(Jesus calming the storm, courtesy allthingsclipart)
By Spencer D Gear
Is it the will of God to always heal people when we pray for them?
A Christian friend wrote to me asking for recommendations concerning a situation in which he was asked to pray for healing for a sick person. My friend was impressed in his heart that instead of praying for healing, that he should trust the Lord for what God was doing through the sickness. When this information was revealed to the person who asked for prayer for healing, my friend was accused of this giving an ‘almost heretical response’. Why? It was because my friend had an inner impression that God had a bigger issue in the sick person’s life than physical healing.
There are dangers with ‘impressions’ because they are subjective and I find it difficult to discern if my friend is hearing from God or if this is a personal view. We know that God gives the gifts of the Spirit that require ‘some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching’ (1 Cor. 14:6 ESV). The safety of the church gathering that enables discernment of the manifestation of gifts is much more suitable than to receive a private impression. However, we do read in passages such as First Chronicles 14:10, 14 where ‘David inquired of God’ (ESV) and received the answer that he should go against the Philistines and God would give them into his hands. On another occasion (1 Chron. 14:14), God’s answer from David’s inquiry was that he was not to attack the Philistines.
Does the Bible teach that during the ministry of Jesus there was no person who wasn’t healed by Jesus? Let’s examine the Scriptures with a few examples, but they are enough to cause us to question the ‘almost heretical’ statement that a person does not believe that God always heals.
A few fundamentals are happening with the ‘almost heretical’ statement that are very different from when Jesus walked this earth and contrary to what we should expect from God when we ask for physical healing.
- The Scriptures do say on occasions that Jesus did heal all who came to him in verses such as Matt. 8:16; 12:15; and Luke 6:19. But there’s another dimension.
- On other occasions Jesus healed, not all, but “many” who came to him. See Mark 1:34; 3:10; 6:13.
- BUT, there were circumstances in which Jesus did not heal people. I’m thinking of Mark 6:4-6:
‘Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith’ (NIV).
- What about the events like that at the Pool of Bethesda according to John 5:1-9? Verse 3 says that at that pool ‘lay a multitude of invalids-blind, lame and paralyzed’ (ESV) but only one invalid who had been at that Pool for 38 year was healed. The facts are that Jesus did not heal all who were sick in Israel at the time of his life and he didn’t even heal all invalids at the Pool of Bethesda. It is false information to say that Jesus healed all. He clearly didn’t.
People may ask why Jesus didn’t heal all. My understanding is that healings are pointers/signs to God’s greater healing of the human soul through salvation and God’s ultimate healing of the universe that will happen with a new heaven and a new earth at the end of time.
However, I do need to say that I accept the gifts of the Spirit are available for today’s Christians and one of the gifts is the gift of healing (1 Cor. 12:28-29). We must not overlook the biblical fact that God’s gifts to Christians function according to the “measure of faith” that God has given to believers:
‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you’ (Rom. 12:3 NIV).
According to James 5:14-15, the ministry of healing is available through the local church (and it is sadly neglected in most churches) in the anointing of oil by the elders of the church:
‘Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven’ (NIV).
Again, the emphasis is on “the prayer offered in faith” will cause the sick person to be raised up by the Lord.
I do not find any indications that Jesus healed all people. Nor do I find examples in the New Testament where all people were healed whenever there was a prayer for healing. I do find this in James 4:2b-3:
‘You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures’ (NIV).
There are many reasons why we do not receive physical healing when we pray and when others pray for us. The major reason is that God is sovereign and we are puny, fallible human beings who can have the wrong motives.
There is also the further biblical truth that most Christians find hard to bear as stated in James 1:2-4:
‘Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing’ (NASB).
God has a greater plan for our lives than physical healing. The trials of our lives are meant to be considered with an attitude of ‘all joy’ by the Christian because God knows what trials are instrumental in achieving. Difficulties in our lives are are designed for the testing of faith to produce endurance of the faith so that we will be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” when we face Jesus. This is a hard dose to take for many Christians.
May I say personally that I would not have reached this point of growth in my Christian life if it were not for the many trials of sickness that God has put me through. This has included 3 bouts of rheumatic fever when I was a child, aged 6, 10 and 12, that left me with leaking mitral and aortic valves in my heart. This has resulted in five (5) open heart surgeries in my adulthood to replace (4 times) the valve with4 mechanical ones and one surgery was for a repair around the valve. The last surgery in 2013 was to replace both mitral and aortic valves.
As an adult, I have prayed on all five occasions for healing and the church has prayed for my healing, so that I would avoid the surgeries, but God has not chosen to heal me. God has a greater purpose in my life and that is Christian maturity and endurance in my faith.
My wife, Desley, has a debilitating physical disease, polycythemia rubra vera, that has the possibility of becoming leukemia. I am amazed at her godliness and trust in the Lord through severe headaches and lack of energy on a daily basis, and her venesections from time to time to drain blood from her.
It is not biblical to demand that God heal others or oneself when you and others pray. Jesus did not do it and there is ample evidence for God’s greater plan of development in Christian maturity.
May I also add, that the demand for God to heal all people, can come with a diminished view of what life in the presence of God is all about. For believers, to have a desire to continue to live in this present evil world has some irony about it. Why is not living in the presence of God at death, and living for Him through trials in this life, not the way God plans it for all believers?
See these related articles:
Turning trash into treasure (James 1:2-4). This is based on a sermon I preached.
“Were miracles meant to be temporary?” (Jack Deere)
Are there apostles in the 21st century? (Spencer Gear)
Are miracles valuable? (Spencer Gear)
’Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’ (Romans 12:12 NIV).
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 October 2015.