How does it really work? What does the Bible say? What is truth and what is myth when it comes to sickness, healing and prayer? ♦
The text came in at 5:00 in the morning. My otherwise healthy wife was admitted into the hospital with acute abdominal pains. She was scheduled for exploratory surgery the next day and then major surgery the day after for the removal of an infected gall bladder.
I was 3000 miles away on a business trip. I flew home that next day to be bedside with her over the next 2 days doing what we all would/should do – comfort her and pray and have family and friends pray for her safe, successful surgery and recovery.
Her second surgery finished successfully 5 hours ago. Though in some expected pain, she is now resting quietly and scheduled to leave the hospital this weekend.
An answer to our prayers, or a simple reflection of good, modern medicine?
Pray for the Sick? Sure, Why Not?
There is ample debate and widespread interpretation of the ways and means of prayer and God’s healing hand on our sicknesses and infirmaries. Here are some very common questions: Does prayer really work? Does it matter if we pray? Why do some still get sick and die? Can we do the healing? Is it all a matter of faith? Is it about my fervor? Is it about the numbers of people praying?
Unfortunately there is real confusion within the Church on the matter. Even those outside the Church will acknowledge some metaphysics at play here – “I’m thinking good thoughts for you!” Seems like most of us will hedge our bets and pray to God or a “Higher Power” in times of personal crisis or family illness.
Why wouldn’t we? We don’t fully understand how it works but it can’t hurt, right?
Truth Be Told
But how does it really work? What does the Bible say? What is truth and what is myth when it comes to sickness, healing and prayer?
Let’s get 3 things straight relative to sickness, death and dying:
- God is Love (1 John 4:8) – He is good, loving and created good. We were created for eternity, in loving communion with our Creator. Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), and every good thing is from God (James 1:17).
- Adam’s Sin Corrupted (Romans 5:12) – Through one man’s sin, evil (and sickness, death, and dying) corrupted the perfected connection God intended for mankind. Satan, the source of evil, works disorder and destruction, seeking to steal, kill and destroy all that is good, right, and lovely. (John 10:10)
- We, the Redeemed, Can Impact with Prayer (Matthew 6:10) – We can determine whether blessings and curses happen on earth. We’re to pray God’s will or ruling to override what’s happening here on earth, to call out that which opposes His will (see Lord’s Prayer). Confess and pray, so that you can be healed. (James 5:16)
The larger picture here is that this world we live in, once holy and good, became corrupted and broken. But we believers can now be restored in right relationship to the Father through the atoning death of the spotless lamb, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In fact, we can now boldly operate in this world as more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) confronting this present darkness with the power of the living God.
And prayer, this known mystery, is our profoundly powerful vehicle-weapon of engagement.
Misunderstandings and Myths about Healing Prayer
If we don’t know the active role we play in ushering in God’s healing power of prayer, we miss the mark. Be aware of common misunderstandings or even myths of God’s view of our human plights of sickness, pain and suffering. Here are just a few major examples of flawed thinking:
- God may be available but only after we’ve performed well on our end. No, God’s response is not conditional on our performance level.
- God works best when favorable circumstances work out. No, God is not constrained by our fortunate or unfortunate circumstances.
- God is sitting in heaven and may or may not jump in to help. No, God is not distant and capricious.
- God drops bombshells on us every once in a while to keep us sharp. No, God does not toy with us.
- God is not in control of circumstances but can help me feel better about them. No, God is in control of all things and allows us full freedom to respond to them.
- I can possess God’s power to heal. No, God does the healing through the Holy Spirit in me.
If you research Jesus in the New Testament you’ll see that he is involved in over 30 individual healing events and over 20 mass healing references in the Gospels. These healings are not formulaic or routine. They involve surrendered prayer, faith in results, and belief in God. There is no tie to religious behavior but true power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
It’s all we need as well. Nothing fancy or pedigreed. One doesn’t need a class, coursework, books or a series of sermons. We merely submit and petition God with our desire for His will to be done in the situation. For God to be glorified, not ourselves and our special gifts or “powers” but for forces of darkness to be overwhelmed by forces of light, goodness, and holiness. For Christ Himself to be honored and lifted up in all circumstances “good” or “bad” regardless of our own interpretation of projected outcomes.
If we can do that then our prayers will reflect humble and submissive hearts. And we can live with whatever the results.
Peace Beyond Understanding
In praying for my wife these past couple of days, I was reminded of the “peace of God which passes all understanding.” God is sovereign and in control. His grace-filled love blessed our whole family this week by the tangible, glorious healing power of prayer. Amen.
Do you know the truth about our prayers and God’s healing hand?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6
Thanks for this post, Michael!
Just to add a couple of things, having heard some fascinating insights on healing and other works of power from Jordan Seng, I summarized them in a blog post http://collinpark.blogspot.com/2007/07/why-do-you-sing.html ; the former teaching pastor mentioned is Scott Dudley.
Jordan Seng is the author of Miracle Work http://www.amazon.com/dp/061561566X and pastors a church in Honolulu; he is also Dan Chun’s brother-in-law
Thank you, Michael and Collin. It is a significant issue that all of us encounter. Thank you for taking the time to write and share at a time like this, and testify to the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Praying with thanksgiving for Debbie’s healing, and recuperation for all.