A “healing room” is, quite simply, a room devoted to healing. Most often, the healing sought is from God, through the Holy Spirit. However, there also exist healing rooms dedicated to holistic wellness and psychic healing, where “self-healing” is sought through crystals, divination, acupuncture, and angelic intervention. Since the latter type of healing is decidedly not biblical, this article will deal only with the healing rooms promoted within the Charismatic movement.
Back in the early days of Pentecostalism, leaders like John G. Lake and Charles Parham set up “healing rooms” for the specific purpose of praying for the sick and administering divine healing. Recently, there has been a resurgence of healing rooms. There is even an International Association of Healing Rooms (IAHR) today.
Most healing rooms are open at certain times every week. Typically, a person can walk into a church with a healing room, fill out a short form, go to the healing room, and wait for prayer. Sometimes, a praise and worship service is held before the healing room is opened. Once a person enters the healing room, another person, or several people, will pray over him. There is usually music playing to set the mood and literature on healing to peruse or buy. Some rooms also have “prayer cloths” available—cloths that have been prayed over and anointed with oil as an aid to healing—a practice based on Acts 19:11–12. In line with Charismatic teaching, there is a heavy emphasis on having enough faith to be healed, with speaking in tongues being the sign of the baptism of the Spirit.
Praying for one another is encouraged throughout Scripture (1 Samuel 12:23; 1 Timothy 2:1; James 5:15–16), and it is not wrong to pray for physical healing. Those who provide healing rooms claim to have a high regard for the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and the compassion of God. However, there are some beliefs associated with healing rooms that should cause some concern.
First is an incorrect interpretation of Isaiah 53:5, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” This verse clearly states that the Messiah would be “pierced” for our transgression—our breaking of God’s law. Jesus was “crushed” upon the cross by the weight of God’s wrath against our sin. Jesus was “punished” to bring us peace—reconciliation with God. It is the last part of the verse that mentions “healing” that is taken completely out of context in healing rooms. The entire verse lists the spiritual blessings that Jesus’ death provides, and the “healing” mentioned at the end of the verse is no exception—it is a spiritual remedy for the curse of sin, not for physical ailments. Isaiah 53:5 is quoted in 1 Peter 2:24, and, there, the apostle makes clear that Jesus’ “healing” is a spiritual one unto “righteousness.”
Most organizations that promote healing rooms believe that physical healing right now is guaranteed by the cross of Christ. Their interpretation is acontextual at best and tends to lose sight of the ultimate healing that will come at Christ’s return and the resurrection. As scholar Douglas Moo writes, “The atoning death of Christ provides for the healing of all our diseases—but nothing in . . . the NT implies that this healing will take place in this life. Indeed, . . . the NT gives reason to think that triumph over physical disease, like triumph over physical death, will not come for most believers until the future redemption of the body” (“Divine Healing in the Health and Wealth Gospel,” Trinity Journal 9, no. 2, 1988, p. 204).
Matthew 8:17 is often quoted in conjunction with Isaiah 53 as being part of the benefits of the cross. That verse, which follows a description of Jesus’ healing ministry, says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.’” However, Matthew 8:17 specifies that the prophecy was fulfilled during Jesus’ lifetime—not at the cross. Jesus’ “bearing our diseases” has to do with His life, not His death.
Another red flag is the making and distribution of prayer cloths. Such a practice is never commanded in the Bible, nor do we have an example of anyone doing that as a means of healing. All Acts 19:11–12 tells us is that God was working mightily in Paul, performing “extraordinary miracles.” One of those “extraordinary miracles” was that those who touched Paul’s garments were healed. The people were not making garments of their own; they were touching pieces of clothing that Paul wore, and God chose to heal them, much as Jesus healed those who touched the hem of His robe (Matthew 14:36). We have no warrant to make such relics of our own today. There is a reason Luke says the miracles were “extraordinary”; they were never meant to become “ordinary.”
A third cause for concern is some of the rhetoric used in healing rooms. Many healing ministers describe themselves as wanting to “prepare the earth through song for His coming,” to have a “hilarious celebration,” and to “restore the city through healing.” One problem with such statements is that Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that it’s the preaching of the gospel that precedes the return of Christ—not the singing of songs. Likewise, the true healing of a city occurs when people in that city repent of sin and turn to God (2 Chronicles 7:14; Jonah 3:6–10).
The gospel should not be reduced to a message of physical healing. The blood of Christ saves us from sin, not physical infirmities. Jesus did not die in order to empower spectacular miracles in the church today. The “greater things” that Jesus promised we would do in John 14:12 are better interpreted as spiritual conquests and the worldwide advancement of the gospel through us. After all, the spiritual transformation of a born-again heart is a greater miracle than any physical healing—the spiritual miracle lasts forever, but the physical miracle is only temporary.
Having a room dedicated to prayer where people seek the Lord’s answers to their petitions can be beneficial spiritually, physically, and emotionally (James 5:16). However, we should be concerned with some of the beliefs and practices of healing rooms, especially if the gospel is diluted.