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?” (Mark 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 John 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 (Mark 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 (Jam.5:14 and Mark 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.
6. If appropriate, follow up the person later. You may want to: ask them to get back with you as to how they are; refer them to someone else for further help; encourage them to continue to seek prayer; encourage them to continue to look to God for their healing; encourage them to get some medical advice.
Through God’s love and wisdom, we can be used to bring tremendous blessing to people’s lives. Not everyone who is prayed for is healed (see 2 Kings 13:14 and 2 Tim.4:20, two verses I've never heard a sermon on). However, virtually everyone who receives prayer is helped in one or another. Ministering Christ’s loving compassion is just as important as healing itself.[Tomorrow - What if someone isn't healed?]