This weekend at CityLife, we spoke on the subject of healing and then took time to pray for people. We were encouraged by the many testimonies of healing that took place in each of our church gatherings and we pray for God to continue to work in the lives of everyone needing healing.
When it comes to healing, we must begin with an accurate understanding of God’s character and nature. The Bible teaches us that, when it comes to our need, God knows (Prov.15:11. Ps.139:1-10), God cares (Ex.34:6-7. 1 Pet.5:7), God is able to help (Jer.32:17, 27. Mt.19:26) and God is willing to help (Mt.8:2). In response to this, there are three different camps in the Christian community: (1) “God knows, cares and is able but is not willing. This is not the time or the age;” (2) “God knows, cares and is able and always willing to heal you. If you’re sick and you’re not well, if you have a physical need and you’re not healed it’s because you lack faith. It’s always God’s will to heal and so there is something wrong with you if you aren’t;” (3) “God knows, cares and is able and is willing unless he has a higher purpose.”
The first camp (called “Cessationists”) are strongly Biblical, but keep God in a box, in that they don’t believe that God still heals or does miracles today. The second camp (extreme “faith” teaching) has the strength of faith but the weakness of always putting God in a box to move a certain way without exception. The third camp has the strength of “balance” but must avoid a fatalistic attitude of “whatever will be, will be”. Our responsibility is to pray and ask God to heal and help us (Jas.5:13-16), then to trust God with the outcome.
I love the authenticity of the biblical authors who not only tell us the inspiring stories of miracles and healing, but also of others who experienced extended times of sickness and who were not healed instantly or at all, despite being people of faith and obedience to God's commands (see Job 2:7-8. 2 Kings 13:14. Gal.4:13-14. Phil.2:25-27. 1 Tim.5:23. 2 Tim.4:20. Heb.11:32-40). I love the attitude of the three Hebrew children who when faced with the fiery furnace declared that God was able to deliver them, that he would deliver them, but even if not, they would not bow down to an idol (Dan.3:17-18). In the same way, I believe we should declare that God is able to heal, that he will heal, but even if not, we will still trust him. Without an "if not" in our theology, we seek to put God in a human-made box, eliminating the paradox and mystery that life is made up of, and we can easily take inappropriate discouragement or guilt upon ourselves OR project it on others, as Job's friends did.
The Bible teaches that God’s will for our life, generally speaking, is “health” (See Ex.15:26; 23:25. Ps.103:1-3; 107:17-20. Prov.4:20-22. Is.53:4-5. Mt.8:16-17. 1 Pet.2:24). God’s provision is complete. He has done all that we need for life and godliness. He has made provision for our wholeness – spirit, soul and body. God desires health and wholeness for each one of us, as we walk in obedience to Him, so we can fulfil our life purpose.
However, like salvation, good health is not automatic. There are things we need to do to position ourselves to have the greatest possibility of good health. We need to have faith in God as our healer (Hos.4:6. Jn.8:32. Heb.11:6), obey his commands (Dt.28:58-60), maintain a healthy diet (Ex.16. 1Tim.4:4-5. Lev.11. Dt.14), exercise, rest and relax regularly (1Tim.4:8. Mt.11:28-30) and deal quickly with negative emotions (Eph.4:27-31. 1Cor.11:28-31. Mt.5:23-24).
There is no set pattern or formula in the Bible for healing. For instance, blind Bartemaus called out to Jesus and Jesus simply spoke to him and he was healed (Mk.10:46-52). Another blind man was not instantly healed. Jesus took mud and saliva, mixed it together and put it on his eye. As he went his way and did what he was told (“go and wash in the pool of Siloam”), he was healed. God’s healing power and anointing fell on a natural substance and flowed through it (Jn.9:1-12).
We can conclude that, “The pathway of healing that God has for you may be different from the one he has for someone else though you may have similar health problems.” Also, “At times God’s healing is spontaneous and instantaneous. Other times healing is a process and requires patience and perseverance as our healing is gradually manifested.” It could be an instant answer to prayer, a radical change of diet, a change of lifestyle or even a medical operation. If you are sick, pray for God’s direction, believe God’s promises to you from His Word, have others pray for you and talk to a reputable doctor.
Praying for Healing
All believers are called to pray for the sick. Here are some principles (not formulas) for praying for the sick.
1. Ask questions about the person’s need. Ask, “Where does it hurt?” or “What do you want me to pray for?” This is not a medical interview in which we probe for medical history or technical details. It simply helps us to know what the need is and how we should pray. Even Jesus never made assumptions about what a person wanted from him. To a blind man he said, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk.10:46-52). Other questions might include “Are you in pain right now?”, “How long have you had this?” or “Have you seen a doctor or specialist and if so, what did they say?”
2. Try to discern any root cause of the sickness. This next step is to clarify the root of the person’s problem. It asks, “Why does this person have this condition?” This determines the type of prayer needed to bring healing. We must also look beyond the natural surface reasons and be open to God giving us revelation through the word of wisdom, word of knowledge or the discerning of spirits. Symptoms in one area of our lives may be caused by problems in other areas. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and insights. Of course, don’t go overboard and try to probe to deep unnecessarily.
3. Choose an appropriate prayer. This step answers the question, “What kind of prayer is needed to help this person?” We must seek to know God’s specific will in the situation. This is the source of our confidence (1 Jn. 5:14-15). There are two basic types of prayer:
a. Prayer directed toward God (intercession). Intercessory prayer involves you going between them and God out of deep concern for the person. We stand before God and ask for the person’s healing. Prayers should be simple and straightforward - “Lord, I ask you to heal John of this condition.” In some cases, you may want to get the person to pray for themselves. This is especially important in areas of unforgiveness and bitterness.
b. Prayer directed to a condition or sickness based on words from God (command). Jesus often used the authoritative word when healing people (Mk.9:25). We have been given power to break bondages and release God’s blessing (Matt. 16:19). We can declare or announce the truth of God’s Word. For example, you might pray, “I break the power of this condition in the name of Jesus.” Prayers like this are usually very short yet effective.
4. Pray in faith. Pray in faith, believing that something is going to happen when you pray for them – physically (immediately or gradually), emotionally (strength, comfort, joy) and spiritually (close to God, trust). Have an attitude of faith, hope and love. Lay hands on them (don’t push or lay your hands heavily on anyone), pray and possibly anoint them with oil (James 5:14 and Mk.6:13). Be sensitive to the person and the Holy Spirit. Be aware of your hand motions, tone of voice and volume of speech. Don’t do anything that would distract the person being prayed for or others nearby.
5. Check for any improvement or change. As you’re praying, watch to see what is happening in the person. Ask further questions to see what God is doing and if there has been any change. Ask them how they are feeling or if anything has happened. Pray again if necessary. Some people get completely better, others show considerable improvement, others some improvement and others none at all. Not all healing is instantaneous (see Mark 8:22-26; 5:8). Even Jesus prayed twice for a blind man to be healed. Jesus’ promise to believers is that the sick will get well or “recover” (Mk.16:19). At times this may be gradually. When people are not healed, reassure them that God loves them and encourage them to seek more prayer. Divine healing is sometimes a process.
Through God’s love and wisdom, we can be used to bring tremendous blessing to people’s lives.
Sample Reflection Questions:
1. Consider the different Christian “camps” that exist in this area of healing. Do you know someone in each camp? Describe them and how they approach the area of sickness. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each position? Which perspective seems to be the most biblical? How we should relate to others who see differently than us?
2. Read through the Scriptures above on healing. Have any of these been a source of strength or encouragement to you during times of sickness?
3. Reflect on the concept of seeking God to discover your “pathway to healing”.
4. What has been your experience of being prayed for healing by someone else (positive or negative)?What about you praying for someone else who was sick (positive or negative)?
5. What are some of the fears we may have in praying for sick people? How can we overcome these? How should we respond when healing is prayed for and nothing happens?
6. Pray for anyone you know who is sick, that they would experience God's healing.