Healing
God (No Intercession) 1
Jesus 6
Paul 44
Peter 5
Peter and John 1

Table 3 identifies categories of treatments used during intercessions to healings. These treatments appeared to be coincidental with the intercession and were intended to be ways of communication with the person receiving the healing. The gestures of touching, or application of some substance (e.g., dipping into a pool of water), or verbal instruction appeared to be concrete aspects of the healing treatment that occurred with the intercession to God. Prayers were not necessarily verbalized by the intercessor. However, in each case the reader assumes that the prayer is in fact the healing treatment. Interactions between the person praying for healing and the person receiving healing varied greatly. In many situations the interaction appears to have occurred in a short space of time. In some instances the healing was witnessed by large crowds of people who in turn told many others about the healing. This type of ministry added to Jesus' visibility although many of the references suggested that he wasn't consciously seeking attention to himself.
Categories of Treatments Used
During Intercession
Application of Substance 2
Prayer Alone 16
Touching 18
Verbal Instruction 22

Of the 58 references of healing 47 were noted to create other benefits other than the healing itself. Forty-six of the references included mention of signs that the healing actually took place. Luke 13:10-17 records the healing of a woman who had been bent over for eighteen years. In this situation Jesus noticed her condition, told her that she was freed from her infirmity, and placed his hands on her. This provided Jesus an opportunity to teach those present about healing on the Sabbath (an additional benefit to the healing incident). Signs of her healing were that she was made straight, that she praised God, and that those present rejoiced at witnessing the miracle. John 5:1-18 records the story of the man sick 38 years who laid on a pallet near the pool at Sheep Gate waiting for someone to place him in the pool when the waters were disturbed (a sign of God's healing presence in the pool). Jesus told him to rise and take up his pallet and walk. The sign of healing in this instance was his ability to do as Jesus instructed. The additional benefit was that he did not have to have someone place him in the pool at just the right moment. In Matthew 8:2-4 a man with leprosy asked Jesus for healing. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. His leprosy immediately cleared, an obvious sign to him and anyone in view of the healing. He was given instruction by Jesus not to say anything, but to show himself to the priests and give appropriate gifts to them as commanded by Moses (religious instruction that he had been taught since early childhood). The additional benefit in this case was the witness he gave to the priests, who would have been greatly skeptical, that Jesus had interceded in his healing.


Much of our thinking regarding how healing takes place centers on the idea that each person has some power to overcome illness and the disabling effect of a chronic condition. Yalom's question of personal specialness and an ultimate rescuer (1981), although denying the true existence of each, suggests that these mind sets do contribute to the lowering of anxiety associated with concern over death, or at the least loneliness. The holistic principles

discussed by Perls (1969) place great importance on the balance of our body and mind, body and soul, thinking and feeling, thinking and action, and feeling and action. These ideas contribute to the great potential for healing offered by belief in one's self and the empowerment that comes from those beliefs, as well as the empowerment that may come from belief in the power of a supreme being who can alter disabling conditions.

Biblical presentations of healing can be useful as a therapeutic tool for the medical and rehabilitation specialist. This is not to suggest that these references should be presented as examples of a certain cure for disability, but that they do represent examples of ways Christian teaching in the Bible can enrich the belief of an individual that these circumstances are not hopeless. The list of healings in the Bible represent examples of persons in circumstances where a strong belief or faith existed that healing could take place. The healings took place in the presence of a person or persons who were believed to be in direct contact with God.

The data presented here is simply an accounting of occurrences of healing in the Bible. If readers of these references do not accept the validity of these accounts then it is likely that these presentations would have little impact. If, however, these accounts are read and their validity is given opportunity to affect the cognition of the client, there may be some opportunity for increased empowerment to occur. The authors' objective to present this data is to suggest its potential for healing effect on rehabilitation clients. The data, by itself, does not support the idea that faith alone will provide a cure. If the client chooses to believe in the power offered by many examples of healing in the Christian expression of faith, this cognition could possibly have a positive effect on the healing process. With a large portion of our clientele living within the influence of Christian thought and teaching, it seems appropriate to make use of the positive effects that can come from that exposure.

If there is to be an effect from readings of these instances of healing the reader may have to apply inference regarding the faith or belief expressed by the persons in the Biblical references. These inferences then would have to be applied to their own circumstances. This might generate prayer and belief similar to those of the individuals in the Biblical references. What is implied in these references is that there is an ultimate rescuer. For persons experiencing conditions of disability or chronic illness this belief could offer a viable addition to conventional physical and psychological therapies.

Spiritual growth and physical healing may be correlates that have undefined causality. It is difficult to say just how one's faith in an ultimate rescuer will have positive effect on physical healing. And it is difficult to make direct observation of these phenomenon. How do we know the effect of a spiritual variable as an intervening variable when it is so personal and undefinable? Many variables come into play when restoration of physical disability takes place including medical application, family interaction, environmental or economic constraints, and individual personality. Within each person there is a potential for greater health if all these variables can work together. If the spiritual well being of the rehabilitation client is taken into account it may be possible for further gains to be made in the medical and psychosocial treatment that is administered. Wholeness becomes an important priority as we treat our rehabilitation clients. It makes little sense to discourage or obviate the spiritual variable if we want wholeness to have its best chance. Those rehabilitation professionals who believe in the importance of a spiritual variable are likely to at least implicitly encourage its development in their clients. There probably is plenty of room for inclusion of spiritual development in the overall treatment we apply to our rehabilitation clients.


Bearon, L. B., & Koenig, H. G. (1990). Religious cognitions and use of prayer in health and illness. Gerontologist, 30, 249-253. Byrd, E. K. (1990). A study of Biblical depiction of disability. Journal of applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 21(4), 52-53. Emener, W. G. (1991). Empowerment in rehabilitation: An empowerment philosophy for rehabilitation in the 20th century. Journal of Rehabilitation, 57(4), 7-12. Mitchell, C. E. (1989). Internal locus of control for expectation, perception and management of answered prayer. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 17(1), 21-26. Perls, F. S. (1969). Ego, hunger and aggression: The beginning of Gestalt therapy. New York: Random House. Poloma, M. M., & Pendleton, B. F. (1991). The effects of prayer and prayer experiences on measures of general well-being. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 19(1), 71-83. Strong, J. (1984). Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. The Guideposts parallel Bible. (1981). Carmel, NY: Guideposts. The World Almanac (1992). New York: Pharos Books. Woodward, K. L., Springen, K., Gordon, J., Glick, D., Talbot, M., Fisher, B. K., Miller, C., & Lewis, S. D. (1992, January). Talking to God. Newsweek, pp. 39-44. Yalom, 1. (1981). Existential psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books. Received: June 1992 Revision: August 1992 Acceptance: October 1992
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Author:Byrd, P. Diane
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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