The idea of placing people into small groups started out as a crazy whim of mine during a workshop I ran in 2008, just to see what would happen if group members tried to heal one of their group through their collective thoughts. All I knew at the time was what I didn’t want, which was to pretend that I could help people manifest miracles.
My husband, Bryan Hubbard and I eventually decided the workshop would try to help to heal something in our attendees’ lives. “Let’s try putting them into little groups of eight or so and have them send a collective healing intention for someone else in the group with a health condition,” I said.
On Saturday May 17, we divided our audience of a hundred into small groups of about eight and asked someone in each group with some sort of condition to nominate themselves to be the object of their group’s intention. The group would form a circle, hold hands, and send the same healing thoughts in unison to that group member, holding the intention for ten minutes, the length of time that we’d used in our large experiments.
The lame are walking
On Sunday morning, I asked those who’d received the intention to come forward and report on how they felt. One of the target women, who had suffered from insomnia with night sweats, had enjoyed her first good night’s sleep in years. Another woman with severe leg pain reported that her pain had increased during the session the day before but that it had diminished so much after her group intention that she had the least pain she could remember having in nine years. A chronic migraine sufferer said that when she woke up her headache was gone. Another attendee’s terrible stomachache and irritable bowel syndrome had vanished. A woman who suffered from depression felt it had lifted.
The stories continued in this vein for an hour. I did not dare to look over at Bryan, I was so completely shocked. After we returned home, I did not know what to make of the entire experience. I dismissed the possibility of an instant, miraculous healing.
But throughout the coming years, no matter where we were in the world, in every workshop we ran, whenever we set up our clusters of eight or so people in each group, gave them a little instruction and asked them to send intention to a group member, we were stunned witnesses to the same experience: story after story of extraordinary improvement and physical and psychic transformation.
Marekje’s multiple sclerosis had made it difficult for her to walk without aids. The morning after her intention, she arrived at the workshop without her crutches.
Marcia suffered from a cataract-like opacity blocking the vision of one eye. The following day, after her group’s healing intention, she claimed that her sight in that eye had been almost fully restored.
There was Laura’s mother in Denver, who had scoliosis. After her turn as the intention target, she reported that her pain had vanished. Several months later, Laura wrote me to say that her mother’s spine had altered so much that she had had to move the rearview mirror in her mother’s car to accommodate her new, straightened posture.
And Paul in Miami, whose tendonitis in his left hand was so bad that he had to have a brace on it at all times, until he was the target of the Power of Eight® group and stood in front of the audience the next day, showing how he could now move it perfectly.
There were hundreds, even thousands more, and each time I was standing there, watching these changes unfold right in front of me.
What was it about a group of people thinking a single thought at the same time that was producing such dramatic effects? Over the years, I became obsessed with trying to find a precedent for these collective healing effects.
When studying uses of group prayer in Christianity, I stumbled across an old sermon by the nineteenth-century British Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon discussing the meaning of certain passages in Acts, the narrative of how the apostles built the early Christian church. Spurgeon focused on Acts 1:12–14, which relates the story of how the twelve apostles of Christ essentially carried out their first prayer meeting.
Many biblical scholars conclude that the New Testament was written in Hellenic Greek, and, according to Spurgeon, Saint Luke, a Hellenic physician and reputed author of Acts chose to use the Greek word “homothumadon” numerous times in Acts to describe their method of group prayer.
The Authorized King James version of the Bible translates homothumadon with the anemic phrase “with one accord,” but Spurgeon maintains that homothumadon, an adverb, is in fact a musical term, which means “striking the same notes together.”
Elsewhere it has been translated to mean “with one mind and with one passion,” and Spurgeon takes it to mean that the apostles prayed “unanimously, harmoniously, and continuously.”
The word, a musical term conjuring up a Beethoven symphony, emphasizes that apostles were to pray as a passionate unity, with a single voice. “Here is an overlooked secret of the early church,” Spurgeon notes. “Over and over again Luke stresses that what they did, they did together. All of them. United and unanimous.”
Prayer with one voice
According to Spurgeon, Jesus considered prayer a communal act. He wanted his apostles to pray together, with the same thoughts and words—like an intention stated together. Many of the church’s scholars are convinced that Jesus specifically used this kind of small-group prayer as a blueprint to assist the apostles in teaching members of the early church in the preferred new way to pray.
British clergyman, dean of Canterbury, and archdeacon of Westminster Frederic William Farrar suggests that Jesus deliberately taught them to pray in this manner to have them move away from “mere individual supplication.”
“In their early goal to build the church, they devoted themselves to prayer together,” writes Presbyterian minister and former US Senate chaplain Lloyd John Ogilvie. “More than physical proximity, this meant a spiritual unity.”
Many of the references in the Bible about the apostles being “of one accord” mention an act of group healing. In Luke (9:1), Jesus gave his apostles “power and authority . . . to cure diseases” and sent them on their first missionary journey together from village to village in Galilee “to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.”
When people are involved in a passionate activity like a healing prayer circle, they transmute from a solitary voice into a thunderous symphony.
Don’t play small when it comes to healing yourself or even the world. May you find your own true power in numbers this holiday season.