GOD WANTS TO HEAL!
As Pentecostal - Charismatic people, we believe in God’s ability to heal, and that healing is something that the Lord does today. However, the problem is not that we believe God can heal, nor that we believe God does heal, our problem often is that we struggle with the question, “Does God want to heal?” and specifically, “Does God want to heal me?”. Obviously, these questions may dramatically affect our faith, and consequently our reception of healing. Therefore it is important for us to not only know that God can and does heal, but that He also wants to heal! One reason God wants to heal is simply to honour His own promise to heal. Yes, God has specifically promised that He will heal.
Perhaps the question ought rather to be, “If God doesn’t want to heal us, why did He give instructions on how to receive healing?” James 5:14-18 is the most extensive teaching on both the principles and procedures for receiving and administering healing.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” - Jas. 5:14-18
God so expects healing to be a normal part of the life of the Church that He has given instructions on how to administer it! Unfortunately, many Bible-believing churches hardly know that this passage of scripture exists, and if they do, they merely gloss over it.
The procedure given in James is as follows:
- Is anyone among you sick? The call from God is presented. The directions and commands of God are forthcoming. The Lord will now present the plan He has for those who are sick. The call is to ‘anyone among you’ who is sick – not favoured Christians; not those with cancer only; not those with non-terminal illness; not those whom we know would recover anyway – it is to anyone among you!
- Let him call for the elders of the church. Whenever we are sick, we need to follow this procedure. It isn’t a ritual. It is the necessary direction to receive healing from the Lord. This is the only thing a sick person needs to do. This, in itself, is an act of faith. But, what faith is involved? It may mean that they believe the prayer of the elders will bring healing. The individual’s faith may be that confident. But sometimes our faith is extremely weak, due to the oppression of the illness. But, all that is needed is faith that God’s Word is true, and that one ought to obey it – call for the elders!
- And let them pray over him. Usually, this will entail the laying on of hands which is a divinely ordained method of praying for the sick. Although it is not specifically mentioned here, we know that this was a practice of the early Church, and one we are to continue. Consider: Mark 16:18; Acts 5:12; Acts 19:11.
It’s not that these men could heal of themselves, for only God can heal, but the Lord flows through human hands. God has also gifted some with healing, but not all (1 Corinthians 12:9).
This doesn’t mean that the Lord only uses some in healing, for we are all exhorted to covet the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31), and in the case of someone who is sick, the best gift is probably healing! The laying on of hands becomes a focal point of contact, both to administer and receive the flow of healing virtue from God (see Mark 5:30).
- Anointing him with oil. The Holy Spirit is the One who anoints us (1 John 2:27), and, anointing with oil is a symbolic gesture of the application of the Holy Spirit to a person’s life (cf., Exodus 29:7). This, like water baptism and communion, becomes a point of reference upon which a person may base his faith. See Mark 6:13.
Faith is not placed in the oil itself, but the belief that the Holy Spirit will honour this symbolic act by responding and healing. An Old Testament example to illustrate this is in the anointing of David to be king over Israel. The moment Samuel anointed David with oil, the Holy Spirit came upon him, and at the same time the Holy Spirit left king Saul (1 Samuel 16:13-14).
Many oils were used as healing balms and salves, and so one might think that this refers to such ointments. Similarly, some point to massage therapy as ‘healing hands.’ These must never be confused with Divine Healing, for God is the source of healing, and it is completely supernatural! The many healings in the Word of God certainly witness to the distinction. In addition, an increasingly popular means of healing called ‘Reiki’ is not of God and actually has Taoist and Buddhist roots.
- In the Name of the Lord. This is a large topic in itself. The Lord has given us the authority of His Name, as in the power of attorney so to speak. This is not quite a blank cheque, as some say, for the principle of attorneyship involves choosing someone who will act on our behalf, and according to our wishes. Such person is our representative. Thus, to use God’s Name, we must think, live, and feel like He does – live the fruit of the Spirit! For only then is it acting in His stead. In the context of healing then, we must be assured that healing is God’s will if we want to exercise this power of attorney and so heal the sick.
When the lame man was healed, in Acts 3-4, the question was asked, “By what power, or by what name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7). Peter twice stated that it was the Name of Jesus (3:16; 4:10). We mustn’t underestimate the Name of Jesus invoked with anointed authority! Nor ought we ignore the effects of the misuse of this Name by those without authority (Acts 19:13).
It is significant that a compound name of Jehovah is Jehovah-rapha, which means ‘The Lord (my healer) heals’ (Ex. 15:26).
- And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. Faith obviously is important, but the key is to note that God promises to respond by restoring the sick, and raising them up. Consider this, how can we pray the prayer of faith if we don’t have confidence that God is willing to heal? How can we pray in faith if we think that healing is not for today? How can we pray in faith if we don’t think He wants to heal us? Why would the Lord tell us to ask Him for something that is against His will? But it is His will to heal! Amen!
Realize that the prayer of faith being offered up is not the sick person’s faith but the elder’s faith. This therefore leaves no room for the sick person to feel guilty if the healing doesn’t happen, nor for the one doing the praying to put the blame on the sick person. The one praying, in this case, the elder, ought to take responsibility for faith and to see that the one requesting prayer, is healed. However, our goal is that healing take place and no one questioning, “Why not?”.
The KJV says, “save the sick,” where the word translated “save” is accurate, but here it denotes ‘deliver (from sickness)’ as opposed to ‘salvation (from sin).’ Notice that the NIV translates this, “make the sick person well.” Consider that the same word is translated, “recover,” in John 11:12, in regard to the disciples’ thinking that Lazarus would recover from his illness.
- Therefore, confess your sins to one another. This is both procedural and remedial. The confessing (and forsaking) of sins is a procedure to take if one wants to be healed, and it may also be the remedy for the sickness, if the illness is a result of sin, or the healing has been blocked because of sin. This doesn’t mean that all sickness is the result of sin (cf., John 9). Of interest, by way of observation, oftentimes the sin that needs to be confessed is unforgiveness.
- Pray for one another. What is even more significant is that God expects all believers to be involved in ministering healing.
- So that you may be healed. And so we have it. God gave these directions in order that healing might take place. There is no room for ‘why not’ if the procedure has been followed. It’s important that we not take this as simplistic methodology to administer healing, as it’s important to be sensitive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, we must not reject it because it is so simple. Regardless, it shows God’s plan for healing!