Should we pray for healing? If so, are there any guidelines given in Scripture to help us pray for it more effectively? Where does faith come in? And what about traditional medical resources? Over the next six weeks, we’ll consider how the Bible guides our answers to these challenging questions, and how we should apply its truth to our own unique encounters with physical suffering.
When your body feels miserable, your spirit will respond by feeling miserable with discouragement, despondency, or doubt.
While we certainly suffer afflictions stemming from purely physical causes, God has created our bodies and spirits to be so intricately conjoined that what affects us in one area affects us in another. For example, consider catching the flu. When all you can do is sleep on the sofa, when you can barely eat for lack of appetite or inability to keep anything down, it will most definitely affect your spiritual and mental capacities.
Since we are spiritual beings first and foremost — as James 2:26 states, “the body without the spirit is dead” — we must focus on the spiritual before paying heed to the physical. [Note: this is not referring to emergency or life-and-death situations.]
Thus, when faced with physical suffering, our first response must be to go to God through prayer and His Word.
Consider your closest earthly friend, whether it be your spouse or some other person. If you were to only read about that friend, never talking together or listening in person, how well would you really know each other? It’s the same in our relationship with God.
Prayer is a crucial part of truly knowing God, and a major theme throughout His Word. We are instructed to be in constant communication with our Heavenly Father, to literally “pray without ceasing.” This is what prayer is: communication at its fullest! In fact, the original Hebrew and Greek languages which were used throughout the Old and New Testaments offer many synonyms for praying which imply this fullness of communication —
- worshiping earnestly
- desiring greatly
- pleading for mercy
- groaning or sighing
Praying to God is not merely speaking words with our lips; it requires the involvement of our entire being. How can we possibly worship earnestly, plead for mercy, or pray with groaning and sighing unless our very heart and soul are involved? It is not simply a friendly chat, but a heart expression of total faith in the One who is sovereign over all. It is communion on the most intimate level!
Furthermore, we have been commanded to ask, seek, and knock with this sort of total heart-and-soul involvement. Peter instructs us to cast all our concerns and troubles before God, and Paul declares, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Those commands leave little room for doubt: we are to pray in every circumstance.
More specifically, we are commanded to pray in times of suffering. The Lord instructs us to call upon Him in the day of trouble. Also, in the context of explaining Christ’s role as our High Priest, Hebrews directs us to confidently “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
We see this practice of “drawing near” throughout the Scriptures. Nehemiah responded to difficulty after difficulty by praying to God for help, and experienced clear direction and deliverance that could only have come from God’s hand. In 2 Kings 20, we see the example of Hezekiah, who begged God for healing. He was granted an extra fifteen years of life as a result of his prayer. Scripture also records John praying for his brother in Christ, Gaius, to enjoy good health.
For instance, in times of war we pray for peace, and in times of drought we pray for rain. Thus, it follows that in times of sickness, we ought to pray for healing.
However, it is not enough just to utter words asking God to heal. Our prayers in general, and particularly our prayers for healing, must be made according to the standards set forth in His Word! Next week, we’ll look at eight principles of prayer laid out in Scripture, specifically as it relates to praying for healing.
Note: this post has been adapted from my book, Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering. Want to learn more? Visit the website to learn more about the book, download the free study guide, and find related reading recommendations. Or buy your own copy of the book here!