Series: An edited adaptation of the book Prayer, Power, and Proclamation by C.L.Peppler published by Chrispy Publications in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3). Chap 3; part 8:
The idea of storing spiritual energy departs a further step from traditional thinking with the strange account of Paul’s ‘anointed’ items of clothing. Acts 19:11-12 records that “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” I have read many attempts to explain this strange phenomenon, but none does full justice to the text. The most rational explanation which I can find, is that somehow these items of personal clothing absorbed the spiritual energy emanating from Paul. They seem to have acted as supernatural ‘batteries’, which were discharged when touched by someone in need. If this is the case, then it is not hard to understand how people can regard certain sacred things, and even places, as spiritually potent.
I used to be gently scornful of the Anglican Church’s contention that the sanctuary areas of their church buildings, and the elements of communion, are somehow ‘anointed’. I am not as sceptical now. If human beings can act as stores of spiritual energy, then why is it not possible for places and things to store spiritual energy? I am not suggesting that the Holy Spirit necessarily anoints inanimate things with power. Although, what about the Ark of the Covenant? It seems that there was enough power in that piece of golden furniture to kill! (1 Chronicles 13:9) I am, however, open to the thought that things can become ‘anointed’ by coming into frequent contact with anointed people.
The idea that spiritual energy can be stored is a big stretch for many people. I have concluded that it can be stored, because it seems to be in accordance with biblical evidence. We have spirits, and so it is reasonable to conceive of a spirit containing spiritual energy. Our bodies contain electrical energy, so it is not such a big stretch to conceive of our spirit retaining spiritual energy. But what of inanimate objects? New Age spiritualists hold that crystals can act as spiritual ‘batteries’. Could they be right? As a Bible-believing Christian, I cannot base my understanding on esoteric theories or on anecdotal evidence. My primary source of truth is Jesus Christ and his written Word, the Bible. Logic, experience, and hypothesis come into play only as means of interpreting and understanding the Christocentric biblical evidence.
The Bible does not record any incident where Jesus imparted power to an inanimate object or where he made use of a spiritually charged object. This alone is a caution against dogmatism with regard to the subject in question. The Old Testament, however, contains at least two examples of spiritually charged objects. The Ark of the Covenant was so charged with energy that anyone touching it died. There is also the strange case of the dead man who came to life again because his corpse made contact with Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21).
Let’s return to the Acts 19:11-12 passage describing Paul’s anointed sweatbands, and look at some alternative ways of understanding this intriguing account.
- The articles of clothing acted as stimulants to faith. The sick people knew of Paul’s ministry, and so were more inclined to believe when prayed for if presented with a token of the ‘man of God’.
- God used the articles to demonstrate his superiority over the gods of the day, whose priests often used inanimate articles to effect healings.
- The articles of clothing absorbed Paul’s anointing, and this spiritual power transferred into the needy person and effected healing.
There is no indication in the text itself, or its context, that we should take options (1) and (2) seriously. The detail given in the text is that Paul had worn the articles of clothing or that they had touched his skin in some way. The implication is that something from Paul passed into the clothing. What could this be other than spiritual energy?
If we accept the possibility that inanimate objects can store spiritual energy, then the possibility must also exist that certain places can carry a spiritual charge. Geographical locations consist of objects such as buildings, rocks, trees, and so on. If spiritually charged people often frequent a particular place, then is it not possible that the place itself will act as a store of the energy emitted by these people? The temple in Jerusalem is an example.
Once again, the occult teachings and practices over the ages tend to prejudice us. However, even some of the most conservative churches have rituals based on the belief that certain things and places are ‘holy’. Anglican priests protect the ‘ark’ and the ‘host’ from contamination once they have consecrated them. They also regard the area behind the communion rail as holy and inaccessible to anyone other than a duly consecrated priest.
On numerous occasions, I have witnessed people stepping into our church building, stopping in their tracks, and then bursting into tears. I have seen people arriving for special prayer meetings, sitting down, and immediately starting to weep quietly. What is happening? Certainly, awareness of the presence of God is affecting them, but perhaps it is also the spiritually charged environment.
Here are some ways in which we could ‘minister’ in this regard:
- We could walk down the rows of chairs before a Sunday service proclaiming God’s blessing on all who will later sit there. We could touch each seat and impart anointing, so that those who sit there may receive it.
- We could seek out special ‘holy’ places for our prayer retreats and times of study and meditation; places where for many years disciples of the Lord Jesus have gathered for prayer and meditation.
- We could lay hands on, and proclaim over, the oil we use for anointing the sick.
Sounds a little ‘out there’ doesn’t it? However, I hold that we should act in a way which is consistent with what we have come to believe.
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