James 5:14-16: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.“
The following is taken from Daniel Jennings’ The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley, ch 3: “John Wesley’s Experience with Miraculous Healing.” I’m going to summarize everything in this chapter, mostly taken from Wesley’s Journal, which I think would serve as examples of instruction to imitate as Christians who believe in praying for healing:
1. Praying for the Mentally Ill. November 28, 1739 – Wesley acted on Matthew 21:22: “Whatsoever ye ask, believing, ye shall receive,” prayed for a woman who was so mentally distracted by demonic oppression, that she could barely pray for herself. She asked if Wesley could thank God for something He did for her. He did as she asked; and she was instantly relieved of mental torments. 2 days ago she was so mentally oppressed by the devil that she had to be tied to a bed; over the course of a few days of prayer, she was gradually delivered from the insanity (pp. 50-51).
2. Hearing God’s Voice Before Visiting the Sick. November 16, 1740 – Wesley preached at a large church called St. James. Afterwards he made house visitations to the sick. He heard God’s voice quote Job 38:11: “Hitherto thou shalt come.” And it gave him faith for healing. Many had been struck with the fatal disease called the spotted fever. All of them were healed when Wesley and his friends prayed for their healing (p. 53). This is similar to what today we might call a word of knowledge for healing; or a prophetic healing.
3. Praying for Pain Relief in His Own Body. March 21, 1741 – Wesley was preaching on Ezekiel 33:11, when suddenly he was struck with such a pain in his side, that he could not speak. He immediately kneeled down and prayed for healing; and instantly the pain left. He got back up and resumed preaching boldly (p. 54).
4. Prayer Team Heals a Bedridden Woman. March 31, 1742 – Ann Calcut had a fever so bad that she was rendered speechless for some time. As soon as Wesley and his friends began to pray for her healing, God restored her speech; within that hour, her fever left; after a few days, she got up from her bed, praising God (p. 52).
5. Prayer Team Heals a Deathly Ill, Bedridden Man. December 15, 1742 – Wesley spent the day open air preaching with his friend Mr. Meyrick. They walked home in the cold weather; and both of them caught a cold. Wesley’s wore off, but Meyrick’s got so bad that he was bedridden, and the doctor thought he would die. Wesley and a small group of people prayed for Meyrick at his bedside; and his strength quickly returned, and the doctor was amazed. Wesley chose to attribute the recovery to the power of God, despite the fact that he admitted others might say the recovery was of natural causes (pp. 49-50).
6. Word of Knowledge Healing of Headache and Horse’s Fatigue. March 17, 1746 – Wesley and his horse became very tired and exhausted while riding; he had an awful headache and his horse wouldn’t move. When suddenly the thought popped into his head, “Cannot God heal either man or beast, by any means, or without any?” Instantly Wesley became alert and strong; and his headache left. His horse also got a second wind and started galloping again–nor did it get tired for the next few days (p. 54). I would call this a word of knowledge for healing.
7. Toothache Leaves, After Hearing Healing Testimony; and Then Praying. November 12, 1746 – Wesley had a horrible toothache; and during this Mr. Spear told of a time that he was instantly and perfectly cured of a rupture, even though several excellent doctors said it was incurable. Wesley received such a faith for healing from hearing this, that he prayed for his toothache to leave, and the pain left him, and did not come back (p. 55).
8. Man Sees Wesley and Instantly Healed of Deadly Fever. April 8, 1750 – After preaching to a Methodist class in the morning, afternoon, and evening–Wesley found Mr. Lunell had a life-threatening fever. But the moment he saw Wesley, he was healed: he broke into a sweat, deeply breathing, and the fever left. No prayer at all (p. 52; cp. Acts 5:15).
9. Man Healed by Receiving Lord’s Supper; Relapsed from Backsliding. October 12, 1754 – A man was instantly healed of a horrible fever and cough (and “incurable” distemper) when he received the Lord’s Supper from Wesley. 3 years later he backslid; and the incurable disease came back worse than before (pp. 51-52).
10. Breast Cancer Healed Through Multiple Prayers. December 26, 1761 – Mary Special had a horrible case of breast cancer. The pain was horrible and her tumors were hard and leaking. She went to a meeting where Mr. Bell prayed for her; he asked, “Have you faith to be healed?” “Yes,” she said; and when they prayed, the pain left. The next day a little pain came back. She laid her hands on her breasts, and cried out, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me whole” (Matthew 8:2). She was instantly healed of pain; within the hour, the soreness, swelling, and lumps were all gone–and no recurrent breast cancer four years later (pp. 56-57).
11. Prayer Team Heals Bedridden Woman. October 16, 1778 – A godly, but bedridden woman wanted Wesley and his friends to pray for her healing. She instantly had enough strength to get up from her bed, get dressed, and join them for fellowship in the living room (p. 50).
12. Praying for Horse to Regather His Strength. September 2, 1781 – Wesley open air preached at Gwennap to the largest crowd he had seen in his life, about 23,000. Riding home later on, his horse got so weak it could not move. He prayed for the horse to get better; and it did instantly, and went on galloping (p. 57).
13. Praying for Horse to Heal from Horseshoe Wound. May 23, 1781 – A blacksmith put a horseshoe on Wesley’s horse and hurt the horse so bad, that many said the horse would not be able to travel again. Wesley prayed for the horse to get better; and instead of getting worse, the horse got better and better, and gallopped strongly (p. 58).
14. Laying on of Hands Heals a Migraine Headache. May 31, 1785 – After open air preaching to a large crowd in the rain, a professional woman approached him and said, that a while ago she had a horrible headache for four weeks. She had faith that if he laid his hand on her cheek, she would be well. And she said, she was instantly healed. Wesley did not personally remember the incident, but he thought it could have happened, as he was always among the crowds (p. 51; cp. Matthew 9:20-22).
15. Crippled Man Instantly Healed While Listening to Sermon on Mark 16:17. Wesley’s Notes: Mark 16:17: “And these signs shall follow them that believe…” At Leonburg, a dean was preaching on this text, when suddenly a man on crutches was instantly healed.
16. Crippled Man Healed by Obeying a Dream from God. Wesley’s An Extraordinary Cure: John Trebble, in St. Madern’s in Cornwall, was handicapped for 16 years so badly that he had to crawl on his hands. But God spoke to him in a dream; and told him to wash in a certain well. In obedience to the dream, his legs were suddenly healed; and Bishop Hall saw him gather his strength, and gradually walk normal again. Hundreds of neighbors also witnessed this miracle.
Observations from R. Jeffrey Hiatt’s “John Wesley & Healing: Developing a Wesleyan Missiology,” which is influenced by John Wimber’s Power Healing and Wesley studies.
Hiatt, R. Jeffery (2004) “John Wesley & Healing: Developing a Wesleyan Missiology,” The Asbury Theological Journal: Vol. 59: No. 1, p. 89-109.
See also Hiatt’s doctoral dissertation: Salvation as Healing: John Wesley’s Missional Theology (2008).
1. Wesley’s view of praying for healing was adopted from The Book of Common Prayer: “Ministration to the Sick,” published in 1549 by Thomas Cranmer; in which the Anglican priests were expected to offer prayers for the sick in their churches; he grew up as the son of an Anglican priest; and his mother Susanna prayed for healing often, not only from the book, but spontaneously (p. 96).
2. Although it is clear that Wesley prayed for healing and often saw miraculous results, he also knew the limits of faith, and the great need for immediate healing among the poor, who could not afford to pay for expensive medicines or see a doctor. Out of Christian love and compassion to help alleviate the sufferings of humanity, Wesley also resorted to folk remedies and generic medicines in his visitations to the sick and poor. He wrote a cheap book that contained no less than 829 home remedies: Primitive Physic (1747), which passed through 26 editions (pp. 97-100); in this sense, Wesley may have been one of the first “medical missionaries” in the spirit of Luke the physician. Hildegard of Bingen, as you may know, worked many phenomenal healings and exorcisms through prayer (The Life of the Holy Hildegard); but she also produced writings on folk remedies, as Wesley did (see Priscilla Throop’s Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica). “However, medicine did not, and does not work by itself apart from the grace of God”: that is, Wesley prayed for healing in Jesus’ name, as he administered folk remedies or medicines: truly he saw himself as a “cure of souls,” in the classic holistic view of pastoral ministry. Wesley said, “Healing could be natural or supernatural, and it could occur through both medication and prayer“ (p. 99). Galatians 5:6: “Faith working through love.”
3. A. B. Simpson, Charles Cullis, and the holiness movement followed in Wesley’s footsteps in the practice of divine healing (p. 105): see Healing edited by Jonathan Graf. See also Nancy Hardesty’s Faith Cure: Divine Healing in the Holiness and Pentecostal Movements (Baker Academic, 2003).