Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 63: The Manifestation of Healing

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:7- 9 NASB 

*** As a physician myself, I feel compelled to insert this caveat. I am not recommending that we should abandon all medical treatment. I am not recommended that we should only pray and not seek medical care. Please do not use this post as an opportunity to stop taking medication that has been prescribed for your medical problems. Please do not use this post as an excuse to avoid seeking medical care.***

Today, we continue our study of the manifestations of the Spirit in the lives of believers by looking at the manifestation of healing. In our society, there is a tendency to think that all physicians have the "gift" of healing and that only physicians have the spiritual gift of healing, but this is not the case at all. One of the best surgeons I know readily admits that he has the gift of hospitality, not healing. (Healing is not my spiritual gift, either.) This manifestation of the Spirit in the form of healing is not the ability to learn a vast store of medical knowledge, understand the workings of the human body, recognize its disease state, and choose appropriate treatment, although God can and does work through this knowledge.

The manifestation of healing is also not a divine treatment that brings a measure of improvement or controls a physical problem with a medication. In this verse, the manifestation of the Spirit is "a healing", a divine resolution of the physical problem. When Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood, she received a divinely imparted healing, as did the lame, the blind, the deaf that He healed. That same risen Lord, working through the Holy Spirit, still heals.

Why, then, do we not see more healings? Let's read what James has written. 

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. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:14-16 NASB)

In this passage, the Scripture is very clear. Is anyone sick?  Confess our sins, pray for one another. Call for the elders to pray over them. 

These verses give some very clear steps in the process of seeking a divine healing. First and foremost is the recognition of sin in our own lives, without which we cannot confess it, repent of it, or relinquish it. A request is to be made of the elders of the church and they are to pray over the sick person and anoint them with oil. Because Jesus said that some things only come out by prayer and fasting, the discipline of fasting should be a part of any search for healing.

More than a decade ago, a woman came to see me for a significant problem of her lower legs due to venous disease. She had first taken her physical need to the elders at her church. She had confessed, they had prayed and fasted, but she had not experienced the healing she expected. Instead, one of the  elders had recommended that she make an appointment with me. The elders committed to pray for us both, and they did. 
The problem was clear, treatment was instituted, and the problem resolved. She was fitted with compression stockings which she wore with excellent control of her problem and very rare exacerbation. In this case, her acute problem was healed, but not at all in the way she expected. It was still a divine intervention, and resulted in her underlying problem being controlled.

A ministry I deeply respect had an intense prayer time recently, (preceded by a time of fasting). They reported that a man who required a cane even to walk with difficulty was there and requested prayer. He was healed and able to walk with no difficulty afterwards. He experienced a divine intervention and dramatic healing.

Many years ago, I had an overwhelming problem with headaches. When medical treatment failed to improve the condition, I requested a "healing service". I agonized at length before asking for a healing service, mostly because of pride and fear. It seemed unprofessional and irresponsible to seek a divine healing, rather than a medical one, and I held back for months. Finally, I requested the healing service and I was healed. 

When I fractured my finger, shattering the bone, I prayed nonstop and went for an x-ray. I did not have a healing service before surgery (I still wish I had) but, when the post-op healing did not go as hoped, members of a local church (not my own) prayed for my hand. In the end, the problem was resolved.

I've written more words than I intended trying to make the manifestation of the Spirit through healing clear while balancing my profession of medicine. The take-away point here is that God still heals. When we are healed, it is always a divine intervention. In places where medical care is less readily available, divine healing is seen more often, probably because it is requested more often. Healing is no less available in this country than in the "third world" countries. Our lack of miraculous healing may simply be due to the failure to ask for it. 

Do we want healing? Scripture says it begins with humbling ourselves, confessing and repenting of our sins, and requesting the prayers of our elders, who are to not only pray but anoint us with oil and pray with expectation that God will move. The decision to request that healing is ours to make. When we are willing to confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) We can count on spiritual healing every time we humble ourselves and ask for healing. The decision to heal physically belongs to God alone, but it is more common than we think. 

Do you long to experience the manifestation of the Spirit through healing? Scripture is clear. The possibility of healing begins with one step. Just ask.