We cringe every time. I imagine you have heard it too. For that matter, you might believe it. You know, if you believe enough or pray enough, your healing from God WILL come. My question to you: is it true? Even more to the point, what is this theological point doing to the lives of some already in the midst of suffering? My wife has just written a passionate piece (in case you didn’t know, she is over 4 years into paralysis), where she comes from the other side to share that perspective. (Link below)
I suggest to you that that is bad theology, really bad theology. Still, we hear in many circles some saying it all the time. Before you cast this off as harmless and perhaps irrelevant, what effect will it have on someone who desperately would like to have healing? I have no doubt that those who say it offer it as a help. Something along the lines of “keep your head up; God will heal you.” What is sincerely offered as hope is in fact hopelessness.
When I say hopelessness, I mean this: imagine praying and wanting healing and praying your heart out after being told God always heals His children, and then the years start adding up and no healing comes. If that theology be true, what are you left to think? There is nothing left to think except that you are an inferior Christian. You simply don’t have it. Others have faith and can reach the Lord, but you can’t. What will that do to your spiritual psyche? Then, when you most need Him you drift away. If you put your all in it, you can only assume the Lord doesn’t think much of you, and really must not love you. Let someone else get healing, and hear a chorus of “See, the Lord does heal all who pray in faith enough”, and at this point, it is hard to even enjoy someone else’s healing!
Well, let’s pick this apart. Will that theology hold up? If it were true, what would it tell us about God? To say that if we pray in faith enough the Lord will heal, does that mean it is a matter of talking God into it? Then, when was God mistaken? When He originally allowed it for you? Or after you talked Him into changing His mind? Did He change His mind because you proved Him wrong? Did He just want to see you grovel? I think you know the answers to these questions!
I do not deny that prayer is an essential part of God’s plan for us. But what is prayer? What is its purpose? Is it to talk a reluctant God into helping you? Of course there is an asking element to prayer, but what is its point from the Lord’s point of view? Many cite the Unjust Judge in Luke 18, but the point there is not that God is like the Unjust Judge and will respond when He gets tired of your griping. It is that if an Unjust Judge can respond from rotten motives, surely you realize that the Lord with His pure, loving motives will be concerned about your case.
If the prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:18), how do you define “avail”? If it means get the answer you want , then if your healing doesn’t come, you simply aren’t in the category of the righteous. If, however, it means it pays off, then your case, if healing doesn’t come, may simply be that of the Apostle Paul. That poor fellow begged God three times in some of the most intense prayer for his healing, but it did not come. For him, he got no less of his suffering or disability, but he got more of His Lord. His healing never came, and as the Lord designed his case, it meant his prayer availed in victory. The apparent failure of his prayer in disability was actually the success of a very able spiritual life and service.
That explodes the theory before us. Would you not agree that Paul is one of the greatest Christians ever? Take another Bible character, Hezekiah. He prayed and was delivered from death to 15 years of good life. I love that story. That is how able my God is! But does that mean Paul is inferior to Hezekiah? They both prayed passionately, yet one was healed and one was not. Could we be overlooking one key concept in all of this?
What about the plan and purpose of God? If He is all-knowing (and we are not!), and full of the truest love, could He see what we can’t? Could He know why it was best all around for Hezekiah to be healed and for Paul to not be? Can you not imagine both Hezekiah and Paul praising His name around His throne right now? Did He not work it too to where they both glorified His name and served Him better? And it was better for us all.
I believe this theory almost completely leaves the Lord out of it. It is up to us to get it done in prayer and faith? Is He that passive in our lives? Even worse, if healing comes, who will get the glory? Often we are more impressed with the great prayers than the Great God Who hears our prayers!
So Now I Give You 3 Recommendations:
1. To Christians
Pray! Pour out your heart to your listening and caring God if you find yourself in need of healing. Walk with Him till you can hear His voice whether He says He will heal you or that like Paul He has another plan. He wants you in “the fellowship of suffering” and He wants to show off His grace in you by proving in a cynical, dying world that His strength is made perfect in weakness and that it makes all the difference.
2. To Pastors and Influential Christians
Measure your words carefully. What you offer as help may be throwing the weight of the world on one already so heavily loaded down. Make sure your statements are truly theologically correct too. To say that God always heals those for pray in faith enough, though it may give some momentary cheer early on, is but an emotional and spiritual time bomb that will later blow up and wreak havoc all around.
3. To Those Whose Healing Has Not Come
Don’t judge yourself by the words of other’s questionable theology, but by the actual words of God. The Lord has a mighty plan for you. Stay close to The Lord. If you take hold of His grace in your suffering you may find that we able-bodied ones, including the ones who make you feel spiritually inferior, may have to tip our hats to you when the rewards in Heaven are passed out. You may be about to soar spiritually if you but respond in faith. Forgive the personal word, but my dear wife whose healing did not come is twice the woman of faith than she was before. Just remember, the Lord knows the rest of us so desperately need you. Hold your head up high!
Link to my wife’s post mentioned above: