When Tom was diagnosed with a rare disease, his life changed drastically. He was forced into retirement. He became increasingly weak and was almost constantly in pain. He spent so much time at home in bed that he lost touch with some of his friends. All of this combined to make him feel angry at God and bitter with life. Friends from his parish tried to be encouraging, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.
A few months later, Tom’s parish scheduled a four-day mission. Tom’s friends urged him to attend, but he refused to go. But then, on the last night of the mission, Tom decided to show up. He wasn’t expecting anything to happen; he just wanted to satisfy his friends.
But something did happen. The mission ended with a call for anyone who wanted to receive prayer for healing. Feeling somewhat skeptical, Tom decided to ask for prayer. The moment the deacon and two others laid hands on him, Tom felt overwhelmed with a sense of love and warmth. He felt the piled-up anger and resentment in his heart start to melt, and he began weeping. And wondrously, at his next doctor appointment, he was declared to be in perfect health. God had healed him of his disease!
Have you ever been reluctant to ask God to heal you? Perhaps you don’t think anything will happen, or you’re afraid of being disappointed if your prayers aren’t answered. Maybe you feel you don’t deserve to be healed, or like Tom, you are angry with God for letting you get sick.
In this month’s issue, we want to look at how much Jesus wants to heal us by exploring several healing stories in the Gospels. How did the people Jesus healed approach him? What did they expect? What obstacles did they have to overcome? What can we learn from these people?
We don’t always witness amazing physical healings like the one Tom experienced. It’s a mystery that God miraculously heals some people but not others. But even if it’s not physical healing, we all need Jesus’ healing touch in our lives. It may be healing from painful memories of the past. It may be healing from the effects of a long-standing pattern of sin. It may be healing of addictions or patterns of behavior that are hurting us or our loved ones. Imagine what could happen if, in this new year, we identify one or two areas in our lives where we need healing—and ask the Lord for it!
Pushing through the Obstacles. What do you think it would be like to have to endure a painful and embarrassing illness for twelve long years? Or to go to doctors over and over again, only to be given treatments that make you feel worse? What about the crushing weight of all those medical bills? It would be tempting to give up and accept a life of misery, wouldn’t it? Maybe you should just learn how to deal with the pain and hope for an early death.
But this isn’t how one woman described in the Gospels reacted. Known to us only as the “hemorrhaging woman,” she did something bold and scandalous, and she was greatly rewarded for it. She pushed through a crowd of people surrounding Jesus and reached out to touch his robe. She was cured in an instant (Mark 5:25-34).
Maybe if we looked at some of the obstacles that this woman faced, we could learn a few things about the kind of faith we can have—a faith that brings us in touch with the power of God.
First, there were the physical obstacles. Jesus had just agreed to go to the home of Jairus so that he could heal his dying daughter. Excited by the chance to see Jesus at work, many people crowded around him as he headed there. You can imagine everyone talking excitedly to each other, maybe asking Jesus how he was going to cure the girl. How could this woman possibly break through all that commotion?
She also had the obstacle of her own poor health. Twelve years of uncontrolled bleeding probably left her very weak. She was probably in a good deal of pain as well. The mere physical exertion required to get through to Jesus could have been enough to cause her to faint or to lose her balance and fall.
She also faced the internal obstacles of her own fears and doubt. Jewish law considered any woman in her condition to be unclean, and anything or anybody she touched was made unclean as well (Leviticus 15:19-33). So you can imagine the battle that must have been going on in her mind as she tried to touch Jesus: “What if someone sees me? Should I even be doing this—isn’t it against God’s law?” It’s no wonder, then, that she came up behind Jesus. She didn’t want to be recognized.
Her plan may have seemed illogical, ill-advised, or impossible. But in her heart, this woman believed that none of these obstacles could withstand Jesus and his desire to do good. “If I but touch his clothes,” she reasoned, “I shall be cured” (Mark 5:28). And she was right.
It’s Never Too Late. This story tells us that there is always room for faith, no matter what challenges we may be facing. No matter what the medical facts of an illness may be, no matter what the history of a wounded relationship may be, no matter how many times we may have succumbed to a particular pattern of sin—Jesus can still work in that situation. The problem is never too big, and the timing is never too late. He can turn around the most distressing of situations, soften the hardest of hearts, and cure the most ravaging of diseases.
This story also tells us that Jesus responds to faith. Many people were touching Jesus as he walked down the road that day. But in the middle of all this contact, it was this woman’s fleeting touch—just a simple brush across his cloak—that was met with his healing power.
Were the other people simply curious? Were they skeptical? Were they interested only in seeing a miracle, but not in bringing their own needs to Jesus? We don’t know; perhaps it was a combination of these and other factors. But we do know that this woman had faith, and she was transformed.
So reach out in faith. Identify your own obstacles, and try to push through them. Jesus wants you to come to him. He wants to heal you. He is just asking you to take the first step.
An Intimate Encounter. This is not to say that everyone with faith gets the exact healing they ask for. And neither is it to say that people who do not get healed are weak in faith. Ever since the beginning of the Church, believers have been challenged by the mystery of God’s will and his wisdom. We just don’t know why some people are healed, while others are not. But we do know that Jesus answers everyone who turns to him. Sometimes the answers are surprising, and sometimes they far surpass the physical healings we are asking for. But whether the healing is physical, spiritual, or emotional, the truth remains the same as what St. Peter said at Pentecost two thousand years ago: “Everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord” (Acts 2:21).
The hemorrhaging woman’s story embodies this truth by showing us that faith has to do with Jesus himself and not his power to remove sickness. The woman reached out to touch his cloak, expecting to be healed physically—and she was. But Jesus did not let her remain anonymous. Stopping abruptly, he asked who touched him. When the woman told her story, Jesus didn’t scold her for making him unclean. He didn’t treat her like a thief. Rather, he spoke to her tenderly, calling her “daughter” and assuring her of his love and grace (Mark 5:34).
This woman was blessed, not only with a miraculous healing, but with a whole new lease on life as well. No longer was she bound by pain and weakness. No longer was she an unclean outcast. Now she was a beloved daughter, a member of the family of God. It seems, in fact, that she received far more than she was hoping for. Coming face-to-face with Jesus, she received an even deeper and more important healing—a salvation that penetrated her entire being.
Reach Out to Jesus. Jesus wants to heal us! But even more important, he wants intimacy with us. He wants us to feel free to go to him with whatever needs we have. He wants to tell us, just as he told this woman, that we are beloved sons and daughters of God.
So don’t be afraid to reach out to Jesus. Go ahead and ask for whatever healing you need, for yourself or for others. Then listen to him tell you that you are his child and that your faith has saved you!
Five Steps to Praying for Healing
1. Be Confident
Believe that Jesus is able to heal—and can heal through your prayer!
Trust that God will guide you as you step out in faith.
2. Listen . . .
To the person who asks for prayer and tells you what their need is.
To God, who from time to time gives us a sense of what to pray for and how to pray.
3. Lay Hands on the Person
Ask the person if you can place your hands on them and if they are comfortable being touched.
Let the healing love of Jesus flow through you to that person.
4. Pray Calmly and Peacefully
Invite Jesus to be with you and the person for whom you are praying.
Be specific in your prayer. Ask Jesus for exactly what the person needs.
Pray positively: proclaim that God is indeed pouring out grace and healing on your friend. Imagine the healing taking place.
5. Pray with Trust and Thanksgiving
“Let this be done, Father, according to your will.”
Thank the Lord for hearing your prayer and answering it in his love and compassion.