Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On Healing

I recently prayed—along with a number of others—for the healing of a friend. During our time of prayer, I noticed that most of us seemed to pray preemptively, as though preparing ourselves for the “No” answer. Things such “but not what we want, Lord,” and “but most importantly, be glorified in all of this,” and “even if you choose not to heal . . .” etc. And I began to wonder how much of this prayerful submission to God’s will is perhaps also a form of self-protection—an insulation from the disappointment that would come to us if God chose not to answer our request for healing.

And it also strikes me that when we pray for someone who is struggling with some sort of sin, we don’t ever—at least I don’t—hedge my prayers with a “but not as I will” kind of buffer. Imagine praying for an addict with “Oh Lord, please deliver so and so from this addiction. But Lord, not as we desire, but as you will.” We assume to know God’s will with the addict—why not with those who are sick? If it is not presumption to pray for victory over sin without the “not my will but your will be done” appendix, then perhaps it is not presumption to pray for healing without it as well. Indeed, the Messianic ministry, along with the Apostolic testimony, point to healing as a sign of the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. Miraculous healing, though perhaps unusual to much of our evangelical North American context, was not unusual to first-century Christianity.

Peter H. David’s comments are a good reminder. He Writes,
The ambiguity of our situation “between the ages” is such that not everyone the church prays for is healed of his or her disease. But this is an ambiguity that makes one realize that he is dealing with a mystery, with a living and willing and sovereign God. And with a situation in which sin, demonic beings, other spiritual and psychological factors, as well as complex physical factors play a part. It must not alter the basic approach to illness . . . nor make us forget that it is not the fact that some people are healed that should give us difficulty exegetically but the fact that some are not (The First Epistle of Peter, Eerdman’s, 40).
So though I am leery of the presumption that often accompanies many expressions of healing in the church today, I wonder if perhaps those of us in my tradition have presumed too readily in the other direction.

And a final footnote: “Thy will be done,” when used in Scripture (with the exception of James 4:13-15), does not seem to me to be a resignation to an unknown divine outcome, but rather a request for, or a resignation to, God’s revealed and known will. When Christ prayed, “thy will be done,” it was not resignation to an unknown future, but rather resignation to the cross. He knew what God’s will was for his life.


David M said...

My uncle who travels much made an interesting observation about this. He asked if I had heard much of the resurrections happening in Africa in particular. I said, "No." What struck him as he told me of these stories was that people would pray *for days* before people were healed/resurrected.

I find your post an increase in the same discomfort I felt when my uncle challenged my thinking. I fear I am ashamed of how I have given God my "ideal", my rationalization, and then left the situation altogether.

What does this say about how I view prayer as it pertains to my relation/position to God? my relation to others? my laziness of "Thy will be done . . . because, candidly God, I don't have time for this - I'm sure you do but I don't!"

I am grateful for your post - it pushes me differently.


Gerald said...

Thanks David! It pushes me as well, and I'm not sure yet where I'll end up.

Melissa said...

Like you, I have been finding myself continually praying over the situations. But God is absolutely amazing and great changes have already occured in their lives. I have seen things within the response of the body that can only be described as God's work. His love is being poured out on them in so many ways.

On another note, I might actually be in Chicago the third week of August. If all of the dates work out with work/school, I will be going with a fellow youth leader to drop off her daughter for her freshman year at Moody. I just thought I'd give you a heads up. Say hi to Jill for me. I miss you guys!