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When we started in ministry some forty years ago, we used to pray for the sick "Lord heal this person. If it be thy will." Then we would cover ourselves by adding "If it be not thy will, please do not make the funeral too expensive..." If the sick person died, it was "the will of God." If the person recovered, it was "the will of God." We covered all our bases!!
The trouble was, that I could not find this kind of prayer in the bible!
This kind of prayer required very little faith and the Lord Jesus seemed to heal by word of prophetic command rather than by this method. For instance, the Lord would say to the sick, "Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way"(Mark 10:52).
One night in Newry, Northern Ireland, I was faced with a crisis. Violent men came into the meeting, intent on doing mischief. There was a little girl there, who suffered from loss of sight, and she wanted God to do a miracle in her life. I knew that if I did not get an instant miracle, I would be in serious trouble. One of our team, a pig farmer, suddenly found divine oil appear on his hands. He felt the power of God was present to heal, so he boldly went up to the girl and commanded her to be made well "in the Name of Jesus." God healed her instantly. This immediate miracle led not only to our deliverance from violence, but caused one hundred and twenty people to find salvation in Christ!
This experience forced me to come to this important conclusion: Jesus healed the sick, rather than just pray for them! Jesus did it by prophetic revelation, depending on the Father to show Him what to do. The word spoken in God's power, not only showed a state of affairs, but could also produce creative results.
For instance He only covered one of the three thousand waiting to be healed at the Pool of Siloam. When asked why He did this, he explained it in terms of His dependence on prophetic vision. John 5:19 says, "Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."
Immediately however, I was faced with another problem. People in many churches were being taught that they should not seek God's supernatural healing. This was because they believed illness to be "God's chastening." I pondered this problem and I had a surprising observation about the people who held to this theology. They were told not pray and seek God for healing, but at the same time, they were advised to call the doctor to make them better! They did not seem aware of the apparent conflict built into this. How could the sick be told to go to a doctor instead of God when the sickness was deemed to be God's chastening? How did the sick know that they were not fighting God in seeking a doctor? Why shouldn't they pray for God to give them more sickness since they valued it as God's touch on their lives?
I decided to study what the bible taught about God's will in healing, since prophecy and divine healing must operate under the guidance of the Scripture. I believe that better understanding of the bible gives us a real basis for the prayer of faith that can heal the sick (James 5:15). Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." That is why I turned to God's word to see what He had to say on this subject. And the word of God was very clear on it. Both the Old and New Testaments made it clear that God is a healing God.
The Old Testament Shows God As A Healer
In the Old Testament I found there is a definite promise to those trusting God. Psalms 91:10 states, "There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." The late Rees Howells proved this in Africa during the 1918 flu plague, when everybody in his compound under the protection of God, was safe from the flu epidemic. But at the same time, the heathen were dying like flies all around.
I also noticed that health, and not sickness, is normal for those who seek God. Those who are actively seeking God and chastening themselves by fasting were promised health, not sickness. Isa. 58:8 says, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward."
In fact it was part of God's nature to heal and forgive those that obeyed Him, not to make them sick. This seemed to be conclusive proof that God wanted His people to be healed! Psalms 103:2-3 tells us, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases."
Furthermore, when His people were sick in the Old Testament, they seemed to pray with evident expectation of healing from God. I found this to be true, even in those prophets who were open to depression, like Jeremiah: "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise" (Jer. 17:14).
Not only that -- God promised healing for the whole nation of Israel, when they had been delivered from Egypt, as long as they obeyed Him! This was done on the basis of God's name and nature as a healer! We see this in Exodus 15:26, "And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee."
My mother read this promise, when my brother was in the hospital due to have brain surgery for hydrocephalus. That caused her to immediately sign him out of the hospital instead of letting him go through surgery, because she believed God spoke to her to do so. Two men died subsequently in that hospital under the same operation. But my bother was healed by the power of God! In fact, he has recently retired from teaching Art in Canada. This healing has lasted over forty years!!
Health and healing are a covenant promise which God has no intention of breaking. The bible clearly sets this out for all people obeying God who come under the blessings which He promised to King David and his descendants. Psalms 89:33, "Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." And Psalms 89:34 promises, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips."
If this was true under the old covenant (Old Testament) how much more under the new covenant (New Testament) which has better promises (Hebrews 8:6)? In fact, even in the Old Testament, God healed many like Naaman, who were by not even in any sort of covenant relationship to Him. We see Naaman's story starting in 2 Kings 5:1-2, "Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife."
I noticed in this story the positive attitude of the little maid that had been hurt and captured by Naaman. I also saw her great statement of faith in God's prophet, when nobody in Israel had actually been healed of this disease (Luke 4:27) according to the comment of the Lord Jesus himself on this incident. One individual child of God may, even then have tied prophetic healing therefore, to attitudes of forgiveness and faith!
Some Bible Scholars Have Objections To Healing
After seeing these things however, I was immediately challenged by some bible teachers, that some Old Testament teaching did not fit this picture. Let me share two of them with you.
WHAT ABOUT JOB?
They suggested that God had made Job sick, in order to chasten him and do a spiritual work in his life. When I read the bible more carefully, however, I came up with some amazing conclusions:
First, Job's sickness was the work of the devil, not the work of God. We see this in Job 2:6, "And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life." In other words, God allowed his sickness, but it was instigated by the Devil, who accused Job of only serving God for what he got out from Him. God, who knew Job better than Satan, allowed this test to reveal what was already in Job's heart, not to change his character! Those believers who only serve God for what they get out of Him will not respond to these difficult tests in the positive way that Job did!
Second, Job's sickness is called "a captivity" in Job 42:10: "And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends; also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before."
Notice that sickness is not called "a blessing" even under the Old Testament! In fact, the main blessings for the Nation of Israel were quite the opposite. Israel's salvation and deliverance included deliverance not only from Egypt, but also from all sickness and feebleness among the tribes. Psalms 105:37 tells us, "He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes."
This would seem to mean that not only did God deliver and heal the Nation, but that He was able to keep them healthy! In the case of Job, he died an old and healthy man (Job 42:17)! The Epistle of James exhorts us to hang on to this most important fact (James 5:11).
WHY DOES GOD WOUND AS WELL AS HEAL?
To be fair, however, the Old Testament talks of God "wounding" as well as healing (Deut. 32:39). Here we need a careful balance of what the bible teaches: wounding is from disobedience and going after other gods. For instance, Deut. 32:37-38 says, "And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up and help you, and be your protection."
Sickness can come in where sin has taken place. The bible teaches that God is ultimately responsible for everything. Even the Devil can only do what God permits! Some people teach that "God is good" and the "devil is bad." This may be accurate ... but it also leaves room for a thought that both are equal as well as opposite. This I have seen as a danger over the last forty years of global ministry, because many people are left with "two gods" instead of One! Be careful of the dichotomy of good God and bad devil equal in power. God can use the devil to make people sick but He is still on the throne of Heaven!