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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 28 Jun 2002

Practices of Catholics QUESTION from Lim Han Seong December 30, 1998 What is the purpose of praying-over or is there an existence of such practices ?
I have heard that praying-over is a process whereby people are being prayed into a state of unconsciousness. They prayed and touching the person sitting down on the head or the shoulder and after their prayers. the latter will then begin to lie down
It sounds weird to me
Can u tell me about its existence and if there is no such practice then will my girl-friend who has this experience be in danger?
if there is such practice, can i know its purpose?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on January 2, 1999 Dear Lim:
The practice you are describing is a common practice among a group of people called charismatics. The being prayed into a state of unconsciousness is not really into unconsciousness, but allegedly into a state of spiritual bliss. It is sometimes called, Being slain in the Spirit.
This experience can be a legitimate one, but often is one that is self-induced. Sometimes people want this so badly that they cause themselves to fall to the floor in a psychological state of self-induced bliss. In other words, oftentimes people work themselves up psychological and faint.
But this can also be a legitimate experience in which the touch of the Holy Spirit is so powerful as it comes over you that you faint.
As long as there are people present to catch the falling people, there is no danger in this.
The purpose of this I guess is to experience the touch of the Holy Spirit in an intimate way. My primary concern is one in which people think they need this experience. They don't. There is nothing wrong with the experience, but there is also nothing wrong with NEVER having the experience. One can live a good and saintly and spirit-filled Christian life without ever experiencing these sorts of experiences.
One of the biggest problems with charismatics is that they tend to be out-of-balance – viewing the world and their experiences through the unreliable glasses of feelings and emotion rather than what the Church teaches – which is that feelings and emotions are great, but must be subjected to reason). Thus operating more on emotion than reason, it is not unusual for charismatics to make errors in judgment about spiritual matters.
There is also a tendency among many charismatics to over-emphasize the dramatic experiences such as the one you describe. Other more dramatic experiences that tend to get special attention are speaking in tongues, healings and miracles. There seems to be a need to see a sign of God's grace in a dramatic way.
While these dramatic things do indeed occur, we need to remember the admonition of Jesus, An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign… Matthew 12:39a
While these dramatic things do indeed occur, we must examine them with reason. If we don't then it is easy to be fooled by counterfeit experiences.
With all that said, this experience you describe is not generally harmful IF the praying is done by solid Catholic, and may be legitimate for the individual who experiences it.
The praying over someone is just a person or group praying to impart the grace or experience of the Holy Spirit to the person they are praying for.
I would be sure that these people are solid Catholics, however. I would not want someone praying over me who was not a solid Catholic.
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