In my last blog post, I discussed the issue of “If it be your will” prayers as it relates to healing prayer. That particular topic raises a very important question: Why should we pray for the sick? Is this something Christians should be involved in? Is God still doing this sort of thing today?
There are several reasons given us in Scripture in terms of why we are to pray for the sick. First, we are to pray for healing because of God’s compassion. It is God’s heart to heal. In Genesis 1 and 2, we see creation as God designed, a creation without the pain of sickness and death. That is God’s original plan. That is His heart. He did not design the world to be a place of sickness. That came later, when sin entered the picture. So we know from the beginning that God’s heart is wholeness. In Exodus 15:26, God refers to Himself as “the God who heals”.
But it is in the ministry of Jesus that we see this heart most fully revealed. When Jesus begins His ministry, He walks into a synagogue, opens the scroll of Isaiah, and reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the captives…” Then He said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus lays out His plan to set people free from disease and sickness. In Luke 5:13-14, Jesus touches a leper and heals him. Leprosy was a horrible disease that resulted in a life of being physically and socially ostracized. No one touched someone with leprosy–no one, except Jesus. His heart went out to the man with this disease. Earlier in that same chapter, we read how He healed Peter’s mother in law of a fever. This was not simply about dramatic demonstrations of power. It was a simple act of compassion. Over and over again, we see Jesus responding to sickness with compassion, healing those suffering from physical disease.
A few weeks ago we spent some time in our services praying for those who desired healing. The coolest part of this was the fact that the whole church got involved in praying for each other. It was awesome to see hundreds of people receiving prayer from others gathered around them. One person said to me later, “It felt so wonderful just to have people care enough to lay their hands on my shoulders and pray.” Healing prayer is first and foremost a ministry of love and compassion, reflecting the heart of God.
Sometimes we hesitate to pray for people who are sick because we wonder, what if God doesn’t heal them? What we forget is that the ministry of healing prayer is a wonderful expression of love to someone who is hurting. When done with sensitivity and a heart of compassion, the worst thing that can happen is that the person being prayed for feels love. The best thing that can happen is that they are healed. So in a sense, it is a win/win. Love and/or healing.
A second reason we are to pray for the sick is because it provides opportunity for God to reveal His power and in doing so to authenticate the gospel message. When Jesus sends out the 12 and then the 72 in Luke 9 and 10, He commands the disciples
“Heal the sick and proclaim that the kingdom of God is here.” Power and proclamation. The healing of the sick opened a door for the truth of the gospel. Jesus miracles, while certainly being rooted in compassion, were also vivid illustrations of the power of God breaking in and driving back the works of the enemy.
In our service that weekend, we showed a video story from Agra India where a young boy was pushed off the fourth story of a building and upon impact was killed. A doctor who came on the scene pronounced the boy dead. Someone said, “There is a woman of prayer near here. She prays to her God and sees people healed.” So the dad picked the boy up, took him to the woman and said, “I want my boy back. Will you pray?” Sala had never prayed for anyone to be raised from the dead, but she agreed to pray. As she was praying, a Scripture was brought to mind from Hebrews 11 about how God gives back to dead to him. So she claimed this promise as she prayed, and the boy opened his eyes. He jumped up and was completely healed. Sala gave testimony of Jesus to the crowd that had gathered and seven hundred people came to know Christ. That’s power and proclamation—the miracle of healing opens a door for people to be confronted with the fact that Jesus is alive.
A third reason we are to pray for the sick is because Scripture teaches it as a normal part of following Jesus. This ministry is not limited to Jesus and the apostles. In Luke 9, Jesus gives His disciples power and authority to heal the sick. Then in Luke 10, He gives that same power to 72 others. These people were not apostles. They were ordinary folks like you and me, entrusted with this ministry. So first one person, then 12, then 72…and then in Acts 2 we see the power of God unleashed and healing becomes part of the ministry of the church. Stephen and Philip both are involved in healing the sick—neither of which was an apostle. In Galatians 3:5, Paul describes how the church in Galatia was seeing miracles happen in their midst. He talks in I Corinthians 12 about how some in the body have the spiritual gift of healing. Then in James, anyone who is sick is urged to call the elders and have them pray for their healing.
Healing is a normal part of following Jesus. We are to pray for the sick whenever possible—as a reflection of His compassion, as an opportunity for God to demonstrate His power to an unbelieving world, and as an extension of the ministry of Jesus to redeem a hurting world.