A few days ago the Peripatetic Polar Bear asked a question about whether faith healers truly believe they heal or if they're all a bunch of charlatans (http://theiceflue.typepad.com/the_ice_flue/2008/01/healings-and-mi.html ). I kind of liked my reply, although I didn't read the blog entry that triggered her question until afterward. Had I read it first, the context and thus content of my answer probably would have been different.
I think the answer is, "It depends." Some faith healers probably believe they have a gift, and some may be in it for money or notoriety or some other reason. Some probably start one way and end up another. Who gave the title of "faith healer?" The priest himself, or people who had seen the work he'd done or _____? I think there are some people who can facilitate other people's healing, at various levels. In one sense, we do that when we "kiss a boo-boo and make it better." When it comes to more serious illnesses, like cancer, I still think some people can help some others heal or heal themselves, in part or in whole. No single "conventional" treatment works for all people, so I think it stands to reason that no single "unconventional" treatment, be it snake oil, prayer, or casting out demons, is going to work for all people.
I do a form of bodywork and training for animals that can be energy work or can be done without energy playing an obvious role. I don't *try* to transfer energy in either direction when I'm working with a client, but people (I sometimes work on people I know) tell me my hands feel very, very warm or hot to them. To me, they are comfortably warm. Can *I* heal? No. Can I, in some cases, help bring awareness to the client (human or animal) so that they are able to change something? Yes.
What I think we don't acknowledge is that we can be operating at multiple levels. There may a part of us that wants to heal right here and now. There may be another part, which we may not even be aware of, that says there is a reason for this illness or challenge and sustains the progression of the disease. Maybe our souls have something to learn or experience from this event, maybe we're there as a teaching moment to others around us. Sometimes our environment, be it physical or emotional/mental, does not permit us to heal. I think many of us have heard of kids who act out their parents' issues by getting sick frequently or having behavior issues. Heck, my *dogs* do that for me because we're so tightly linked. I may not be aware of how I'm feeling because I stuff things down, but they know and act stuff out in their bodies and behavior to clue me in. Sometimes there is something in the physical environment, not just the psychic one, that prevents healing. Maybe it's something that doesn't bother most people, but in a particular case, it does bother one enough to prevent healing.
This is when it's helpful to believe that we are energetic beings choosing to have a physical experience in this lifetime.