The Old Testament prophesy about Jesus in Isaiah 53:1-5 makes it plain that Jesus died to pay the price for both our sin and our sickness. As such, it is reasonable to conclude that healing is high on God’s agenda. Certainly, healing was an integral part of Jesus’ ministry. He didn’t so much heal people to prove he was God; he healed people because he was God.
It is worth pausing at this point to ask the question: Where does sickness come from if it doesn’t have its origin in God?
It is important to remember that the Jesus who healed then is the same Jesus who is alive today
The Bible teaches that the world is not as God would want it to be because of sin, sin which the devil encouraged us into. As such, the devil is the origin of sickness and disease (Job 2:7; Luke 13:11,16). This idea may seem quaint to modern ears, but it is no less real. Jesus saw sickness as an enemy to be confronted. He made it clear that he had come to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). All four biographies of Jesus’ life (the gospels) tell us that it was Jesus’ natural predisposition to heal people wherever possible (Mark 1:40-42).
It is important to remember that the Jesus who healed then is the same Jesus who is alive today, i.e. who is living and active through God’s Spirit in the lives of his followers now. It is significant that Jesus not only healed people, but he told his disciples to do the same (Luke 9:1-2). He promised that when his disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, they would be able to do all that Jesus had done in his ministry, and more (John 14:12). And this proved to be the case. The Bible records that the disciples continued to heal people after Jesus’ death (Acts 3:1-8).
It was the normal expectation of the apostle Paul that the preaching of the gospel be accompanied by a demonstration of God’s power (1 Corinthians 4:19-20). Divine healing was one of the factors that convinced people that the Christian gospel was true. It certainly helped the church grow (Acts 8:4-8). Nothing has changed since then. As such, we are neither being presumptuous, fanatical or ignorant when we pray for people to be healed.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have questions. Why didn’t Jesus heal every single sick person he saw in Palestine? Similarly, if Jesus’ salvation is complete, and the devil’s power has been broken, why isn’t everyone who is prayed for today healed? Miracles of healing, by definition, are still rare.
Whilst not everyone is healed following prayer, prayers for healing should still be a feature of the church’s ministry. We, as Christians, are called to prefigure the “kingdom of God”, but we can’t expect a perfect track record in our prayers for healing, as the full expression of God’s kingdom won’t be realised until Jesus comes again.
Do we still need doctors? Yes, of course, we do. At no point did Jesus suggest that doctors were not necessary. He even talked about them in his teaching (Mark 2:17).
It’s worth remembering that God has built into our bodies a healing mechanism. Doctors can’t operate without relying on the body being able to repair itself. Much of what doctors do is to encourage the body’s God-given healing mechanism to work. When praying for healing, we are appealing to the same source – God. So, medicine and prayers of faith are not so different. Both can work together. As the British Anglican cleric, David Watson, said: ‘We need prayer, pills and pillows’.
Do you need great faith to be healed?
Not always, but it can certainly make the difference – as it did in Jesus’ time (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 10:46-52; 7:36-38; 44-50; 17:11-19). Faith is often important. And this makes sense. Lack of faith does not honour God or show that you trust him (James 1:6-8). However, faith should not be regarded as a button we can push to manipulate God. Rather, it is an indication of trust – and God loves that. That’s why faith is so powerful (Mark 9:21-23). But we can’t be legalistic about it, as faith was not always required, even in Jesus’ time (John 5:1-9).
So, be willing and available to pray for people to be healed. Make a start. You will never pray for anyone to be healed if you wait until you know enough, have enough faith, or until you have enough courage. Remember; your faith is not in your faith, but in your God.
Do, however, ask God for discernment before you pray, and actively listen for God’s promptings. Sometimes sickness can come about because of some underlying cause that first needs to be dealt with.
If you feel right about praying for someone to be healed, make sure that person gives you permission. This is essential if you want to pray out loud or lay a hand gently on the person seeking prayer (as Jesus sometimes did). You may even dab a bit of oil on the sick or disabled person’s forehead, as instructed in James 5:14-15. (Olive oil or similar, is fine.)
No special words are needed. Simply ask Jesus what you want, and declare that you are praying with his permission and that you dare to do so because you have been given his holiness. In other words, you are seeking to pray according to Jesus’ name (John 14:13).
Go, and do valiantly.
Dr Nick Hawkes is a scientist, pastor, apologist, writer and broadcaster. He also describes himself as an absent-minded, slightly obsessive man who is pathetically weak due to cancer and chemo, who has experienced, and needs to experience, the grace of God each day.
Nick has written a book Soar above the Storm in which he draws on his experience of cancer to encourage anyone walking through a storm in life to find rest and hope in God. It offers a 40-day retreat to be refreshed and strengthened and find deep peace in God. Order it at Koorong.
He blogs and records podcasts at nickhawkes.net
Nick told his life story to Eternity here: Deadly storms, heroin addicts, cancer and my faith.