“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” – James 5:13-16.
The book of James, which was written by James, Jesus’ half brother, contains a lot of teaching about prayer. In James 4:2, James says that one of the reasons we don’t receive what we desire is we don’t pray. In other parts of his letter, he tells us: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5) If we are suffering we should pray (5:13) and if we are sick, we should call for the elders to anoint us with oil and pray for us (5:14) In other words: If there’s something you want from God – you should pray, or have others pray for you.
We live in a fallen world. Disease and death entered the world after Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Our bodies endure sickness, pain, and decay. We don’t always know why we suffer from ailments and disease nor does God promise that we will understand why. That is not to say that healing cannot occur. God is the great physician. The Gospels overflow with stories of Jesus healing every kind of bodily affliction. God still works to heal people in ways that defy medical knowledge. The Bible tells us to pray for whatever we need, and that surely includes freedom from pain.
But healing does not always occur, even to the most loving, God-centered people. Why not? We don’t know. The Bible has a lot to say on the subject: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1:2 ESV) Matthew 9:35 says, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” Psalm 103:2-3 adds, “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
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Exodus 15:26 says, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”
DL Moody, in his book Prevailing Prayer, quoted Bishop Joseph Hall, saying, “It is not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they be; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet our voice may be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be; nor even the theology of our prayers, how good the doctrine may be – which God cares for. Fervency of spirit is that which avails much.”
- Have you experienced or know someone who has experienced miraculous healing? What was your reaction?
- Does the fact that God doesn’t heal everybody make Him unloving in your mind?
- What can we do this week to make prayer a bigger part of our daily life?