Cross Points 5.21.21

Talking to God:  Praying for Healing

What do people pray for most of the time?  If you are in group settings where prayers are offered, or if you are in your churches “prayer chain” to help with requests for prayer, you know the answer.  People pray most often for those who are sick.  I understand that.  When I’m sick, I covet prayer also.  In his book on prayer, author Philip Yancey says, “More than half the spontaneous prayers I hear in church pertain to the sick.  In the broader picture, that gives the same imbalance as a pastor preaching from the book of Job every Sunday.”  In fact, I once did a personal study of prayer in the New Testament, and what I found is that praying for the sick is rare.

One specific place where it’s mentioned is in James 5, where we find, “Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  The emphasis is interesting, it seems more concerned with spiritual sickness than physical sickness.  We all know that when burdened by the guilt of sin, we are more prone to be sick both spiritually and physically.
At Faith Assembly church in Indiana (Yancey references in his book) they believed “faith alone” was the medicine needed for physical healing.  To see a doctor showed a lack of faith.  One couple there took this approach and later wrote a book entitled “We Let Our Son Die.”  Medical research determined that the infant mortality rate for Faith Assembly church was 3X the normal.  They had at least 126 children who died after medical treatment was withheld.  Their mortality rate for childbirth was 100X normal!  Isn’t it God who supplies doctors with skills, with the substances needed for medicine and ability to make & use equipment in the healing process?  He is not absent when we use these resources.  We pray for the enhancement of such resources as we tap them and allow God to work providentially.  Research has also shown that the mentality we have when praying, on its own, helps the healing processes.  People who regularly attend church and pray have a 25% reduction in mortality.

Critics will say, “Oh, for people of faith, it’s just psychosomatic.”  In other words, just mental suggestion that makes the person feel better, nothing that is real.  Dr. Paul Brand has said that psychosomatic is taken from psyche (mind) and soma (body).  He then says the fact that the mind has an impact on the body and the healing process goes to show how well God built us!  “It doesn’t diminish my respect for God,” he says.  Even here, God gets the credit.

But when it comes to true miraculous healing, where medical processes fail but the person is healed immediately in defiance of such, the occasions are rare.  Medical literature shows that about 3 of 1,000 cases of cancer result in what must be called miraculous.  It does happen.  Why for some few and not for most with faith?  God hasn’t given us a peak behind the curtain to know the answer.  A few questions to ask when we pray for a miracle: 1) Do I expect it as an entitlement?  Hopefully not. 2) Am I taking advantage of the medical help available?  Hopefully so.  3) Have I blamed God for my suffering?  He hasn’t caused it.  Vent to him but stick with him.
As we’ve stated, the Psalms praise God, but also cry out to him in lament, a lot.  You might find it interesting that in Psalm 23 we have the familiar words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” but just next to this is Psalm 22 where we find, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”  In this messed up world, what we often find is that God allows our distresses hoping we learn from them to help others.  Paul would say that God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we have received from God.”  That only happens when we are actively pursuing him, otherwise we are left with bitterness when such times come.  God will provide complete healing for us all one day.  Meanwhile, trust him as you serve him in all seasons.
Cross Point: Jesus didn’t heal everyone sick he encountered.  The primary purpose was to give evidence of who he was, just as it did for Moses & Joshua, for Elijah & Elisha, and for Jesus and the apostles.  Outside of these few, miraculous healing comes directly from God, and is not common.  God wants faith to be about more than health.    
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