Diary‎ > ‎2018‎ > ‎February‎ > ‎Lent 2018‎ > ‎

3 Healing Prayer

Awaiting proof check 12/3

Rev John Bennett introduced the evening with the hymn Praise my soul the king of heaven

In this series we have looked at Relational prayer and last week Frances did some Ignatian spirituality and we looked at Desperate prayer; this evening’s title is healing prayer.  I wanted to look at those two words – healing and prayer.

Initially I just wanted to look at prayer; sometimes this might seem like a simple question – what is prayer? I guess most of us have been in the church long enough that we may be able to answer that one. But sometimes it’s not easy an answer to that question. A basic definition would be ‘talking to God’, our ability to be able to communicate with the Lord who created us, the primary way we communicate with our heavenly Father. But I’m sure we’re aware it’s not only us talking to God – it’s God talking to us.

So much can be made of us coming on a Sunday morning or to a prayer meeting to bring our lists of requests to God. And yet God wants to speak to you – not just the pastor, not just the vicar - God wants to speak to all of us. When we realise this wonderful truth, prayer becomes incredibly dynamic. It’s an aspect I want to come back to later as we talk about God and what God wants to say to us.

Prayer is about communication, us talking to God and God talking to us. It’s about that relationship that Chas was talking about, that time when we are most desperate that Frances was talking about. Paul wrote do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God ... and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   Paul said worry about nothing, pray about everything. We need to keep that conversation going. Too often we lose sight of how simple that is – to pray, to talk and to listen.

Tonight I want to talk about healing prayer. What comes first to our minds when we talk of healing prayer? Praying for someone who might want to be cured of a disease or who is struggling in their spiritual life; maybe you’ve been prayed for before and not seen an answer to that prayer.  When talking about healing prayer, Paul wanted to reinforce how this is a huge subject and he doesn’t cover everything in this short time and so is only covering one aspect.  It is important that we recognise what healing is and what it can involve.

Healing in a Biblical sense is about being made whole, restoring something that has been broken or affected.   Healing doesn’t only refer to the physical. Healing also refers to emotional when people are affected by a variety of situations and they’re carrying emotions and feelings and baggage from situations that they’ve faced. There’s also psychological healing where people are struggling with issues with their mind. And of course there’s spiritual healing of which every man, woman and child is in need of.  It can refer to salvation – spiritual healing as we become close to God.

Paul wanted to speak on physical healing tonight because it’s the most controversial. Throughout the church world wide there are various views; at one end of the scale there are those who would 'name it and claim it' from the Word of Faith movement who would say that healing is for everybody and that we should all be healed and all we need is to just have enough faith.  
On the other end of the scale are those who would state categorically that physical healings described in the Gospels and the book of Acts were given for a specific time to herald the beginning of the church and at the end of the book of Acts they stopped. Now nobody gets healed.

There’s a scale; somewhere between those two extreme position lie many believers. Some who hold a reduced version of these positions. And some are unsure about what they think about this whole healing thing; it might impact on how you pray for healing or whether you should pray at all.
It might have been the providence of God that I studied this topic; it was my study and the subject for my undergraduate dissertation on physical healing and the atonement. His paper was written on the 'Word of Faith movement' which says that everyone should be healed and healing is provided through the cross, Christ took our sickness on the cross and so we can name it and claim it and we can all be healed. Paul’s study asked if that was a Biblical approach. If it is, does that cause some problems? Does it cause pastoral issue and how then do we pray?

From his study, Paul found that healing was a significant part of Jesus’ ministry. He went around healing the sick from Peter’s mother in law to a paralysed man let through a roof to a leper to a lady suffering with an issue of blood, a blind man by the side of the road to raising a little girl to life. Healing was a huge part of Jesus’ ministry and was evidence that he was who he said he was. But not only that, he also empowered his followers through the power of the Holy Spirit to do the same.  When he sent them out they came back rejoicing as they saw people who were healed.
Paul recognises that some may not agree with him, but he believes that God is still in the miracle business today.  He still enables us as his followers to pray for those who are sick.

Paul mentioned the book Trials, Signs and Wonders by his mother, Sheila Wheeler (Lulu
978-1291085693) – the story of their family and all the ways in which God has worked in our lives. Paul has seen the hand of God at work and read the story about Paul when he was 13, helping at Spring Harvest at Minehead helping Ishmael.  Each evening the leaders covered a different subject; one evening it was about the Holy Spirit and an eight year-old little girl asked Paul to pray with her to receive the Holy Spirit, which he did.  To his amazement, she fell down to the floor under the power of the Holy Spirit.  The next night, the evening was about healing and the little girl came again and asked him to pray for her.  This time he called a leader for help – she had one leg that was 1½” shorter than the other and she wore a special shoe to compensate.  He felt that the request was too big for him to take on alone and asked for helpers.  So they took off the boot and they prayed.  And when they opened their eyes, the leg had grown to almost the length of the other one.  They prayer some more and the leg grew to exactly the same length.  Later Paul was asked if he had seen it grow but he said that he’d closed his eyes.  Perhaps we should all pray with our eyes open to see the action.  At the end of the evening the little girl’s father came to pick her up and she rushed to greet him and they danced around the room together, rejoicing.  The next day, the parents took their daughter into Minehead to buy her first pair of proper shoes.

Paul continued reading, with a story from Spring Harvest at Pwllheli, this time featuring a miracle for his mother. Just weeks before Spring Harvest she had fallen and broken her wrist.  When the plaster was removed from her wrist at three weeks, the break was still not healed.   The doctor said it would need another plaster but his mum was keen to go swimming and asked the doctors to bandage the wrist. Reluctantly, the doctors agreed explaining for all sorts of reasons that it was not a good idea and so she arrived at Spring Harvest with a broken wrist. They decided to attend the seminars by Gerald Coates on Signs and Wonders. A gentleman came to sit next to my mother and unfortunately he was one of those very loud people. When Gerald Coates came onto the stage and said ‘Good morning everybody,’ the man sat next to her shouted ‘Good morning, Gerald!’  At the end of the meeting, people were invited to stand up if they wanted to receive the gift of healing; you’ve guessed it, the gentleman was first up with those remaining seated invited to join hands and to pray. Those gathered round reached out to hold his mother’s hand and she said ‘Please be careful because I have a broken wrist’ – whereupon they were aware of heat radiating between their palms – like when a lawnmower glides over the grass and doesn’t appear to touch it.  In the same way, our hands appeared to be separated by what seemed to be a layer of heat. When Gerald Coates stopped praying his mum became aware that she had full movement in her hand without pain – it was healed.

Paul described how his father was diagnosed with ME after a flu-like virus, unable to get out of bed for two years. One day he made it to church and he sat in the balcony listening to the preacher talking about miracles and how Jesus was still in the miracle working business. At that moment he described what was like a ball of fire moving up between his legs from his toes to his head and he was completely healed.

Some of us may have similar stories to tell and some of us may be unsure about this. It may not have been our experience; we may have not thought about whether these things were possible. Paul was keen to reassure everyone that God loves each one of us and when we feel the pain and brokenness he wants to flood our lives with his peace and his love.

One of the main objections to praying for healing is ‘Why isn’t everyone healed? Why are some healed and not others?’ Paul cited examples of those he knows who have not been healed. Perhaps some of us suffer from some health problems or have a loved one who does. We can often find it when preachers tell us to just have a little more faith we could be healed. And it can cause incredible problems, pastorally; some may think that God doesn’t love them if they’re not healed.

Where does the doctrine that all should be healed come from?  Some suggest that healing was in the atonement.  Isaiah 53 'Surely by his stripes we are healed...', cf Peter (reference awaited).  The verse seems to be referring to spiritual healing – we’ve all gone astray, all have sinned.

Managing this difficult issue can done through the ‘Now and the Not yet’ which also applies to suffering. Christ’s kingdom had been inaugurated when Christ came but it has not yet been consummated. (More by George Eldon Ladd, pdf extract)

Paul responds to those who say that ‘We have it all now in Christ’ by saying that he doesn’t have his resurrection body so we don’t yet have it all.
We live in a fallen world and our bodies are getting older and deteriorating; we live in a world with pain and suffering but there will be a time, as the Bible tells us, when he will wipe every tear from our eyes Revelation 21.4 but right now we live in the intermediate state.

St Paul wrote 'I consider that our present sufferings are nothing...' (Romans 8.18).  St Paul sees healing as a future hope.  As believers we look forward to that hope and the redemption of our agèd bodies, but there are times in this evil age in which we live where people are sick and there are also times when God’s kingdom breaks in and we can see healing.

Healing is a gift of the Holy Spirit; 1 Corinthians 12  Healing then is not a right but it’s a gift.

When we see people struggling with health … there are times when God’s sovereignty he will bring healing into our lives.

But not everyone is healed and that can be a problem for us. That God doesn’t heal everyone is a messy middle option between the extremes of God heals everybody or he heals no-one. Is God an arbitrary figure who heals some but not others? Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5).  If we hold the view that God heals some and not others it implies we're not in control.  We can’t put God in a box.  Yet when we become like a little child who doesn’t understand everything but still trusts then the way forward is incredibly simple.  God holds the reins and we come along for the ride.  We cannot know all the reasons why God does not choose to heal everybody – it remains a mystery.  All we have to do is to pray.  In James 5 we are exhorted to pray.

How are we to pray for healing?  Contrary to some, Paul believes that there is no set formula.  We need to ask God to come, wait for him to come and respond to his coming.  We need to ask the Holy Spirit to come and do what he wants to do in our lives.  Praying for healing (remember there are different sorts of healing) is allowing God to do what he wants to do – not telling him what we want but allowing God to come by his Spirit and minister to our souls and bodies.  Just place your hand upon the person and pray and ask God the Father, through Jesus, to send his Holy Spirit and wait and see what God wants to do. Paul finds it an easy approach to healing prayer, be it emotional, psychological, spiritual, or physical because it is his belief that God heals through his Holy Spirit and I need to allow him to come and do what he wants to do.

The Spirit of God blows where it pleases - John 3. Paul is happy to trust his heavenly Father to let his Holy Spirit blow where it pleases.  He also looks forward to a future where there is no more pain or suffering.

Paul read another story – of those diagnosed of terminal cancer where the church pray for healing but the minister ends up taking the funeral service. What may often be called a word from God may come from our head noise.  But it’s difficult to hear God clearly when someone is dying. There was a situation where my friend George was desperately ill and asked me if he was going to live or die.  ‘Have a great death’ replied the minister, gently and lovingly.  After a few moments, George changed the atmosphere around his hospital bed when he announced ‘I'm going to have the greatest death you’ve ever seen.’  He then led to Christ 23 from his list of 24 of those who were not yet Christians; the 24th knelt to accept Jesus when George died, seeing the peace.  
We need to still the voice in the head, wait on God and respond to him. When we do, sometimes people are healed and sometimes it's a time to die.  Sometimes people are healed, sometimes they are not.
For another with a brain tumour, several people individually felt led to pray the same thing on 73 occasions.  On the day of the operation, the friends requested a further cat scan on the area which had been done 12 times before. Finding nothing and thinking that there was a fault with the machine, the doctors tried a second scanner in another hospital but there was nothing there - nor any trace that anything had been there.  Sometimes when we ask the Spirit to come and we wait on God, he will reveal when it is a time to heal, or a time to die.  Sometimes God has a plan that we know nothing about.

Paul outlined the story of Joni Eareckson Tada and the many who asked her ‘Don’t you want to be healed?’ She used to pray after John 14 - quite a promise that Jesus will give whatever we ask in his name, but nothing happened.  Maybe you've experienced the same thing with this verse.  Is the answer silence – or no?  Then she read all around the chapter - the context is giving the gospel, the main thing.  As Jesus said, if there are mountains or obstacles in the way of the gospel then God will move them or help you get rid of them, if it helps to advance God's kingdom.   Joni began to grasp how this was part of God’s strategy – as seen in 1 Peter 2 - and she followed in his steps, trusting her heavenly Father.

God is worth trusting and that the Bible is worth believing.  The world can't argue when they see people rejoicing in God.  Heaven will be populated with people who open their hearts to God and have seen his power demonstrated through you.  Last year was 50 years since Joni’s terrible accident; what a difference time makes.  She says how there are more important things in life than walking and having use of her hands. It sounds incredible, she says, but she would rather be in the wheelchair knowing Jesus as I do than be on my feet without him.  Joni experienced a spiritual, emotional and psychological healing in her life. God has used her and her incredible ability to paint with her mouth to reach hundreds of thousands of people.

Not everyone is healed physically and we don’t always know why; we are called to pray for those in need and we are called to trust our Father that he is sovereign and that his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts.  Maybe there are other areas in our life he wants to work in.  We are to create the space to wait on his and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to us so that his Gospel may be advanced.

A moment to reflect was followed by a time of prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to come and minister.  A couple of songs were sung – Holy Spirit, we welcome you and I give you all the honour 

Thanks to all at Spalding Baptist for recording this year's talks; listen again