Tag Archives: Healing

Is it okay to pray for physical healing?

Of course it is! Physical sickness was not a part of God’s original creation. It’s only natural that we call out to our Creator to make us well.

The gospel accounts share numerous examples of Jesus healing people who had all sorts of illnesses and maladies.[1] Like a trailer from a highly anticipated movie, this is one of many ways Jesus gave previews of what it looks like when the power of God’s Kingdom comes to earth.

As we pray for healing today, it’s helpful to keep before us two New Testament passages that show us God will respond with healing or with grace.

On one hand, there is James writing, “Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.” (James 5:13–14)

On the other hand, there is the apostle Paul who asked Jesus to remove what he called a “thorn in my flesh.”[2]

 “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8–9)

 And in his last letter, Paul alludes to a co-worker that he left behind because of illness. “Trophimus I left sick in Miletus,” he writes.3 Sometimes God chooses not to heal His servants immediately.

The New Testament assures us that only when God’s Kingdom is fully implemented in the future will death and sickness and pain be eradicated.4 Until then, it’s good to pray for physical healing. The answer we receive won’t be healing or no healing. It’s healing now or healing later—with the grace to live faithfully and joyfully in anticipation of a full and permanent healing in God’s new heavens and new earth.

[1] Matthew 4:23

[2] 2 Corinthians 12:7

3 2 Timothy 4:20

4 Revelation 21:1-5

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Don’t New Testament Passages Say Christians Will Perform Greater Miracles than Christ?

This question refers to several passages, including John 14:12:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Jesus wasn’t saying that His disciples would be able to perform all of the supernatural acts that He did through the power of the Holy Spirit (although they did perform miracles). He was speaking of the work that He considered most important: the spread of the gospel. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary contains an interesting explanation of this verse:

He wanted to impress on the disciples that He was not disbanding them in anticipation of His departure but, rather, He was expecting them to continue His work and do even greater things than He had accomplished. Such an expectation seems impossible in the light of His character and power; yet, through the power of the Spirit whom Jesus sent after His ascension, there were more converts after the initial sermon of Peter at Pentecost than are recorded for Jesus during His entire career. The influence of the infant church covered the Roman world,whereas Jesus during His lifetime never traveled outside the boundaries of Palestine. Through the disciples He multiplied His ministry after His departure. The Book of Acts is a continuous record of deeds that followed the precedent Jesus had set. As the living Lord He continued in His church what He had himself begun. He expected that the church would become the instrument by which He could manifest His salvation to all people.

Several other passages, such as Matthew 7:7; 21:22 ; John 14:12-14 ; and 1 John 3:22-23 are often mistakenly understood to mean that God places no restrictions on what we should be able to receive in response to our prayers. But if there were no limitation on the things we could receive from God through prayer, why would Jesus say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. . . .Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”? ( Matthew 5:4,10 ).

In other words, if our lack of faith is all that stands in the way of our having whatever we want, we should never be mournful, persecuted,or afflicted. But that was not what Jesus promised, and His disciples did not receive everything they might have wanted. Just as Jesus had no permanent place to lay His head ( Matthew 8:20 ), the apostles suffered persecution and hardship ( 2 Corinthians 6 ), and eventually all but John were martyred.

These passages assume that we will pray in humble, childlike faith( Matthew 7:11; 17:20 ), with sincerity, out of genuine love ( Matthew 5:44 ), with good motives (Matthew 6:5 ), with perseverance ( Matthew 7:7 ), and in submission to God’s sovereign will ( Matthew 6:10 ). When we pray this way, we won’t make improper requests. Also, we will be so in tune with God that we will be satisfied when His plans prove to be different than we hoped they would be.

 

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Isn’t a Lack of Deliverance from Sickness or Harm a Sign of Deficient Faith?

It would be a serious mistake to imply that deficient faith accounts for all instances in which a person does not receive healing or deliverance.

It’s true that Scripture tells of people who were healed or delivered from danger because of their faith. Some examples are Gideon ( Judges 7:15-23 ); Naaman the Syrian ( 2 Kings 5:14-15 ); Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego ( Daniel 3:19-29 ); the centurion’s servant ( Matthew 8:13 ); the woman with an issue of blood ( Matthew 9:20-22 ); the man with a withered hand ( Matthew 12:9-13 ); and Peter’s deliverance from prison ( Acts 12:5-12 ). Even this partial list is impressive.

Clearly, faith in God may result in healing and deliverance. However, the Scriptures also show us just as clearly that there are times when a believer’s suffering or sickness has nothing to do with a lack of faith.

When Job lost his family, wealth, and physical health, his friends “comforted” him with the message that his loss and suffering were due to his own moral failure (his lack of faith). But Job was confident in his integrity before God. God Himself had declared him perfect and upright ( Job 1:8 ). Later, God Himself denied the explanation that Job’s “counselors” gave for his suffering ( Job 13:1-15 ). Even more importantly, God Himself denounced their words ( Job 42:7-8 ).

Job’s faith wasn’t the problem. In fact, Job’s faith in God was so strong that he, without cursing or disrespect, defended his integrity to God and questioned Him about the injustice of his suffering. Yet, in the midst of his agony, he continued to trust:

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. He also shall be my salvation, for a hypocrite could not come before Him (Job 13:15-16).

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27).

Job’s faith was eventually rewarded and vindicated. But he wasn’t spared the terrible suffering that allowed his faith to be tested and proven.

Even at a time when miracles often occurred, God allowed Stephen to be stoned ( Acts 7:59-60 ) and James to be beheaded. Although Acts 12 tells of Peter’s supernatural deliverance from captivity in prison, Jesus had already prophesied that he would eventually die a martyr’s death ( John 21:17-19 ), as (according to tradition) did all of the other disciples except John.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-30 Paul eloquently described the suffering and trials from which he hadn’t been delivered. He also suffered from a particular “thorn in the flesh” ( 2 Corinthians 12:7, 10 ) for which God had not provided a remedy. When Timothy suffered from a stomach ailment, Paul didn’t exhort him to have greater faith. Instead he told him to take some wine as medicine ( 1 Timothy 5:23 ). There isn’t the slightest hint in these passages that Paul’s trials and Timothy’s sickness were the product of unconfessed sin or deficient faith. In fact, rather than proclaiming that our faith in Christ should deliver us from the suffering and trials of this world, Paul extols the spiritual benefits of suffering.

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance [produces] character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us (Romans 5:3-5).

James also made it clear that strong faith is no insurance against suffering:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

On the basis of Scripture, we can say that faith is always relevant to suffering. Our reaction to suffering — whether in faith or in despair — determines whether it will produce spiritual growth or despair. But because spiritual healing is more important to us than our physical circumstances, faith is not a barrier against suffering.

Whenever we are inclined to presume that the illness or suffering of another person is the result of that person’s sin, we should recall the foolishness of Job’s “counselors” in attempting to explain the mystery of God’s will. Although faith won’t always deliver us from tribulation, it will keep us conscious of God’s promises and of the assurance that He will work everything out to good of His children ( Romans 8:28 ).

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