The Gospels of
Matthew, Mark and Luke in particular relate many occasions on which Jesus healed those who
were ill. Praying for the sick is one of the most common prayer topics for Christians
today, yet many are confused as to how to pray for those who are sick, and why their
prayers may not appear to be answered. We can't fully answer these questions, but we offer
some thoughts and pointers which may help.
First, it is good to keep on persistently praying for the healing
of someone who is close to you, and who you love dearly. Even when it seems that prayer is
the only hope that is left, do keep on praying. Equally, when some are close to death and
are suffering, the prayer can turn to a prayer for peace and a merciful end to the
suffering. Again, this is a reflection of our deep heartfelt concern for the sick person.
Second, be specific, and do pray for the
range of issues connected with the illness. You may not only want to pray for the healing
of the particular problem, but for the sick person's inner strength to cope with their
illness, for a quality of rest or sleep which would aid the recovery, for concerns that
are causing anxiety, for other family members and so on.
The next point relates to the means that God
may use to heal. Most Christians believe that God uses the skills he has given to doctors
and nurses to bring about healing. Many also believe that God has the power to bring
miraculous healing without the use of the medical profession. Human experience suggests
that the majority of healing is through the medical profession, but this should deny
neither the hand of God in it, nor the corresponding influence that prayer can have in
medical healing. God has given skills to individuals, and has equipped the human mind with
the creativity to discover more about ourselves and how to look after our bodies.
Whilst there are many spectacular healings
recorded as a result of prayer, yet prayers for healing may appear to have gone
unanswered. Why, we are not privileged to know. On one level, it is clear that it is not
God's purpose for us to live out eternity on the earth, and that therefore, each of us has
a time when we can move onto the heavenly experiences that await all those who believe in
Jesus Christ. Yet that doesn't answer the question as to why some loved ones have to
endure long and painful illnesses or conditions that have a terrible debilitating effect
on the quality of life. There are no easy answers, but the quotes below from three
different perspectives may shine some light on the question.
1. David Watson, in "Fear No Evil"
writes of his own personal struggle with cancer. "There are seldom good reasons for suffering, but there can be good
responses. I am not suggesting that such good responses are easy. Far from it. ...
However, the more I make myself aware of God's love (whether I feel his love or not -
usually I don't) the more God can change my negatives into positives..... It's not what we
do, but who we are that matters most in life; and its not what we endure, but the way we
endure it that counts."
2. Fred Smith writes of his granddaughter's death from leukaemia aged 20 : "My granddaughter's death was, and still is, a cause of
great sorrow to me. I do not understand why she was not healed. But I do trust in God's
supreme victory and sovereignty, and ultimately I can say "I do not understand, but I
do believe". Her death has not in any way prevented me from feeling compassion for
those who are sick, and wanting to pray for them. Even if only one person was healed as a
result of my prayers it would still be worthwhile - one person healed is a lot better than
no-one. " (God's Gift of Healing, New
Wine Press, 1986.)
3. John Noble wrote an article some fifteen years ago in Renewal magazine titled
"Do's and Don'ts for people not healed". The first was : "Don't let despair get the better of you. You're no worse
off than you were without the prayers. At the very least you can see people around you who
care and want to join wiht you in your suffering. Thank the Lord for this and the blessed
promise he has made to be with you through even the darkest hour. Thousands of saints
stand as proof that he will never leave you or forsake you."
What is clear, though, is that nothing is
impossible for God, and that through persistent prayer, the Father can and does respond to
our heartfelt requests. So keep on praying!