In the last weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the healing ministry of Christ. I’ve been thinking about the things Christ did and said about sickness, disease and healing. I’ve also thinking about how I, as a disciple of Christ, should pray for those who are sick. Here are some things I’ve been learning.
1. Jesus healed many people of many illnesses
“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:23-24, ESV)
“And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:22-23, ESV)
Jesus never encountered a sickness or disease he could not heal. He demonstrated power over every disease he faced and even once corrected a man who indirectly questioned His power (Mark 9:22-23).
**We should pray, believing that Jesus has the power to heal every sickness and disease.
2. Jesus healed with compassion and love
Jesus never ministered to the sick and left them unhealed. I think many mistakenly believe Jesus doesn’t heal anymore. I do not see this in the Bible. Everyone who came to Jesus for healing was healed and the disciples continued to heal as a part of their ministries.
“And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well” (Matthew 14:34-36, ESV).
Jesus healing ministry demonstrated his great love and compassion for the people (Matthew 14:14; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 9:22; Luke 7:13-5). He literally healed all who were sick. Jesus’ love and compassion for people is unchanged from those times. Some believe that he healed for fame, but several times (Mark 5:43) Jesus commanded people not to tell others how they were healed.
In the same way, I believe Jesus still loves those who are sick and desires to meet their needs in the same, compassionate way.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases“ (Psalm 103:2-3, ESV).
**We should pray, believing that Jesus is compassionate and loving toward those who suffer with sickness and disease.
3. The will of God
Jesus never described sickness as God’s will or made anyone sick. Healing and health are always portrayed in Scripture as the blessing of God, not disease and sickness. Jesus even once “rebuked” illness (Luke 4:39). Jesus considered illness an enemy. He never told his followers to expect sickness or disease as part of their calling in life or ministry, as some type of cross to carry. He promised persecution, slander, and eventual martyrdom for his followers, but never disease and sickness.
**We should pray for and with a proper understanding of God’s will as it relates to sickness and disease.
4. Praying vs. commanding
When we look closely at the particular healings of Jesus, he never prayed for healing, He always commanded it. Jesus commanded the dead to rise (Mark 5:41-42; Luke 7:14-15; John 11:43-44), the lame to get up (John 5:8-9; Mark 2:11), the man with the shriveled hand to stretch it out (Matthew 12:9-13), the ears of the deaf mute to be opened (Mark 7:31-35), and the leper to be cleansed (Matthew 8:1-3). Peter uses this same method. When Peter and John came upon a lame man begging at the temple, he said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6, ESV)
Again, remember there is no beatitude which says, “Blessed are the sick.” They may be blessed, but sickness is never considered a blessing. Acts describes Jesus as “doing good” and “healing” (Acts 10:38). If healing is a good work, then leaving people in their sickness would have been a bad work. Therefore, sicknesses and diseases are evils to resist and overcome.
**We should pray with the authority of Jesus, commanding sickness, disease, and unclean spirits to leave in Jesus’ name.
5. The gift of healing
Paul teaches the believers about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Several times he includes gifts of healing in his list. All these gifts are given by the Holy Spirit for the edification of other believers. It seems an odd thing to write to the Corinthians if healing was only a gift for the apostles (as some believe). Most of the Corinthian believers Paul was writing to were not apostles and we must understand 1 Corinthians 12-14 as a message specifically for them.
**We should ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of healing, so we can extend the compassion and healing of Christ to those who are sick.
6. The importance of faith
Jesus’ healings were subject to people’s faith. A lack of faith often hindered Christ’s mighty works.
“And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6, ESV)
“And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58, ESV)
In the same way, if we don’t believe Jesus can or wants to heal, we should expect a similar result. I fear many believers have hearts of unbelief similar to those who lived in these towns.
**We should pray for greater faith in Jesus and we should base our faith on truth from the Word of God.
7. Some sickness is caused by the devil
“So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them” (Matthew 4:24, ESV).
“Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’ And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God” (Luke 13:10-13, ESV).
“…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38, ESV).
Deliverance from unclean spirits was often a necessary part of physical healing. Sometimes our prayers for healing should include praying against the work and influence of demonic, unclean spirits in our lives.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, ESV)
**We should pray against the works of the devil, claiming the promise that if we resist him, he will flee from us.
8. Some sickness is caused by sin
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14, ESV).
“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. And 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 prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:14-16, ESV).
With some sickness and disease, confession of sin and prayer for forgiveness must accompany healing. James instructed believers to call on church leaders to offer prayers of faith for the sick. If we do get sick, we shouldn’t assume it was necessary caused by sin and we shouldn’t assume it wasn’t. We should confess and repent from our sins and look to Christ for forgiveness and healing.
I agree with John MacArthur, “When you get sick, do two things: pray for healing and go to a doctor.” Many times we assume all sickness has a natural cause that doctors can solve with natural medicines. The Bible often describes sickness in terms of the spiritual and so we should look for relief from sickness in both the physical and the spiritual.
**We should confess and repent of our sins and ask other spiritually mature people to pray for us in the pattern of James 5:14-16.
9. The laying on of hands
“Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40, ESV).
“He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him” (Matthew 8:15, ESV).
Jesus often healed by laying his hands on people. Many don’t think this a significant part of praying for the sick, but it was important enough to be included in the gospels. There are dozens of examples of Jesus physically touching people to make them well. The early church embraced this to and would lay hands on people to heal them and give them the Holy Spirit.
**We should lay hands on and pray for all who come to us and are sick, striving to be like Jesus in everything we say and do.
It is a mystery why God heals some and not others, but I do believe we can sabotage God’s healing work by assuming He doesn’t heal anymore. I think if we’d began to pray more for healing, we’d see more people getting healed. Our relationship with God is never mechanical, as if we just have to say it the right way or do it the right way. Rather, we make our requests to an all-powerful and compassionate God and leave the outcomes to Him.
Sam Storms says it well, “We must leave room for mystery in God’s ways. Some things will always remain unexplained. Why God does or does not choose to heal is ultimately subject to his wisdom and sovereign purposes. Why God chooses to heal in part or in whole, now or later, this person but not that one, is often beyond our capacity to understand. Resist the tendency to replace divine mystery with human formulas.”