I’ve received some blow back from my studies on “What Does the Bible Say About Healing” and “Why Prayers For Healing Fail, Part One.” People have jumped to the conclusion that I’m part of the Word of Faith movement (I’m not) or a Charismatic faith healer (not that either, not even Charismatic). For the record I’m an evangelical who takes the Bible very seriously and who believes it means what it says.
That means I believe God is still in the healing business, because I can’t find any place in the Bible where it says He got out of it. So I’m trying to convey what the Bible really says about healing and why it doesn’t happen for some. With that, let’s look at some more reasons why our prayers for healing sometimes fail and see if we can get to the bottom of this.
Lack of Knowledge
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10)
Because the concept of faith healing is neither taught nor practiced in many churches, a great majority of Christians don’t know anything about it. The idea of going to the elders to ask for prayer, as instructed in James 5:14-16, never occurs to them. Neither would it occur to the elders to offer prayer, because they likely have never been told that’s part of their responsibility.
Sometimes, when all the “miracles” of modern medicine have failed them, believers will turn to God in desperation for healing. But even though they know the Lord, they don’t have a relationship with Him based on biblical knowledge. Therefore they don’t have an understanding of Him, or His character, or the limitations they may have placed on Him by their own lack of knowledge that can prevent Him from responding to their prayers.
We’ve already discussed the view among some evangelicals that the so-called sign gifts (healing and tongues) were withdrawn when the New Testament became complete, based on an incorrect interpretation of 1 Cor.13:9-12. And we’ve mentioned others who claim these gifts were a sign to the Jews that Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit and ceased after the Council of Jerusalem when Gentiles were given direct access into the Church. This can’t be documented in Scripture either.
Both these groups will have difficulty praying for healing because of this. You can’t very well ask God to heal you when you don’t believe He does that anymore. (There are some believers in these groups who believe God still heals people, but no longer uses individuals to perform miraculous signs such as healing others. And they condition their belief by saying while God can heal us and we should pray for Him to do so, we shouldn’t be surprised if nothing happens.)
As another example, because of the convoluted teachings of Calvinism, some people think God’s sovereignty extends to every event in their life, and that He’s actually the cause of their illness, or their child’s birth defect, or the accident that left a loved one horribly mangled. How does one pray for healing to the same God they believe brought these things into their lives for His divine purpose?
Aside from this being a serious assault on the character of God, it forms a cognitive dissonance in the mind of believers that makes it impossible for them to be of one mind when praying together. It’s not hard to see that believing God brings illnesses upon His children to somehow make them better Christians can be a major obstacle when praying for healing from the same illness.
What Does the Bible Say?
God never created anything that wasn’t perfect. And so it was with Adam and Eve. After He created them in His image He told them to be fruitful and multiply, to take dominion over the earth and rule over every living thing (Genesis 1:28). From then on they were in charge of bringing new people into the world and God was no longer directly involved.
But before they began having children, they sinned and their nature was irrevocably changed. When one of their first two children murdered the other one and was banished, it became clear that their children would be born in their fallen image and not God’s perfect one.
As their descendants reached child bearing age they joined in. That’s why the process is now called procreation. It’s also why John described our first birth, the physical one, as being of natural descent, or a human decision, or a husband’s will. God is only directly involved in our second birth, the spiritual one (John 1:12-13), the one that makes us perfect again.
When Adam and Eve sinned, Satan used the opportunity to steal dominion of Earth from Adam and is now the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4) with the whole world under his control (1 John 5:19). God’s once perfect creation was irrevocably changed, allowing sickness, disease and death to become part of the human condition, along with all kinds of sin. The Creation is now a decidedly unfriendly place where evil things can happen to anyone at any time for any reason or no reason at all.
One of the most serious injustices Calvinism has done to God is to blame Him for the work of the devil. Satan is the one responsible for the sickness and disease, the birth defects, the senseless accidents and all the misery they cause. Once you understand that, you understand that by praying for healing from one of these things, you’re not praying to the one who caused it, but to the One who is the Ultimate Authority with the power to overrule what Satan caused.
We know God wants us to be healed because His name is “The Lord Who Heals You” (Exodus 15:26). His Word is filled with promises of healing that cross dispensational lines and carry no expiration date. He’s waiting for us to develop the same single mindedness of purpose He has about it because His nature is such that He cannot deal with a double minded person. James said such a person should not expect anything from God (James 1:7-8).
If you’ve been carried away by hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8), I urge you to get back into God’s Word and rebuild the foundation of your relationship with Him based on Biblical knowledge, rather than on Man’s doctrine.
Lack of Faith
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20).
This verse and many others tell us that with sufficient faith we can accomplish anything. Reading the stories of those who’ve been called into a healing ministry, I was surprised to learn that even though they were called and obeyed the call, they went through a period of praying for people without success before experiencing their first healing.
And even then, their first successes were often small ones, aches and pains and such. Then, as their faith grew, they were able to tackle larger challenges successfully. All of them attributed this to their own lack of faith at the beginning.
This tells us that the faith to be healed is not something we can take for granted. After all, most of us haven’t done anything to develop such a faith. At the first sign of a little ache or pain, we don’t look for someone to pray for us, we head for the medicine chest or the drug store for a pill or potion.
As a result our faith never has a chance to grow. Then, when something serious happens we’re not prepared with the faith to meet the challenge so we look instead to doctors, hospitals and such for healing. We don’t realize we’ve replaced our Lord’s promise to heal us with the medical profession. As a society we spend billions on health care every year while the God who promised to heal us for free stands by waiting for the call that never comes.
Then, if all else fails and we do go to someone for prayer we say, “I had the faith, but the Lord didn’t heal me. How come?” Well, according to a literal reading of the Bible, if we had the faith we would be healed, to which I add, if we had exercised and developed our faith we would have it. Remember, Jesus never said, “My faith has healed you” but He often said, “Your faith has healed you.”
Perhaps this is why so many of the reports of supernatural healing we hear today come from underdeveloped countries where there is no alternative to God’s provision and where faith is a necessary component to successful living. It’s reported that thousands come to faith every day, many because they’ve been healed and others because they saw someone else being healed.
Faith Comes Through Hearing
When you were searching for better solutions to the problems of your life you began to give consideration to the Gospel. God, in His grace, invested in you the faith to believe the death of His Son had paid the penalty for all your sins.
“For it is by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not of yourself, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
Because of that gift of faith, you believed and were saved. If you’re like most new believers, what followed was an immersion in the gospel of your salvation. You read and listened to everything you could find on the subject. You began attending a Bible Study. You discussed it with like-minded friends.
You heard the message repeatedly in church. You saw others being saved. As a result, your faith grew stronger until you no longer have even a shadow of doubt about your eternal destiny, and today you eagerly await the Savior you know is coming for you.
Now, compare that with your experience where healing is concerned. That same gift of faith that saved you was meant to grow into a belief that the God who saved you can also heal you. But for most of us that hasn’t happened. We haven’t read and listened to everything we could find on the subject. We haven’t attended Bible studies on healing, or discussed it with like-minded believers.
We don’t hear messages about healing from the pulpit. We haven’t seen other people being healed, nor have we asked for prayer for our own healing. As a result our faith in God’s power to heal us has never grown, but has all but withered away.
I am by no means trying to justify all the excesses of the Charismatic movement, but perhaps one of the reasons why they’re the ones who are experiencing healing in their midst is that they’re the ones teaching it, preaching it, talking about it, studying it, and practicing it.
One of the dangers in taking these reasons one or two at a time is it’s easy to conclude that each one is the only one. But I’d like you to think of them as diagnostic tools instead, using each one to give yourself a checkup. Each time you find something amiss, and can act to correct or eliminate it.
In the case of this one, you can start building your faith by study and exercise. Go back and really read “What Does The Bible Say About Healing” carefully, taking time to look up the citations I’ve included. If you have some like-minded friends ask them to join you in a study group on healing. Be careful not to invite anyone who isn’t open to the idea. Commit to pray for each other for healing. Then, before you automatically reach for that bottle of pain reliever for some minor ache or pain, ask one or two of them to pray with you instead. If nothing happens the first few times don’t be discouraged. Keep studying and learning. As your faith grows you could soon see a miraculous healing. See you next time.