- laying on of hands
- Throughout church history the laying on of hands - the purposeful and symbolic touching of one Christian by another - has been used for a variety of purposes. It can be a formal public acknowledgment that the church is commissioning a member for service (for example, as a priest), or it can be used in devotion and prayer in the belief that the Holy Spirit moves through the hands to heal the body or empower the recipient.The practice makes numerous appearances in the Bible. In Numbers 27:18-23, God commands Moses to lay his hands on Joshua in a public ceremony so that the people will follow him. In Acts 6:6, the church's first deacons are set apart for service by the laying on of hands in a public ceremony.The laying on of hands commonly accompanies prayer for healing. Biblical examples include Jesus, who amid the crowds laid his hands on everyone brought to him and healed them (Luke 4:40), and Ananias, who was sent to lay his hands on Paul, who had been struck blind following his vision of Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:17).over the centuries, the laying on of hands became a standard part of ordination rituals. The numerous biblical references to the practice made it quite acceptable to the new Protestant churches, and it is still used. Typical of the ordination prayer in many churches is one used in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, which proclaims: "Send down your Holy Spirit upon your servant N, whom we, . . . by the laying on of our hands, ordain and appoint to the office of the holy ministry. "In the 20th century, the laying on of hands as a practice accompanying prayers for healing and empowerment has come to the fore within Pente-costalism. The general public became familiar with the practice through its widespread presentation on television, beginning with the healing services of Oral Roberts in the 1950s. Pentecostals also use the laying on of hands in prayers for individuals to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The biblical support is found in many passages in Acts such as 8:17, which mentions Peter and John placing their hands on some samaritans who subsequently received the Holy spirit.The laying on of hands, especially in healing situations, is said to be frequently accompanied by a physical sensation of heat and of energy moving from one person to the other; these sensations are reported more often by the one praying for healing than the one for whom prayer is offered. such experiences are not limited to Protestants or even Christians, but are commonly reported by people in many religious traditions, most notably the modern Western Esoteric tradition. This common experience has led some to search for a more mundane explanation for the sensations and the healing.Various researchers have conducted experiments in an attempt to discover a spiritual healing power common to humankind. Canadian professor of gerontology Bernard Grad had oskar Esta-bany, known for his healing touch, try to affect the growth of plants and the healing rate of laboratory mice, with spectacular results. Dolores Krieger, a nurse and member of the Theosophical Society, has also studied what she termed therapeutic touch, which has subsequently been taught in nursing schools. Some argue that any benefit is psychological, and is provided by the simple loving touch itself. At the same time, some conservative Christians have attempted to distance therapeutic touch from the healing practiced in Christian circles.Further reading:■ David K. Blomgren, Prophetic Gatherings in the Church: The Laying on of Hands and Prophecy (Portland, Ore.: Bible Press, 1979)■ Delores Krieger, Accepting Your Power to Heal: The Personal Practice of Therapeutic Touch (Santa Fe, N.M.: Bear & Co., 1993)■ Edward D. O'Connor, The Laying on of Hands (Pecos, N.M.: Dove Publications, 1969)■ Derek Prince, Laying on of Hands (Seattle: The Study Hour, n.d.)■ M. H. Shepherd Jr., "Hands, Laying on of Hands," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 2 (Nashville, Tenn.: Cokesbury, 1962): 521-22.
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.