The Gift of Healing
Simon Pease gives some personal reflections (reused from Sword Magazine, with thanks).
One of our best-known contributors to Sword Magazine once attended a particular training session on healing after I endorsed it. Shortly afterwards, we were together at a weekend Foundations conference. Unfortunately, this individual was so busy helping out with the organisation that I thought he was bound to miss out on this golden opportunity to put what he had learned into practice by praying for someone.
“Oh, me of little faith!” The Lord graciously arranged for a Divine appointment, hands were laid on a dodgy shoulder, and healing duly took place – quietly and without fuss, in a thoroughly faith-building, Hebraic way!
The New Testament, of course, emphasises the importance of the gift of healing in the Body of Christ. For some years I was blessed to be involved in the healing ministry and now find myself looking back and reflecting on those times. To share in the experience of the Lord bringing healing to a person is always richly rewarding, as we see such tangible evidence of His care and concern. It is profoundly faith building, but of course also a challenge in those cases where we do not see any obvious improvement or relief.
The Gift of Healing
I am convinced that the Lord’s main purpose in using me for a while in this way was to encourage others in the use of the healing gifts, rather than anyspecific personal calling to this ministry, and it is in that spirit that I write this article. I pray after reading this, you may be encouraged to either fan a gift you may already have into flame, or be emboldened to step out in faith and have the joy and perhaps surprise of seeing the Lord working graciously and powerfully through you. What follows is not intended as a training manual, but simply an offering of some accumulated insights which I think may be helpful.
When it comes to healing, two questions in particular are often on the minds of believers; how should we pray for someone to be healed, and has (or will) God give us this gift personally? Unfortunately, it is easy to unnecessarily complicate these matters, especially for those of us who are intellectual, theological types. However, in the Kingdom of Heaven, the reality is often much more down-to-earth and practical than we might imagine. After all, children are welcomed and child-like faith is commended by the Lord Jesus. So, I would suggest that perhaps we start with considering the nature of a gift. What it is, who gives it, and what is its purpose? The usual reason for making a gift is when someone is motivated out of love and generosity to bless another person whom they value. How much more true this is with our Heavenly Father! When praying for others, it is so easy to get hung up on our own role in the process, nervously wondering if we are using the right “formula” or whether we “have enough faith”, that we can entirely miss the point. In my experience, focusing one’s attention instead on the Lord and on the person being prayed for is a more fruitful approach. After all, who is the gift of healing really for – the person praying, or the person receiving the healing?
In the gospels, Jesus frequently challenged people for their lack of faith, and we know that faith is a vital ingredient in healing. But what is faith? Where we go wrong, I believe, is in thinking about faith as a “thing” that we possess, along the lines that a person with £120 in their purse or wallet has greater purchasing power on a shopping trip than someone with £45 in theirs (hopefully an analogy we can still relate to in these days of lockdowns and online shopping!). Yet surely faith is in fact an action – something that we do? I was once encouraged to find this thought affirmed by Jewish author David Stern in his translation of the Bible, in which he uses the word “trust”. It may seem obvious that as believers, we put our trust in the Living God, but this is a perspective worth reflecting on. After all, there is a powerful, yet subtle deception in the healing ministry which teaches that the specific words we use when praying are what really matters. To put this another way, we are supposed to put our faith in what we say, rather than in the One Who heals – if effect, putting our faith in ourselves! However, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Thus, our trust should instead be in the person of the Lord and what He says. After all,“man shall not live by bread alone, but by everyword the proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). To those familiar with linguistic terminology, we might therefore describe faith as a transitive verb, rather than a noun – expressed simply, it is an action involving someone else.
Paradoxically, for a people of faith, we can be remarkably tenacious in unbelief, tending to much more easily lay hold of reasons for healing not to happen than for God to use us in the same way as He did with the early believers. To doubt is our “natural” (fallen) state, so we need to acknowledge and confront it honestly. Our tendency to approach healing as an intellectual challenge can be symptomatic of that old, unhelpful chestnut – the Greek mindset. We might also get hung up on wondering what the “Word of God” actually refers to in connection with faith – the text of Scripture, the Holy Spirit’s personal prompting in a given situation, or indeed the Lord Jesus Himself, the very Word of God?
Perhaps too we may be looking for a “get out” clause that lets us off the hook in case we experience disappointment when praying for the sick, such as “the Lord never told me to pray for that person”. However, instead, let us approach this from the perspective that the Lord might in fact want to use our prayers to heal others. Scripture is full of wonderful truths which to the Western mind appear paradoxical. So let us not be fatalistic when we read that the Lord chooses which gifts He distributes to whom, but rather be encouraged to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Cor 12:31). After all, perhaps the Lord Himself gives us the desire so that we can receive from Him!
Therefore, let us “get real” here, rather than tying ourselves in knots! First, let us discard two extreme and inaccurate versions of what Scripture teaches on healing. Neither is it true that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer available to believers, nor that God’s will is always and immediately to heal in every case. Rather, the New Testament gives us tremendous confidence that in a general sense God is compassionate and generous, desiring to pour out His grace on us, and especially through the ministry of the Body of Christ. Sometimes, too, He will speak to us directly regarding a particular healing, but this is by no means the norm. Let us not forget that faith (in the sense of practical, active trust in God), can be present both in the person praying and in the person being prayed for. Simply put, you may lack confidence that your prayers will be effective, yet even that does not have to be barrier to the Lord using you in healing – I write from personal experience! Someone just asking you to pray for them is an act of faith on their part, so receive it as a blessed opportunity, rather than a threat.
How should we pray?
For nearly thirty years as a believer the Lord graciously withheld using me in healing – because my motives were self-centred. Unwittingly, we can be the barrier to the Lord’s work. How then do we set ourselves aside? Jesus reminds us that “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and even He only did what the Father showed Him. Think about the instructions He gave His disciples when sending them out for the first time; “take lots of marketing literature, electric guitars, a drumkit, and a collection plate” ….or, was it “take nothing” (Mark 6:8)? Nothing – surely not! Yet to know that we can do nothing of ourselves is truly liberating, for it obliges us to always look up. Althoughwe cannot add a day to our lives by worrying, the Lord responds to pleas for compassion, as Hezekiah discovered when he was granted 15 extra years of life.
My own breakthrough, and the most powerful healing I have been involved with, was when great compassion was present among those praying, to the extent that the person receiving prayer tangibly experienced Jesus. If we can see those for whom we pray through the Lord’s eyes, we are on the right path.
Finally, how should pray, practically speaking? There are numerous many ways that Jesus and the apostles healed, so we have some freedom to act as led. Personally, I prefer to lay on hands, and although it may sometimes be appropriate to command healing, there is no pressure to do so. Saying a blessing for someone is thorough Hebraic, and praying for healing is seeking God’s blessing. I often start by asking the Lord to anoint my hands and prayer with His power and then pray whatever seems right at the time, trusting that the Holy Spirit is at work. However, we are all unique, so may the Lord lead you as He sees fit.
Simon Pease is author of “Ruth – A Prophetic Parable”. Sub-titled “How does the story of Ruth relate to YOU today?” He teaches on the unity of Scripture and contributes to the UK magazine Sword.