God doesn’t heal everyone who receives prayer. If you listen and watch, sometimes you’ll hear the answer before you pray. This is one of those stories.
I have a friend who asked me to pray for someone that had been hospitalized with terminal cancer. I agreed to pray for her and told him I’d like to meet her and lay hands on her. We found ourselves at the hospital that day. He asked me to wait in the hallway while he inquired if she wanted me to pray with her.
I waited in the hallway and talked to God and thanked Him for getting me there. Then it occurred to me – I didn’t know if God wanted to heal this person. I bowed my head and closed my eyes and asked what He wanted to do. God gave me a word of knowledge. (1 Cor. 12:8) He actually showed me what He wanted to do. I saw the words “Don’t heal.” I didn’t understand. I was disappointed and confused. I thought perhaps I didn’t get the right message. I bowed my head and closed my eyes again and saw the words very clearly, “I won’t heal”. I saw the right message and now sadness set in. I knew she wouldn’t be healed. I wanted to know why. I bowed my head a third time and closed my eyes. I asked God to show me why He wouldn’t heal her. I saw the words, “She doesn’t believe.”
A few minutes later my friend came from the room and confirmed what I already knew – she didn’t want me to pray for her. She had given up on treatment and was ready to die. We walked in uncomfortable silence to the elevator. She passed away a week later.
I assume she had no desire to ask God for a miracle. Without a willing heart to receive it, we can’t expect God to bless us. He won’t force us to accept His gift of healing, or any other gift. I can’t judge this woman. I don’t know what things she suffered in life. I don’t know why God’s love never took root in her heart. But for her own reasons she didn’t believe God would or could heal her. That made me very sad.
In asking why she didn’t believe, I didn’t search long for the answer. A few months ago I didn’t believe in miraculous healing either. Maybe it was the faith healers I mocked when I was an atheist. I’ve always been skeptical of miracles. I suspected faith healers of being con-men and rip-off artists. Not long ago I mocked them as a Christian. The church leaders I knew didn’t really believe in miracles either. We in the church are big on prayer. We just don’t believe it does a whole lot. Many of our leaders tell us that miracles, prophecy, healing, and other gifts of the Spirit ceased long ago. If we can’t convince ourselves that God wants to heal us, why should anyone else believe it?
I think our reluctance to pray comes from the times we have prayed and it seemed like nothing happened. One of the first things we teach a new disciple about prayer is to ask according to the will of God. The apostle John wrote, “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14) We often hear that God’s will is revealed in the scriptures (the Logos) and we ought to pray according to its principles. While this is true, what is sometimes needed in a situation involving an individual is a Rhema word from God; a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit about that particular situation.
Jesus said that the miracles He did were in fact, the things He saw His Father doing. (John 5:18) His prayers were answered because before He asked for anything, He asked His Father “What would you like to do in this situation?” He wanted to ask according to the will of his Father so his prayers would be answered. Jesus knew who to heal, who to raise from the dead, and who not to heal because the Father revealed it to him through a rhema word of knowledge. We are able to do exactly the same thing today. Our Father in heaven is willing to reveal to us whom to pray for and what to pray for, if we ask Him. When we receive specific information from the One who has unlimited power and knowledge, we pray with more confidence.
I don’t receive a word of knowledge for most of the people I pray for. In the last 6 months I’ve prayed for roughly 200 of my patients. I’ve received a word of knowledge about 15 or 20 times. I let my prayer be guided by three principles:
· I have prior promises from God that He intends to heal some of the people I pray for but He didn’t give me a list of names. I try to cast a wide net and bring in as many candidates as possible. Some will be healed and some will not.
· When I am not certain what to pray for I can allow the Holy Spirit to intercede. When I pray in the spirit, it’s actually the Spirit of God praying through me according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:26) When God is the one who initiates the prayer, I know the prayer will hit the mark.
· The third principle is praying according to God’s revealed will in a particular situation. This is not all that common. But it seems to happen at crucial times in my life. I don’t want to give the impression that God only gives a word of knowledge in dire straits. It just happens that in every case where I received a word of knowledge, the patient had a condition that was incurable with conventional medicine. Your experiences will probably be different.
I pray for as many people as I can. I pray in the spirit when I’m uncertain. I ask for a word of knowledge with more serious patients. I don’t always receive it but when I do, it helps greatly. When the word of knowledge reveals that God will not heal the patient, this information can be helpful in making end-of-life decisions. Issues like placing the patient on life support, hospice placement and resuscitation measures could be directed by the word of knowledge. It can help bring closure and a sense of peace to what is usually a difficult and trying process.
When a word of knowledge reveals that God will heal a terminal patient it changes the atmosphere. It plants a seed of faith in the hearts of the patient and their family. Once they have the rhema word of God for this situation, they can pray according to God’s will and know their prayers will be answered.