Jul 11, 2009

When God Doesn't Heal

This is a sensitive subject. I’ll try to handle it with care. A blog dedicated to prayer and healing must address the times when people are not healed. There’s so much to learn. This isn’t a comprehensive discussion. The issues are large and my understanding isn’t. Some questions will never be answered. I hope to learn more on the subject and write about it in the future. For now, I’ll share a few things I have learned.

I was talking with a woman I met at a bus stop a few days ago. Like many of us, she was angry at God. She told me of the hardships in her life, the untimely death of her mother, and then the death of her father, a man I sensed she deeply hated. She felt as though her mother deserved to live a long life and her father deserved to either suffer or die young. In her mind this was unfair, and she didn’t like God’s plan, which she thought was wrong.

My brother died a year ago, after his 3rd brain tumor was determined to be inoperable. My dad died of pancreatic cancer 8 years ago. I prayed for both of them to be healed but they weren’t. I prayed for the outcome I wanted. At the time I was in a growing relationship with God and I was able to accept their deaths. I also believed then, that it was impossible to know God’s will. When John and Pat weren’t healed, some of us came to certain conclusions. I think a few believed that God doesn’t heal anyone, because He didn’t heal either of these two wonderful men. In our eyes, they deserved it more than anyone else.

I think this is typical of how a many of us view the subject of healing. It leaves us with some possible views about divine healing. One view is that God is arbitrary in healing. He heals who He wants, without any way of us knowing who gets healed or why. I’m reading a book on healing and the author holds this position. He believes in divine healing and has compiled a mountain of scientific research proving that it happens. (I’ll write about that in a future post) But he believes we can know nothing in advance; that healing cannot be accurately predicted, or duplicated in a lab. A fundamental idea behind this view is that God is largely unknowable; an anonymous force that is beyond our understanding.

This view can be taken one step further. We may claim that if God allows bad things to happen to good people He is unjust. If He is capricious and arbitrary then He is also unfair. This view still maintains that God exists, but that He is in some way evil. If we go one step further in this line of reasoning, we can say that some people simply recover for unexplained reasons and others don’t. Those who recover weren’t healed by supernatural means. This view makes God irrelevant and implies that He doesn’t heal anyone. This belief would lead us to the conclusion that if in fact, He exists He is uncaring and indifferent.

Recently I’ve been learning about a plan and a healer that look very different from these models. If you’re reading this, you probably believe in divine healing, but for the sake of those who don’t, we need to ask the questions, how and why does God heal in the first place? In the answer to these questions, we should find some implied reasons why He doesn’t heal.

How God Heals
When God heals he uses faith to accomplish the work. In healing we receive an act from God that is activated by the faith of someone; it may be the one healed, the one praying or an unknown person. There are dozens of healings recorded in the bible and in many of them it is taught that the faith of someone brought the healing. Personal merit is never a basis for healing. (Matt 9:22, Matt 15:28, Mark 5:34, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:48, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42, Acts 14:9)

If faith is the agent of healing, a lack of it will prevent healing. Jesus rebuked his disciples (and no one else) for their unbelief in failing to cast out a demon. (Matt. 17:17) He did heal the individual, because He had faith greater than theirs. But we must be cautious here. Although it may be true that healing doesn’t happen because of a lack of faith, we should never accuse or blame someone for it. Building faith is a gradual process. Hearing testimonies of healing and reading about them in scripture can create faith in us for healing. Condemnation will destroy it. I have very little faith for healing right now. I’m trying to build faith by being around those who are successful in healing and reading testimonies. I’m also receiving revelation from God through dreams and visions about it. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Rhema (spoken) word of God. (Rom. 10:17)

Our part in healing is faith. God’s part is extending grace. The apostle Paul wrote, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, not of works.” (Eph 2:8) I used this verse because the word “saved” in the Greek is the word sozo. It refers to a changing, healing and redemption of the complete person - body, soul and spirit. The same work of grace in saving us from the penalty of sin also heals us emotionally and physically. We never earn healing. Grace is undeserved favor. The merit of the person praying or being healed doesn’t matter.

This is a stone of stumbling to some. One of the most pointed comments in the gospels is the one Jesus made about the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. He reminded the religious leaders that though the covenant people (the Jews) had many widows and great famine, God chose to send His prophets to two outsiders, Zarephath and Naaman. (Luke 4:26-27) The Pharisees presumed that they had earned God’s favor through their own works. They knew little of grace. We can’t presume to know whom God wants to heal. He is gracious to all. (Psalm 145) When I prayed for my brother and father I was in a wrong mind-set, believing they deserved to be healed, when in fact no one does. We must be willing to receive God’s grace in healing. If we come to God on the basis of merit for healing we may hinder the process.

Why God Heals
I believe one reason God heals is to reveal His character to us. The nation of Israel learned that one of God’s names is Jehovah Rapha; The Lord, who heals. (Exodus 15:26) God reveals his character through His names in the Old Testament and His names tell us how He interacts with us. Divine healing is an act of mercy and God wants us to know He is merciful. The Lord’s healing also reveals Him as God of compassion, love and kindness as well. (See Deuteronomy 13:17) When we see someone miraculously healed of a terrible affliction, we must conclude that God is good, even if our own experiences don’t bear that out.

From this, we should conclude that God heals to reveal His mercy and love. If He doesn’t heal someone perhaps it’s a situation in which that will not be revealed. The disciples of Jesus asked him why a certain man was born blind. (John 9:1) It was a sincere question. Their assumption was that someone’s sin was responsible for it. Jesus told them that the man was born blind so that God would be glorified when he was healed. If God is to receive the credit for healing, we can also conclude that if God is not glorified in healing, it probably won’t happen.

It’s actually God’s character that we are discussing, and unlike ours, His character never changes. (Malachi 3:6) If we believe that God performed healing and miracles in the past, but He doesn’t do it today, we are essentially saying that God has changed His character. In effect we are changing the names of God, because His names describe his character. Scripture teaches that God’s character and His names never change. If God healed people in large numbers during the ministry of Jesus, and He certainly did, then we must conclude He is willing to do it today, even if our own experience doesn’t bear that out. This is one reason why I changed my opinion about healing and miracles. I’m not prepared to say that God doesn’t heal and He’s changed who He is, merely because I haven’t seen healing personally.

Healing Delayed or Lost
When Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethsaida (John 5) he saw the man later in the temple. Jesus warned him about the effects of sin saying; “you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The issue of sin was between the sick man and the Lord. We should leave it that way. The Holy Spirit can reveal any issues to the individual and it’s their responsibility to surrender and submit to God’s will. Healing is a work of grace and good works cannot obtain it. Nevertheless, sin and rebellion open the door to the enemy. Satan and his demons are the source of sickness and injury. Many of the illnesses Jesus healed people of were demonic in origin. We invite trouble when we live in sin.

Paul warned the church in Corinth about judging their brothers in the body of Christ, then taking communion in an unworthy manner. This made them guilty of the blood of the Lord and brought judgment on them. By judging others, we bring judgment on ourselves. The result was that many had become sick and some had died. (1 Cor. 11: 27-31). I suspect we don’t take this admonition seriously enough. It’s likely that the judgmental attitude many of us have has a greater impact on our health than we think.

There are other things that may contribute to lost healing. One is continued attack from the enemy. This should be suspected if a person is healed once, but the problem comes back. We should have a heightened suspicion in the absence of a clear medical diagnosis. At times we may see a resolution of symptoms, but there isn’t a removal of the cause. The fruit is removed, but the root remains. Permanent healing may occur when God reveals the root of the problem. Prayer for divine revelation of demonic activity is often helpful in discovering and removing spiritual sources of sickness. I’ve read testimonies of recurrent episodes of cancer that were permanently healed once a demonic source was removed.

We shouldn’t assume someone hasn’t been healed if we don’t see instantaneous results that are clearly evident. The Sryian General Naaman wasn’t healed immediately, he had to wait a while. First he had to go to the Jordan River. Then he had to dip himself 7 times in the water. Finally he was healed. (2 Kings 5) The blind man Jesus healed in Bethsaida had what is called a progressive healing. Jesus prayed for him once and he was able to see better. He prayed again and full vision was restored. (Mark 8:25) It’s worth noting that Jesus used many different (and strange) methods to heal people. God often has specific instructions that must be obeyed as a condition for healing. If they aren’t, the healing probably won’t happen. Some healing is immediate, some isn’t.

My Experience
The first true miracle of healing I received took 24 hours for me to notice. I had a shoulder injury and a man prayed for my back, not knowing what my injury was. It was the following evening when I realized the pain was gone. I’ve heard testimonies of healing that occurred as many as 6 years after prayer was begun. If we pray for people to be saved and we understand that it may take years for that to happen, we shouldn’t be surprised if healing isn’t always immediate either.

In the last year I’ve had occasion to pray for many patients with terminal diseases. My initial approach was to ask God for healing without hesitation. I know some of us believe that God wants to heal everyone. I guess in a way, He does. It’s not His desire for us to die, for mankind to be under a curse, or for sin to destroy our lives with disease. In the beginning, God’s desire was for us was perfect health and close fellowship with Him. But our actions have limited what He does now.

I’ve come to the sober realization that not everyone is going to be healed. That prompted me to ask God why He won’t heal, when He does at other times. On one occasion I was told the person I wanted to pray for didn’t want to be healed and didn’t believe in divine healing. She was ready to die. Fair enough, He won’t force someone to be healed who doesn’t want it. We can’t blame this on God.

He has also shown me images of dragons, demons, serpents, skeletons, flames and the like when I have asked about other people. On these occasions He told me not to pray for them. He revealed to me that these people are firmly in the camp of the enemy and they aren't coming out. And that He would neither be glorified nor would His character be revealed if these people were healed. Once again, we can’t blame God if he won’t do something that is contrary to His own character.

On several occasions I wanted to pray for healing and God said He wouldn’t heal, but He showed me heavenly visions when I asked why the person would be allowed to die. In these cases, I took solace in the fact that this person’s soul and spirit were soon to be going to a much better existence. I can’t fault God for this either.

God doesn’t need to give me deep theological statements about why some of us are healed and some aren’t. Maybe I’m too easy on Him. One day I’ll probably ask for more information. But I do know this - He is the sovereign King of the universe and He’s a lot wiser than I am. I think much of our misunderstanding about healing (and the absence of it) comes from a poor understanding of the healer himself.

What I have learned is not to presume anything before I pray. I’ve learned to ask Him first, “What do you want to do in this situation?” Many of us are frustrated and give up on prayer because our prayers aren’t answered according to our desires. God never promised He would give us everything we ask for. He did promise to give us everything we ask, when we ask according to His will. (1 John 5:14) I think this is where we often fail in prayer. We must first come to Papa and ask Him what the plan is, then pray accordingly, whether we like the answer or not. When we do this first, we are going to receive what we ask for. Praying without knowing God’s desire in the matter is a bit like throwing darts blindfolded. Why bother? Isn’t it better to see the target?

I don’t think its coincidence that most of the people in history with successful healing ministries were strongly gifted in the prophetic. These folks hear and see what their Father is doing. Success in divine healing requires knowledge of what God wants to do. This is something prophets in general do well, and it’s an ability we must develop if we ever hope to see people healed.

I need to make a few confessions. I have a lot of faith to pray for people. But my belief that they will actually be healed is pretty small. Right now I’m limited by my unbelief. I tend to pray and run. I don’t want to ask anyone if they feel better after I pray for them because I don’t want to risk being disappointed when they say, ‘no’. On the other hand, all Jesus asked me to do is to be a faithful servant. My job is to reveal a situation for healing when a person may not know it, and pray for them. He didn’t ask me to verify every healing with x-rays or keep score. I need to remember that.

In this season I’m running into many people with headaches and I’ve heard some encouraging testimonies. God keeps pointing them out to me and I’ve actually seen some people who said they’ve been healed. When I receive a word of knowledge and pray according to it – I have a lot of faith that the person will be healed. Some day I’ll have the faith that terminal cancer patients will be instantly healed when I pray for them. But it’s a growing and maturing process.

I also get into situations where I’m asked to pray for people and no one has received any revelation from God about it. I must confess I’m not as comfortable praying when I don’t know what God wants to do. I have a lot less faith in these situations, and I don’t expect great things to happen. I think this is a bad thing. I rely heavily on the Rhema words spoken to me by the Holy Spirit and not enough on the Logos (written) word. The bible says God wants to heal, and I need to simply believe it. I think a balance is best.

It's worth mentioning that Jesus said He did not pray for the whole world, but only for those the Father had told him were His. (John 17:9) Jesus prayed only for the specific people and situations given to him by his Father. He operated at an amazing level of hearing and knowledge. I don't always hear that well. Fortunately, my wife prays in tongues more easily than in English. In doing this, she’s always praying according to God’s will, even though we don’t necessarily know what it is. I pray according to revelation and she prays as the Spirit of God leads her and that makes us an effective team.

One thing God keeps telling me is that Jesus did nothing except what his Father revealed to him. (John 5:19) Many of us believe Jesus was successful because of his divine omniscience. But if he retained it, why did he need to ask the father what to do? Jesus never had a prayer that went unanswered because He always checked in with Papa first. It’s a tough assignment, but the rewards are incredible. I think more of us would see miracles and be less frustrated in prayer if we always asked our Father what the game plan was before we uttered a single word in prayer. That’s the direction I’m going in. I’ll let you know how it works out in future messages.

Jul 1, 2009

A Vacation With God The Healer

We were on the plane from Philadelphia to Seattle returning home from vacation as I reflected on the divine appointments God arranged over the last week. My wife has family and friends who are struggling a lot. Some of the relationships we had with them were broken. Most of her friends and family had little interest in God. We were visiting for a week and anxiously hoped God would show up and change the atmosphere. We prayed for softened hearts and open doors for months before the trip. My wife had a couple of dreams the week before the trip that seemed to indicate the doors were open.

I learned something the first day we were there. If you plan to work with God while on vacation, go to a prayer meeting first. We both had shoulder and neck pain we were hoping to get healed. We went to a prayer meeting at a small town fire station our first night in town. I didn’t know the words to most of the songs, so I closed my eyes during worship. God showed me images of the speaker, a man named George. First he was in a school desk that grew bigger and bigger. There were more images of him, then an image of Dutch Sheets, then Bob Jones, then the word ‘Apostolic’. I really wasn’t expecting this. It took a long time for me to get up the courage to get up. I approached George and told him I thought God had a message for him. We led the group in prayer for him as God moved him to a new level of ministry.

Later, I asked George if he would impart to me a spiritual gift. (Romans 1:11) He replied ‘sure.’ He said, “you argue with God.” I tried to convince him I only did what everyone else did. I said, yeah, don’t we all? He said, “You question what God tells you and then dismiss it.” I confessed my guilt. He prayed for me and said, “Let the first impression you receive be the one you accept. It is from the Lord. Do not question it.” I knew this was a problem I had to overcome. Other prophets had told me the same thing. Later George asked if anyone had back pain they wanted prayer for. My wife and I had him pray for us. I wasn’t really having back pain – it was a shoulder injury that had been tormenting me for months. Nothing happened immediately, but 24 hours later the pain was completely gone.

I’ve been having pregnancy dreams for almost a year. I’m usually transporting pregnant women. My daughter and wife have been having a lot of them too. Something has been growing inside all of us. It isn’t babies. God keeps telling me over and over He will heal people if I continue praying for them. I have His promise of a healing ministry. It’s been incubating for about 11 months. I know there’s another part to it and that would be evangelism. God loves people and wants them physically healed. But healing from God involves the soul and spirit, too. Deliverance, repentance, salvation and discipleship are also part of the healing process. The second night of our vacation I had 2 dreams. In the first I watched a baby being born. In the second, I picked up a newborn baby and took it to my ambulance to transport it to a larger hospital. I’ve been waiting for this dream for a long time. I know what it means. It’s the birth of a new ministry. The wait is finally over.

We went to the New Jersey shore on the hottest day of the trip. We spent time relaxing on the beach and walking in the waves. We saw dolphins a little ways off shore. It was nice to be away with my sweetie. We enjoyed out time together. But I couldn’t stop thinking about praying for people. We spent the afternoon cruising up and down the boardwalk. We shopped and ate and talked about our vision for the future. And we prayed for just about everyone we saw with a physical affliction. I saw a woman about 70 years old. She had obvious right side paralysis, probably from a stroke. I asked if I could pray for her, and she was delighted.

We were sitting on a bench when I saw a woman about 30 years old pushing a stroller. She was walking with tremendous difficulty. My heart was breaking for her. As I watched her walk away I leaned forward, closed my eyes and said, “come on Lord, let’s do this!” I saw an image of an album cover from the band “Styx”, then the words “Classic Rock”. I saw the woman park her stroller by the bathrooms and go in. I got up and walked over to the bathroom area and began to wait and pray, and then I saw a man in a wheelchair with a leg immobilizer. I asked him what happened. He told me about a car accident and how his broken arm and leg were held together with metal rods and screws. He was glad to let me pray for him. I turned around when I was done and she was right behind me. I gave her a smile and asked how she was doing. She said fine. I asked if she liked the band Styx and she said yes. I asked if she liked classic rock and she said yeah, how did you know? I said that God told me and He wanted me to pray for her to be healed. She said it wouldn’t be the first time. We prayed. I made some declarations for her financial prosperity and some other things God showed me. I felt His presence grow stronger while we prayed. I went away marveling at His mercy and compassion. We prayed for about a dozen people that day. God gave encouraging words to a few more. Some were surprised, but everyone received it well. I didn’t see any miracles but healing can be progressive. Even if nobody was healed, we got to sow a lot of seeds.

The couple who led my wife's old bible study group hosted a get together for us. The pool party got out of hand quickly. An F-1 tornado touched down a few miles away. Two of the dads and myself got trapped with the kids under the balcony as 60 mph winds, heavy rain and hail pelted us for 15 minutes. Lightning struck all around us. It was kinda crazy. As quickly as it came - it left. The sun came out and we went back to grilling and hanging out with friends. The host, Bill has a torn ligament in his knee. He's going in for surgery soon. Everyone gathered around him to pray for healing at the end of the night.

We were hoping to give prophetic words to my wife's family while we were there. We had an afternoon of explaining prophecy and revealing God’s plan to a few of her relatives. We also gave words of encouragement to others. Ministering to unbelieving family members is very hard. I’d say it’s impossible without God’s direction. We were amazed at how receptive they were. God must have been plowing the ground for some time before we arrived.

We drove to the airport for the flight home and arrived early. The last time I flew out of Philly, I missed my flight because of car accidents on the freeway. It was close to rush hour, but we zipped along without a single slow down. God needed me to be on this flight. I was standing in line at a coffee stand when the Holy Spirit showed up. I felt His presence and knew He wanted to tell me something. I closed my eyes and saw the word “migraines” and saw an image of a slightly overweight woman about 50 with short brownish blonde hair. Then I saw an image of Kathleen, a receptionist I know from a local hospital. I looked around wondering who to pray for and didn’t see anyone like the person in the image. I did see a short woman in front of me and asked her if she had migraines, but she said no.

I went to the gate and waited to board the plane.

I continued looking around and still didn’t see her. On the flight to Seattle, I read the book Power Healing by John Wimber. After about an hour in the air I noticed a woman like the one in the vision standing in line at the bathroom. I got up and asked if she had migraines and she said, yes. I asked her name and she said Kathleen. I told her about the vision at the coffee shop and said I believed God wanted to heal her. She sat in my seat as we prayed for her. She told her husband what had happened. I got a word for him, too. I asked him if he had prostate cancer. He said no. I felt certain it was an accurate word and thought maybe it was for the future. I wrote a note to his wife telling her that if he developed prostate cancer in the future they should pray for healing. I rested the remainder of the trip. God showed me many visions every time I closed my eyes. I love Him so much.

I’m writing about these things to encourage you to look for similar opportunities in the everyday things you do. Everywhere we go God is waiting with mercy and grace, healing and encouragement for many who don’t know it yet. We can all prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:31) We can all be used to heal others. (Matthew 10:8 ) It does take time to develop compassion for others, to hear what God is saying and to grow in spiritual gifts. But we seem to be in a season where God is bringing acceleration in gifting. Working with God isn’t a chore; it’s really a lot of fun.

If you'd like to read another story about an adventure in praying for people on a plane, read this story: