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Agnes Sanford: Apostle of Healing and First Theologian of the Charismatic Renewal, Part 2, by William L. De Arteaga

Among other advances in healing prayer that The Healing Light presented was Mrs. Sanford’s discovery on intercessory prayer for someone distant. The ex-Baptist minister who had previously advised her gave her the key to effective distance healing.

When you think of someone, you always see the person in your mind. If you really believe he’s going to be well, you see him well. If he pops into your mind like your eyes saw him last, or like your friends tells you he is, all moans and groans and fever, that shows that your subconscious mind does not really believe he’s going to be well… When you pray for someone, dearie, you must learn to see him well.32

This whole issue of the use of visualization also caused much controversy, especially in latter years when cessationist influenced Evangelicals such as Dave Hunt believed that all visualization was occultic. This of course has no basis in scripture, and visualization prayer, as a form of devotional aid to Bible reading, has a long history in Christianity.33

In spite of the New Thought vocabulary of visualization and vibration, The Healing Light is biblically orthodox where it counts, in its Christology. In practical terms this meant that the “name of Jesus adds power to all prayer.”34 Mrs. Sanford believed that it is only through Jesus’ name that the great works of healing described in the Bible can be achieved.35 Mrs. Sanford’s participation in her husband’s Episcopal liturgy had given her an appreciation of the effectiveness of the sacraments in healing. She also discerned that the ordained clergy had a special anointing to heal.36 Another indication of the biblical orthodoxy of The Healing Light is Mrs. Sanford’s understanding that God is both immanent and transcendent. “God’s light shines both within us and without us, and by learning to receive Him within we begin to perceive Him Without.”37

This balanced, classical view of immanence and transcendence had practical consequences. She discovered that a prayer life of meditation (silence) and active mental prayer of praise, thanksgiving and petition was the way of optimizing one’s ability to be a channel for God’s graces and light to others. This is different from most New Thought writers who stressed meditation, but neglected worship of the transcendent, personal God.

Another major contribution to the modern Christian theology of healing found in The Healing Light is healing prayer as evangelization. “Some may wonder whether it is right to pray in the name of Christ and by the power of Christ for one who might not be willing to accept Christ. But after all, was it not that way when He was on earth? Did the nine lepers accept Him as Savior?”38 In fact, in her personal ministry at Tilton Army Hospital Mrs. Sanford followed the pattern of first praying for physical healing, then evangelizing. It was an effective combination and a pre-cursor to the theology of “power evangelism” made famous decades later by John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2006

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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