Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 16: Jehovah Rapha and the quest for healing

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

(Note: This is not what I intended to write, but I've left it to stand because it is true.)

Jehovah Rapha'

We began a look at Jehovah Rapha, the Lord Who Heals, in the previous post. As we discussed, Jehovah Rapha is the Healer of wounded bodies, distressed land, and overwhelming illness. It is easy for us to believe that God healed in Bible stories, but there is a tendency to assume that He no longer heals today. If He is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (and He is), then God still heals. He does still heal, and I know that because I have been healed and have seen others who have been healed.

James 5 has some important information about the subject of healing, and it is worth a closer look.
"Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray.
Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, 
and pray for one another so that you may be healed. 
James 5:13-16 NASB

I'm not sure how much clearer this could be written. The first point that must be understood is that James was not writing to the world at large. He was writing to "the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad", the church of Jesus Christ. This letter was written to people who believed in Christ, many (but not all) of whom had been persecuted and had left their homes as a result of that persecution. He was writing to people who had done more than walk an aisle, join a church, or experience baptism. James was writing to people who had an ongoing, personal relationship with the risen Lord and were empowered by the Holy Spirit. He was writing to disciples, and, were we describing them today, we might call them fanatics.  

This business of healing requires some obedience on the part of the elders in the church as well as on the part of the sick person. Don't forget that Jesus said some things can only come out by prayer and fasting. Not only do the elders need to be obedient in prayer and anointing, but they likely need to be obedient in fasting, as well. In addition, the prayer that is offered must be "in faith". The elders who pray for healing have to actually believe that God can and will heal.

The person who is sick is not without responsibility, either. First, by the intended recipient of his letter, we know that James was speaking only to disciples of Christ. Second, the person who wants healing must "call for the elders" and submit himself/herself to the authority of the elders in his church. 

Now comes the hard part. Confession of sins. This is not describing a general confession of ourselves as sinners saved by grace. "Confession of your sins" is confession of specific sins and specifically asking for forgiveness. It requires repentance and a desire to be done with the sin. I admit that I don't love confessing my sins to other people. I'd rather just tell God and let Him deal with me, because I know His grace and I know I can trust Him. Other people? I'm not always so sure about them. The problem comes when I read this scripture. 

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed." James 5:16. 

It appears that, If I want the "so you may be healed" part, I have to be obedient to the "confess and pray" parts. Although confessing my sin to someone else is hard, there are times when confessing my sin is easier than the "praying for one another" part. James did not say to pray only for those people who please me, like me, or enjoy my company, nor did he say to pray for only those people whose company I enjoy. He simply wrote, "pray for one another," and (according to Jesus) that includes praying for our enemies. 

There is also an interesting point about this section of Scripture that we don't often seem to notice. When we do what is said, the result is that the one who is sick is restored, the Lord "raises up" the one who is sick, and our sins are forgiven. What about healing? That happens, too, but sometimes, the restoring of relationships and forgiveness of our sins are the parts that are most important and pressing to God. 

This is outrageous, and I admit it, but there are times when I just want God to heal someone. Maybe you feel like that, too. I don't want to worry about their sin, or about restored relationships. Just heal the sickness! How unlike God that attitude is! God was concerned enough about our sin that He sacrificed Himself on the cross to cleanse us from it. Dealing with sin is always going to be a priority for God, and it should be for me, as well.  

You may be wondering, "What about healing?" That is possible, too. Does it happen every time we pray for someone? Yes. Sometimes they are physically healed in this world, and sometimes their healing is delayed until they enter eternity. Why? We often want to ask why God doesn't give us what we want when we want it, and I don't have the answer to that. He is God, and I am not. 

Jehovah Rapha is still in the healing business and if we are sick and in need of healing, we should do exactly what James says. We should ask God for healing. Sometimes, we will have physical healing this side of heaven, but even when we do not, the restoration of fractured relationships and forgiveness of our sins makes it worth the asking. 

How do we hallow, or honor, the name of Jehovah Rapha? We turn to our Healer when we, or those we love, need to be healed, and we do it exactly as Scripture has said, confident that the One who Heals, still does exactly that.

(tomorrow we will look at the healing of the brokenhearted)