Here is a just a small sample of the prayer requests we may receive in the church on a monthly, weekly, even daily basis in some instances.
“Thank you for your prayers for 19-year-old Sarah. Since being struck by a car, she has been through three surgeries. The healing process is going well, and Sarah thanks you very much for your prayers. It is always very encouraging to see God’s intervention.”
“Your prayers are requested for Elsie. After some testing, Elsie was informed that she has cancer. Elsie is 80 years of age and has asked for prayers on her behalf that God’s will in her life be done.”
“Prayers are requested for Betty. After much medical testing, Betty’s doctor recently informed her that she has Alzheimer’s. Please pray that God’s will be done in this situation.”
Many of you may be sick, recovering from surgeries, having tests performed to find out what is wrong or dealing with chronic pain and discomforts. Some ailments seem small, such as ringing ears or some other annoyance; others may be more severe, with chronic pain in the bones or life-threatening disease. Things like cancer treatment recovery and even the pain of a severe sprain can go on for a long time. Enduring physical ailments seems the norm in the 21st century. Everyone wants to be healed. Everyone wants his or her pain removed. Everyone wants to be restored to his or her once vibrant 16-year-old body.
Do we know what our responsibilities are in the healing process? There are things we need to do! What expectations should we have of ourselves and God when it comes to healing?
Whether we are sick or not, we do have a responsibility in the healing process. We must first recognize that when we are sick we need help—we cannot do it alone. We too often try to push through the pain, but healing comes through God. We need His help. With chronic or severe illness, we need God more then ever! God is the source of our healing. God created our bodies and knows how they work. Doctors can move things around and work on us, but even they don’t know what all our body parts do. But God does. While it is not wrong to seek medical help, we need to understand that the doctors are only helpers—not healers.
David records an insightful concept regarding God as our ultimate healer. “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:1-3).
God not only has the power to heal us physically; more importantly, He can forgive our spiritual shortfalls—our transgressions of His law. Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice, we can have access to the ultimate healing through a relationship with our Heavenly Father.
After you recognize that you need help…then what?
Once we recognize and acknowledge the need for God to be foremost in our life, we are to call upon the elders of the Church for anointing. James asks “Is any 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” (James 5:14)
It’s humbling to realize we need help, and so the instruction is to call upon the elders of the Church. The word elders in this verse is not a reference to the quantity of elders present, but rather to the office or position of an elder. We shouldn’t seek out as many elders as we can find in hopes that God would hear the prayer based on the number of ministers praying over you.
James further instructs the elders to use oil when anointing. Oil is symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit, the means by which God lives in us. Asking to be anointed is a demonstration of our faith in God. We mustn’t think that our ailment is too small. In essence, we would be saying we don’t want to bother God and Jesus Christ with our health issue, and therefore also saying that we have no need for God in this aspect of our life.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…casting all your care [distractions, anxiety, worries] upon Him, for He cares [shows interest or concern] for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
We tend to worry over our ailments when we should be placing them on God. Turning our anxieties and worries over to Him allows us to be free of it so you can focus on others (1 John 4:7). God has interest and concern for us and wants to take those worries off our minds.
Healing occurs in God’s time
“Mr. Smalley died the morning of Nov. 1. He rallied some on Friday, and it appeared that he might survive this recent heart attack. But instead he got much worse, and God has given him rest from his many physical ailments. Mr. Smalley had stated that his health issues for the past several years helped him to focus on the Kingdom of God.”
It is important to remember that healing will occur in God’s time. If He chooses not to heal us now, then we will be made whole when Christ rules this earth (Ezekiel 37:1-14). There is no need to ask for anointing repeatedly for the same situation—implying that maybe He didn’t hear the first prayer. However, if conditions change or there is a new attack of the illness or if a great deal of time has elapsed, sometimes it is appropriate to get anointed again.
God’s timing is perfect—which is difficult for humans to comprehend. We sometimes feel that we need to be healed NOW so we can keep on serving our brethren—certainly a worthy reason! But perhaps God’s will is best served with you in the condition that you’re in. This is a hard, but necessary realization to come to. God will absolutely heal you—but according to His will and in His perfect timing, not ours.
God can choose to heal us immediately. Or the healing can be some time period later. Paul no doubt anointed one of the disciples, Trophimus (whom he referred to as sick in 2 Timothy 4:20), but ended up having to leave him behind because of his disease. This is yet another reminder that God performs healing—Paul was an incredibly righteous man and one whom God used miraculously to do His work, yet his friend was left unhealed at least at that time.
“Mrs. Schultz has recently undergone treatments for intestinal cancer. The Schultz family appreciates the many kind expressions of support they have received. It has been very encouraging for them to know that they are not alone in this trial.”
We should not be alone in our trials. We are in this together. In Ephesians 6:18 we read that we should be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Godly love is about deliberately applying concern for others—something we must not forget. You may or may not be healthy, but everyone has a responsibility to show deliberately applied concern (godly love) for others. In the case of sicknesses, practicing godly love is the responsibility of all of us.
There is an interesting event that occurred in Jerusalem. During the time of Christ, there was a healing pool. Occasionally the water in this pool would roil or in some way be disturbed. Though not explained in Scripture, God evidently had given power to an angel to stir the water of this pool. The first person to step into the pool after the stirring of the water would be completely healed. We read in John 5:7 the response that a particular man gave to Jesus when he was asked if he wanted to be healed. “The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming another steps down before me.’”
No one was there to help him into the pool. Think about how frustrated this man was! The water was stirred, but due to his sickness, he was not fast enough to be the first in the water. This man needed help.
Another example of this is in the second chapter of Mark, which begins with Jesus preaching inside a house. The house was so packed with people that people couldn’t even get near the door. The determination of a certain paralytic and his four friends should encourage us to remember that we all have a part to play in the healing process. In verse 4 Mark writes: “And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” The friends did not literally tear down the roof. Some houses had tile roofs, so they may have merely removed some tiles temporarily. And some houses at this time had a courtyard roof with a railing. Sometimes on the railing was a tarp, which provided protection from the weather and sun. So they may have just removed the tarp.
This paralytic could not have gained the presence of Jesus Christ without the faith of his friends. We, too, can help. Pray for others and do what you can to help them—it gets your mind off yourself. (Matthew 25:34-40).
The most important healing
Keep in mind the most important healing, which is the healing of the mind and the turning away from our “old nature” and looking to God as our source of life. Sure, it would be great if large numbers of physical healings took place today. But God is interested in our recognizing the sin in our life and the effort we produce to overcome those sins. That is a miraculous healing that is occurring today!