We all know someone who needs healing. Sometimes it’s a serious short-term illness; sometimes it’s chronic or even incurable. The logical response is prayer, except when it seems illogical.
Today I learned a man I admire exceedingly has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a death sentence by conventional wisdom. And how I pray for him says something about my faith.
I serve a big God, and I pray big prayers. That’s not to say sometimes I don’t ask the Lord to help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24). However, I model my prayer life after scriptural examples – the Lord’s prayer is a beautiful model – and I seek the heart of Jesus when I pray.
When I read the gospels, I see at least 40 examples of Jesus healing. Isaiah 29:18 and 35:5-6 prophecy that the coming Messiah will heal the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute, so certainly Jesus healed to fulfill prophecy. But Jesus also healed out of His great love and mercy.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” – Matthew 9:36
When we ascribe Jesus’ healing ministry simply to a fulfillment of prophecy, we dismiss the very heart of Christ. This is an affront to our compassionate God.
I’ve actually heard pastors rant about how tragic it is to see church prayer bulletins littered with names of sick church members. “We spend more time praying people out of heaven than we do trying to get people into heaven!” one pastor complained from the pulpit.
If we are praying for the sick to the exclusion of praying for the lost – or, better yet, witnessing to them while praying for them – then certainly our prayer lives are decidedly lopsided. But one doesn’t have to exist to the exclusion of the other. Jesus heals and Jesus saves. We should trust Him for both.
After hearing such preaching as I cited a moment ago, I found myself failing to pray earnestly for those whose prognoses, like that of my respected friend, were beyond human hope. Terminal illness is no match for the God who brought the widow’s only son, Jairus’ little girl and His own beloved friend Lazarus back from the grave.
Consider that physical healing is a relatively minor manifestation of the power of God. Each day He performs much mightier miracles in the hearts of sinners like me.
“Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . “ Then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home.” – Matthew 9:5-7
The only time I believe we should no longer pray for healing is when God Himself has clearly answered “no” as He did when Paul prayed about the cryptic thorn in his flesh.
“Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
But that, my friends, leads us to our topic for next time: living with chronic illness. Stay tuned – and most important, stay attuned to the heart of God.