The Path of Prayer
Chapter 15: Praying for Divine Healing
The subject of divine healing is always with me. The infirmities of the flesh have kept it continually among the problems of my faith. In the work of a pastor there is no escape from it. Invalids look wistfully at the statement of the apostle James concerning the prayer that heals the sick, and seek for guidance. Some are healed by the prayer of faith, and if one, why not another; if some, why not all? I have searched the Scriptures from end to end again and again that I might know the truth, and I have not found the subject easy of solution.
The Problem of Divine HealingThere is healing through the prayer of faith. The truth of this is confirmed by many witnesses who are both sane and saintly. There appear to be those to whom is given the gift of healing, and they lay hands upon the sick and they recover. I myself have been healed through the prayer of faith. In my ministry I have been used of God to the healing of the sick. I have never exercised the ministry of healing except at the urgent request of the sick and a sure constraint of the Spirit of God. In other cases I have been quite helpless. There are those for whom I would have given my right hand if I could have prayed them to health, but I have had to see them suffer and die. Some have suffered untold anguish of mind because they sought for healing in vain. That has been my problem. While I was yet a young minister, one of the workers of the church was stricken with disease. We claimed the promises, and some of the best people I have ever known prayed earnestly and believingly for his recovery. We refused to believe that faith could fail. He died while we prayed. The shock to our faith was overwhelming. A sister of my own was an invalid for many years. Devout souls distressed her by the arguments Job's comforters had hurled at him. Together we searched the Scriptures and inquired of the Lord, beseeching Him that she might be healed. The Lord answered her in a vision, and gave her peace, but not healing. I could multiply such instances on the one side and on the other, and it may be that others have been similarly perplexed.
Witnesses To Divine HealingThere are many witnesses that the Lord is Our Healer. A few weeks ago I was in the neighborhood of Bishop Auckland, where Pastor Jeffries had held a mission some months before. As we were leaving the house where we had called, one of our party expressed regret to her sister that she had not brought some special tablets for her. She had been a martyr to severe pains in the head for years, and this was some new remedy to be tried. She answered gayly: "You needn't bring them. My head doesn't need them. The Lord healed me, and I have never had a suspicion of pain since." Her husband and children confirmed her testimony with the remark, "She is a different woman." There are many such witnesses. The most remarkable example of divine healing I have known took place at the Southport Convention. The Rev. W. H. Tindall was president of the Convention, and the strain of much speaking had brought on a disease of the throat. For more than a year he had not spoken above a whisper, and even that was painful. The specialists gave no hope of recovery. At all the meetings he was a pathetic and silent figure. Prayer was offered for him continually. At the speakers' prayer meeting on the Friday morning there was a remarkable intensity and unity of faith. No one could pray for anything but the recovery of Mr. Tindall's voice. Faith gathered courage, forgot impossibilities, and claimed the promise. Dr. Ebenezer E. Jenkins presided, and when the rest of us rose from our knees Mr. Tindall remained kneeling. Doctor Jenkins said, "This is the most remarkable prayer meeting I have ever known," and placing his hand on the president's head he declared, in the name of the Lord, that we should hear Mr. Tindall speak in the tent before the Convention closed. That night Mr. Tindall spoke in the tent for fifteen minutes and was heard by twelve hundred people, and he preached without loss of voice to the end of his days. I was present and saw and heard, and there are those still alive to confirm my testimony.
The experience of E. Stanley Jones as recorded in The Christ of the Indian Road is another great illustration of the Divine will and power to heal. Before the supreme missionary opportunity of his life he found himself spiritually impotent and physically broken. "I saw," he says, "that unless I got help from somewhere I would have to give up my missionary career, go back to America, and go to work on a farm to try to regain my health. It was one of the darkest hours. At that time I was in a meeting at Lucknow. While in prayer, not particularly thinking about myself, a Voice seemed to say, 'Are you yourself ready for this work to which I have called you?' I replied: 'No, Lord, I am done for. I have reached the end of my rope.' The Voice replied, 'If you will turn that over to me and not worry about it, I will take care of it.' I quickly answered, 'Lord, I close the bargain right here.' A great peace settled into my heart and pervaded me. I knew it was done! Life - abundant Life - had taken possession of me... For days after that I hardly knew I had a body. I went through the days, working all day and far into the night, and came down to bedtime wondering why in the world I should ever go to bed at all, for there was not the slightest trace of tiredness of any kind. I seemed possessed by Life and Peace and Rest -- by Christ Himself. . . . Nine of the most strenuous years of my life have gone by since then, and the old trouble has never returned, and I have never had such health. I seemed to have tapped new Life for body, mind and spirit. Life was on a permanently higher level. And I have done nothing but take it."1
The Rev. Andrew Murray had a very similar experience. After he was healed, he traveled for several years extensively in Europe, America, and South Africa, preaching and speaking daily with great power; and yet when ill toward the close of his life, he said to his daughter in a voice full of tender sweetness: "My child, I would so much like to hold evangelistic meetings, but God does not see fit to heal me."
What Saith The Scripture?The teaching of the Scriptures is the final authority on this subject, as on every other question of faith and life. The teaching of the Bible is for me the last word. I accept it whether I understand it or not. Faith can wait. It is humbling to have to bear the reproachful pity of those who speak with the confident authority of science and philosophy, learning and psychology, but the yoke of Christ is easy when faith is assured and meekness is content to wait God's time. When evolution and revelation seem to be at variance, faith banks with revelation. The difficulty is not, however, with the hostility of science and learning, but with the, contradictions among those who believe. There are differences of interpretation, but we may leave the disputants to their contentions, and seek to know the truth for ourselves as far as we can.
There is no doubt that the Scriptures teach that the Lord is our Healer. That is one of the names by which He is revealed. It is also beyond dispute that our Lord and Savior regarded healing as an integral part of His ministry. He was a Physician who healed without medicine all kinds of diseases. He commissioned His apostles to heal the sick. The gift of healing was, and is, among the gifts of the Spirit. Healing was part of the apostolic ministry. The gift has never been withdrawn from the church. Through all the ages there have been witnesses to its power. The promise in the Epistle of James is for all time: "The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."
The Bible associates sickness with Satan. God did not make man to be sick. Sickness came with sin. Jesus attributed some sicknesses to the devil. He said of one woman that Satan had bound her eighteen years (Luke 13:16). In Acts 10:38 we read that "Jesus. . . . went about doing good, and healing the diseases of all who were oppressed of the devil." At the same time, he rebuked those who traced sickness and calamity to personal sinfulness. "Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, that he should be born blind."
Sickness and sin are associated in redemption and healing. Saint Matthew sees in the healing ministry of our Lord the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. "He cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:16, 17). He bare our sicknesses as He bare our sins, for they were part of the same burden. It cannot mean that they were transferred to Him, for, so far as we know, He was never sick, but in sympathy and at great cost in physical and mental virtue He lifted their burden and bore it away. The sick-less Christ bare our sicknesses, as the sin-less Christ bare our sins. When He healed the palsied man who was let down through the roof, He began with his sin. Others whom He healed He commanded to sin no more, and the passage in Saint James links healing with forgiveness. There is a passage of Saint Paul's (I Corinthians 11:31,32) that traces sickness and even death to spiritual dishonor.
There is sickness in which there is no sin. It may be true theologically that all sickness came from sin, but experimentally there is a sickness that is of grace. Scripture must interpret Scripture. The affliction of Job was of grace. It was to the glory of God. Paul's thorn in the flesh was not of sin. Satan took advantage of it, but God gave it for the glory of His grace. Paul healed others, but he accepted his own sufferings as part of the afflictions of Christ. Epaphroditus was healed of the Lord (Philippians 2:27), Trophimus he had to leave at Miletum sick (II Timothy 4:20), for Timothy's stomach he recommended a moderate use of wine (I Timothy 5:23), and on his travels there went with him Luke, the beloved physician.
I Believe In Divine HealingI believe in the healing power of faith. Apart from religion there is, generally speaking, health for the man who lives by faith. Sickness is of the mind rather than of the flesh. Divine healing is more than healing by faith. It is not to be confused with hypnotism and autosuggestion. The Lord is the Healer. The faith is in Him. The grounds of my faith are in Him. I trust His Word, the redeeming work of Christ, and the sanctifying power of His Spirit who quickens our mortal bodies. The main concern is to know the will of God. Sickness may be chastisement for disobedience, and by faith the cause may be removed, the sin forgiven, and health restored. I am bound to believe that sickness may be in the will of God, for the purpose of discipline, for the glory of His grace, and the ministry of Christ.
I am sure that divine healing is a fact; and that the gift of healing waits within the church for the prayer of faith.
I am sure that many people are sick who ought never to have been sick, and who might now be healed.
I am sure that no life is so health-giving and so radiant as the life of joyous and obedient faith.
I am sure I believe with all my heart and mind in divine healing, in spite of the fact that I am often ailing.
Conclude with Chapter 16: The Problem of Unanswered Prayer