Is it Always God’s Will to Heal? – Tough Questions about Prayer
Over the years, people have asked me the question, “Is it always God’s will to Heal people?”
Many people know, I’m always sharing miracle stories from the pulpit at Substance. We rarely go more than a month without hearing another crazy story of what God is doing within our church community. Yet, it also begs the question: “Why not me?” Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers? Why doesn’t God always give instantaneous healing?
To answer this, I’ve been doing several messages on the topic — as the Scriptures have a lot to say about this. But if you’re newer to the topic, it’s important you understand a few principles about healing that are found the Bible.
- The Majority of Christ’s ministry was focused on healing people. The multitudes knew him more as a miracle-worker than a teacher. (Eg). Mt. 4:23-25; Mt. 8:1-34;
- Christ commissioned his followers to heal people: (Eg). Mt. 10:8; Mk.16:18; Jn 14:11-13
- The early church is replete with the belief & practice of praying for the sick.
- The doctrine of “Cessationism” (the idea that “miracles have ceased”) is a relatively modern and western theology – one that is not Biblical nor sustainable using good hermeneutics.
EXAMPLES OF HEALING PROMISES:
“I am the Lord who Heals you” (Exod. 15:26)
“Do not forget God’s benefits… who heals all your diseases” (Psm 103:2-3)
“Because of Christ’s wounds we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24)
If the Holy Spirit is living in us, God will “bring life to our mortal bodies” (Rom. 8:11).
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO DON’T RECEIVE HEALING RIGHT AWAY?
God’s Word essentially teaches: Healing is always God’s will; but “instantaneous Healing” is not always God’s Will. I.e., God’s word clearly calls us to trust him for physical healing; but, this doesn’t mean we’ll always get it immediately and on our terms. Sometimes God is pulling us into a “process of healing” in which he draws us closer to himself, and brings about a greater good. There are dozens of Bible examples where people waited even 20 years (Rom 4:18-21). Even Jesus had to repeat prayers (Jn 8:25)! Thus, Jesus emphatically said: “always pray and never give up!” (Lk 18:1).
BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO DIE WITHOUT HEALING? Does this imply that healing “isn’t God’s will”? No.
Heb.9:27 teaches that “man is destined to die…” Death is a part of God’s will. Even Lazerus (whom Christ raised from the dead) eventually died again. Thus, the goal of “healing” should never be “fear of death.” And for the Christian, death is the ultimate form of healing (Rev.21:4). It is ironically something to look forward towards!
If we struggle with that idea, it’s a sign that we haven’t fully grasped a Biblical worldview yet. It indicates that (A). We haven’t truly “set our minds on things above” (Col 3:1-3); (B). We are still driving our lives with an inferior form of joy (Heb. 12:2); and (C). We aren’t truly living our lives in light of eternity, which is foundational to a healthy faith.
In the meantime, God’s word seems clear that: If we have to trust him for healing until day we die then so-be-it. However, death, or a lack of immediate healing, doesn’t negate the Bible’s call for us to trust God for healing. We must not assume that trials and tribulations are a sign that “healing isn’t a kingdom value anymore.” Nor should we falsely conclude “healing isn’t God’s heart” simply because we lack an instant response to our prayers (Lk 18:1).
Even Christ himself had to pray multiple times for people to be healed!
In Mk 8:22-25, it says about Christ: “22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” [In other words, kinda… but not really!] 25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
So let me ask you a question: Was Christ’s 1st prayer not good enough? Of course not. But, sometimes it takes more than one faith action to experience healing.
Someone once told me: “You should only pray once…After that, simply thank God. Because, if you have to pray again, it shows that you didn’t pray in faith.”
Now, I understand the sentiment behind my well-meaning friend. He was essentially saying something similar to Jesus in Mt. 6 when he said: “do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Mt. 6:7). And yes, I do believe that we need to exercise true faith when we pray. But I also believe that we should keep coming to God with our requests (Luke 18:1). And if I need to pray for healing 1000 times before I get healed on 1001, then so be it. But don’t tell me my first prayer “Wasn’t in faith.”
This logic is similar to that of his disciples in John 9:1-3. Christ’s disciples assumed that a man was blind because of sin (or because he had never prayed “with faith”). Yet, Christ essentially told them: “You’re making assumptions that simply aren’t true.” In the end, “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” And then Boom: Christ healed him!
You see, sometimes the timing of our healing was all about a greater good – a greater “display.” God was orchestrating a set of circumstances that would point more hearts towards heaven. So, let’s not overanalyze this and miss the point: God’s Got Us! His kingdom value is always to heal. But if his plan requires a bit more faith out of us, then it’s always going to be a plan that it fully worth it!
So what are you trusting God for today?
Let’s recommit that area to him right now: “Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that all of our delays are temporary. You will never waste our pain. And we trust that your plan is good no matter how things currently look. We ask for healing and deliverance no matter what the timeline. In Jesus’ name, amen!”
Peter Haas is the Lead Pastor of Substance Church – an international multisite church based in Minneapolis. Peter is also a dj-turntablist who produces & tours with Substance Variant. He writes comedy books on spirituality: “Pharisectomy: How to Remove Your Inner Pharisee and Other Religiously Transmitted Diseases” (2012) and Broken Escalators (2015). See www.SubstanceChurch.com – @peterhaas1 (twitter & instagram)