I have always had a desire to see God heal people. The idea of praying and seeing people get miraculously well has captivated my heart since I was young. You don’t need to read much of the gospels to discover that Jesus healed people. Healing was a major part of Jesus’s ministry on earth. Reading these stories and then seeing people injured, sick and in pain causes a conflict in any compassionate heart. Christians are instructed to pray for the sick, that much is clear from scripture. Can we really expect people to get well though?
For me the central thing in praying for healing is the big question: Is it always God’s will to heal?
This question is fundamental to all further discussion. If it is not always God’s will to heal then we find ourselves praying strange prayers, trying to guess whether this person is one of the blessed few for which the answer is yes. We are told that faith is a key ingredient in our prayers and yet this is near impossible when we do not even know if what we are praying is in agreement with God.
So here are some scriptures that have led me to my conclusions. This post may get lengthy but hopefully I can get across the main points.
OK first up let’s rewind to the Old Testament. Moses has just led the people of Israel out of Egypt through the sea in a trail of signs and wonders. God then gives the people an amazing promise.
He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” Exodus 15:26
The significance in this statement is easy to miss without some context. When God says He is the Lord who heals you, He is saying that it is His very nature to heal. Throughout Israel’s history God reveals Himself in various names. Each name is more than just a title. His names and His actions and His very nature cannot be separated. When God says to Abraham that He is the God who provides (Gen 22) He means that He always provides! God is always faithful to his nature. He never acts out of character. This has exciting implications for the statement that He is the Lord who heals.
In the Old Testament there are then various situations where God sends his various messengers and prophets to heal people. The prophets walked in unrivaled power and assurance before God. Then we have King David, who walked in incredible favour and revelation. In many ways he lived beyond the Old Covenant Law and lived with an amazing foresight into Gods plans for the New Covenant. We see in the Psalms striking revelations of what God was like and also what He would accomplish through Jesus. Related to Gods nature we read this in Psalm 103.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases…
David is bursting with praise, everything within him is praising God (see verse 1) and so he starts to list all the benefits that God makes available. He forgives ALL your sin and heals ALL your diseases. He then lists some of the other good things God does. In this context a comparison is made between sin and disease. In the same way in which sin would be forgiven by God, all diseases would be healed. We don’t seem to teach this parallelism often however. We understand how God through Jesus has dealt with sin but surely that does not apply to sickness? Ultimately sickness entered with the fall of man and is a product of sin. The connection between forgiveness and healing is found throughout the bible in many other verses (Isaiah 53, James 5:16 etc)
OK let us skip forward around 1000 years to Jesus, the son of God. Thanks to Jesus, as the book of Hebrews tells us, we live in a better covenant now. The blessings of the Old Covenant pale into insignificance when compared to the New Covenant. So let’s look to Jesus, what was his earthly mission statement?
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
Part of Jesus’s mission was to heal the sick. He was not healing people God had made sick or intended to be sick. As Jesus himself told us, a divided house cannot stand. When travelling he told people as he healed them that the Kingdom of Heaven had come near with each miracle. He took on a group of disciples towards the start of his ministry and trained them how to pray for the sick. Once his core group had been activated He trained a further 72 telling them to heal the sick and cast out demons telling people the Kingdom had come. When they asked how to pray, Jesus told them:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”" Matthew 6:9-10
This new Kingdom was to be advanced. One of the signs that the Kingdom had come to a person or area was that the sick were healed and that the demonized were set free. We have the same agenda for today. Advance the Kingdom of God. The model he taught his disciples was meant to continue. At the end of Jesus’s time on earth he told the disciples to go make more disciples. That is, he wanted them to replicate the model He had given them. Training others to bring the Kingdom to earth. In this instruction on how to pray He also revealed something of huge significance; God’s will. God’s desire is that in the same way that his will is currently being done perfectly in heaven that it would be done on earth. We should pray that earth becomes like heaven. God has revealed His will. If it is not in heaven, it is not God’s will for here on earth. There is no sickness in heaven, therefore we can be clear God desires there to be no sickness here. The other fundamental thing implied by this instruction on prayer is that God’s will is currently not being fully done on earth.
Jesus said that when He came to earth he revealed the Father. If you had seen Jesus you had seen the Father. In other words, Jesus was the absolute best representation of God the Father. All other representations in all of time are found lacking, Jesus trumps them all. With that in mind, here are some other interesting facts relating to Jesus’s healing ministry.
- He healed everyone who came to him
- He never created a barrier to someone being healed
- He never attributed sickness to God
- He never left someone sick saying it was to teach the person something important or develop their character
- He came to destroy the works of the devil – 1 John 3:8
- He told us to do as he did – Matthew 10:8
In summary, I believe it is quite clear from scripture that it is always God’s will to heal. Jesus revealed the Father and He healed everyone who came to Him. The Lord who heals is one of Gods names and as such His very nature. We are told God’s will is to see earth become like heaven, that means no sickness. Now being clear on God’s will does not leave us without questions but I believe we can at least be 100% sure about God’s side of the bargain. In many ways I am at the start of this journey, learning about healing but I am excited, enthralled, challenged and inspired by the bar that Jesus set. Knowing that I am praying with heavens backing definitely encourages me to pray with faith. No more confused prayers asking for healing if it is His will. He already told us it was His will! This is not intended to a be a complete theological thesis but I would love to hear your thoughts, iron sharpens iron after all.