The following are just a few thoughts submitted for the sake of discussion.
What's proxy-doo you ask? No, it's not Scooby Doo's second cousin... No, it's not the latest grooming gel either. And no, it's not the name of Jan Crouch's hair style (actually, I have not confirmed this yet - grin). It's a nickname some friends and I coined a few years back in reference to the practice commonly referred to as "prayer by proxy", which is common in many non-denominational and charismatic, Pentecostal churches (like what I grew up in and attended most of my life). Generally, if (for example) the ailing person in need of prayer is not present, often members of the church will gather around another individual and lay hands on them while praying for the absent person's healing.
The term, though commonly attributed to "prayer", also has found other use among some Christian groups. For example, some people believe in "deliverance by proxy" and "anointing by proxy" and I've even known pastors that believe they can "evangelize by proxy" by commissioning angels to go forth on their behalf and do their bidding!
I remember a few of us guys sitting around one afternoon discussing the concept and whether it was even biblical. Somewhere in the midst of that discussion, as I was remarking about how strange the idea seemed that a person could stand in place of another and somehow mysteriously transfer (by spiritual osmosis) the power of God to the other person, someone made sport of my suspicion and the term "proxy-doo" was born.
This will be a fairly brief article because there not much to say about the practice, save that it appears to be absent from the pages of Scripture. In fact, the word "proxy" is not found anywhere in the entire New Testament at all! Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines "proxy" as, "The agency, function, or office of a deputy who acts as a substitute for another." So, clearly, the word speaks of a substitute who has all authority to actually stand in the place of another person, and act on their behalf.
To my knowledge there is not one single account of a person "standing in proxy" while receiving prayer for another person in the pages of the New Testament (or for that matter casting out devils by proxy or commissioning angels to go and preach the Gospel) and certainly there is no instruction by the Lord or any of the Apostles to engage in such practices, yet so many Christians still believe there is something called prayer by proxy. Now, there are cases where individuals came to the Lord, requesting help for their sick friends or family members (for example, take the story of the centurion who came to Jesus asking for the healing of his servant - Matthew 8:5-13), but in each case the Lord simply spoke the word and healed them (the sick) - never by proxy (never "through" another person who stood in their place)! In fact, if you take a second look at the story of the centurion, rather than Jesus offering to heal the boy "by proxy", instead he offered to come directly to the place where the boy was (vs7). The centurion requested that Jesus merely send His word and that would be enough. He did not request to stand in his servant's place and Jesus did not pray for or lay hands on the centurion... He simply healed the boy.
About the only thing I can think of that is remotely close to the Lord actuating some example of "proxy" was when He said to Peter, "get thee behind me Satan" (Matthew 16:23), and I'm pretty sure that not too many Pentecostals have this in mind when offering prayers by proxy. ;) Of course there is the death of Jesus, which is "by proxy", in that He took our place on the cross. This would be, in my opinion, the only kind of proxy that has any significant connection with the believer in Christ.
The concept of "proxy" also stands in severe contrast to Scripture when we remember that God no longer deals with His people through a mediating, Levitical priesthood. Through Christ, all of us who are born again are become priests unto God; in other words, each of us bear the presence of the living God inside of us! Our direct mediator is none other than Christ Jesus. There is no other mediator that can stand in His place and therefore "in proxy" for any believer in Christ!
So where did the "Christian" concept of prayer by proxy come from? I'm actually still investigating this one; however, I've read enough to know that it is an absolute fact that some witchcraft and occult practitioners engage in similar techniques and some pagan and Catholic exorcists as well as some new age "healers" use the technique... As a matter of fact, new agers call this practice "Absentee Healing" or simply "a Proxy." You can read about the practice at the following webpage: http://homepages.which.net/~michael.millett/index-page32.html. Catholics believe also in "baptism by proxy" - that a person can be baptized in place of dead relatives so that they might be saved. Mormons also perform proxy rituals. On a website known as The Pagan's Path the subject of healing by proxy is also discussed and referred to. Muslims also perform proxy rituals as do some astrologists, Gnostics and members of a number of other cults.
But I can find absolutely no Scriptural basis for the practice and I have not yet been able to ascertain where the concept may have first arrived in history, although I suspect it was probably later than the 4th century when Roman Catholicism was taking hold with its ritual-laden, pagan-influenced brand of Christianity (no offense is meant to my Catholic friends - I am just making an honest statement that I sincerely believe can be verified by history). I've also read enough Roman Catholic literature and visited enough Catholic websites to know how frequently the term is used in a context that sounds strikingly similar to the Protestant use of the term. It is a fact than many (even most) modern-day Protestant church practices stem directly from Roman Catholicism, so it would not surprise me that Protestants picked up the concept of "proxy prayer" from the Catholics.
I have read through much of the historical writings of the earliest Christian accounts (post-apostolic era - second and third centuries - anti-Nicene Fathers - pre-Constantine) and have never yet seen the expression "prayer by proxy" used; however, the volumes are lengthy and must also admit that I have not read every single account yet. If anyone has researched this topic and has more detailed information I would love to hear your thoughts and findings on it.
The idea of proxy prayer is one that I personally feel violates the directives of Scripture to presume that there can ever be another mediator between God and man. That is essentially what "proxy" is - having a human person "physically" stand in place (mediate) for another person. Having said that, I will say that I presume most Christians would not want to suggest either that there is another mediator between God, save the Lord Jesus Christ, and I doubt anyone is meaning to exercise pagan practices... but often (through ignorance) we tend to embrace things that have no foundation in Truth.
Jesus, in essence, is our only "proxy". In the Scripture, Jesus plainly said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6). He didn't say, "except in cases whereby you can proxy pray through another..." The author of Hebrews says that, "because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." Christ is our only "Proxy" and "intercessor." No man or woman can ever "stand in the gap" in any spiritual sense for another because God has made each of us priests unto God - each of us being directly connected to the Head, which is Christ. I've heard this proxy thing taken to such ridiculous extremes that some (very popular ministers) have even taught that, through intercessory prayer, you actually take on the sins of the person you're praying for and bear their infirmities and then "pray them through" so God can deliver and heal them! I am really serious when I tell you that I know of not one example in the entire Bible where such things are taught or exampled! It is my opinion, that when Christians do these things, they are playing with pagan concepts and are operating completely outside Scripture. Again, that's not to say their intentions are necessarily evil, but as a wise man once said, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." The reason why I find this issue significant enough to stir up discussion is because I believe that it is just one more thing that further distracts believers from the revelation of who they are in Christ. It causes them, however subtly, to take for granted all the more their position as priests unto God through Christ. I sincerely pray that the Lord will forgive this ignorance and bring each one to a knowledge of the Truth.
If we desire to pray for a person's healing, we should pray and ask the Lord - but laying hands on another individual, thinking that this person can somehow "stand in the gap" (spiritually or physically) in order that the power of God can be transferred and transmitted to another person seems to be clearly extra-biblical - even anti-biblical. As I have said previously, it seems obvious that the practice largely has roots in pagan culture, Roman Catholicism and the Occult, but no definable Scriptural source.
From my view, I suppose that most Christians engage in this practice from a more emotional reasoning. It may seem easier to direct focus of their prayers and release their faith by laying hands on an individual. The only problem here is, where does one draw the line? As I stated before, there is really no precedence for this practice in the Word, so why not just as well lay hands on a statue or other artifact? No, seriously! Why not? Why would we, as Christians, get mad about someone holding Rosary prayer beads thinking that it will help their prayers be more effective, when we do essentially the same stuff - paying over handkerchiefs and t-shirts (and even M&Ms as a story by R. W. Shambach once revealed)? What's the difference between proxy prayer and, say, Roman Catholics who believe that God honors their prayers if they kneel before a relic or statue of some dead Saint (even Jesus) or a crucifix (as a point of proxy)? Even Catholics will tell you that they are not worshiping the relic or statue, or even believe that the statue itself is anything but a means whereby to help the one praying focus his/her faith. Any way you slice it, to me, the practice looks a little too much like some new age or pagan-inspired ritual, a kind of Christian voodoo (if you will), hence the nickname "proxy-doo."
Of course some may take offense at my extreme comments. I really do not mean to offend and this article is intended, really, to just raise a challenge for mutual discussion. My interest is not to stir contention with any religious group (whether Protestant or Catholic) but to embrace only the truth. I've participated in proxy prayer myself in my former ignorance and, God knows, my heart was pure in its intention (and I'm sure many others have engaged such concepts in ignorance as well). I thank God for grace, but I don't want to remain ignorant. I confess that I do not know the actual origin on the practice and would love to find out where exactly it came from. If someone can show me hard evidence that the Bible teaches us to pray, anoint, or cast out demons by proxy, I will gladly amend this article and say, "I was wrong," but until that time, I must stand on my conviction that the Word of God does not, in any way, support "proxy" worship, prayer, or evangelism.
Now before you decide to log in to your e-mail account and start writing, please understand that I am very familiar with many of the popular proof-texts for the concept of proxy. There was a time I used them myself. For example, some people suggest that there are Scriptures to support the practice of "proxy-doo" (though, admittedly, they don't call it proxy-doo). A common verse that is cited is found in the book of Acts:
Acts 19:11,12 - "Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.
There are several things to note about this occurrence. Number one is that the Bible says that this was an "unusual" miracle. In other words, this was not common practice. Secondly, if a person studies the context of this passage, they will note that Paul was dealing in a region that was heavily influenced by witchcraft and sorcery. This is likely the reason for the unusual method that God worked on this occasion. Thirdly, we do not find this practice happening again in the New Testament. Fourthly, the "proxy" element was material, not human. Fifthly, Paul was not praying over handkerchiefs or people and sending them out to sick people. The people did this of their own accord. This is likely because of their familiarity with such occultic practices. Interestingly enough, the Lord honored their measure of faith and used this to glorify Himself. But again, this was a very unique and unusual circumstance, making this passage a very inadequate proof-text for prayer by proxy, which is so common in many Christian groups today.
This article remains "open" for further discussion. I would be happy to amend any statements pending further study of this issue; however, I wanted to post it for review and discussion (mainly because I wish to wholeheartedly encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ not to take lightly their priesthood afforded them by Calvary's cross - a priesthood which enables them to come boldly before God's Throne of Grace without need for any other mediator or "proxy" if you will). What do you think of this kind of religious concept of "prayer by proxy" or "deliverance by proxy" or whatever? Do you believe it is biblical? Why? What would be the reason God needed to have someone other than Christ stand in proxy for another person? Why would Jesus be unable to touch someone in another location without a mediating "proxy"? These are some important things to consider. Are we offending the grace of God by adding ritual and substitute for what God has already freely given to all of us through Christ Jesus? Hmmm...
God bless you all.