For the most part, we need encouragement to believe that God does heal people. But after we do summon up the courage to launch out and start praying, we may get discouraged when we realize that people are not always healed through our prayers. This is especially puzzling to those who have been exposed to a very simplistic approach to healing: “All you have to do is claim your healing.”
The best point of view, I think, is to see that God’s ordinary will is that people be healed. We need to believe in God’s healing power and pray for healing, while at the same time realizing that there is a mystery involved and that this particular person may not be healed. In my ministry, I have discovered a number of these reasons, some of which are given below:
A False Value Attached to Suffering. While it is true that some suffering is redemptive and is for a higher purpose, we must balance this statement by saying that most sickness does not appear to be redemptive. I have been asked to pray for people who didn’t really want to be free of their suffering. It seemed to me that their sickness was destructive and was not a blessing sent by God, but they had been so conditioned by their training that they felt guilty about asking God to take away their suffering. When you see a person depressed and unhappy under the weight of disease, you can be fairly sure that he is not being blessed by God.
Not Using the Natural Means of Preserving Health. Although most of us have a high estimation of the medical profession, many of us neglect the ordinary means of keeping balance in our lives. If we neglect these, we should not be surprised if we fall sick and prayer does not cure us. It’s as if the body needs a rest, and God is telling us: “Put more balance in your life. Unless you take ordinary care of yourself, do not expect to be cured of your sickness through extraordinary means. You are sinning against your own body.”
Not Seeing Medicine as a Way God Heals. I firmly believe that physicians and medicines are the instruments that God ordinarily uses to bring about healing. The Book of Sirach explicitly says that after we pray we should “give the doctor his place lest he leave; for you need him too. There are times that give him an advantage, and he too beseeches God that his diagnosis may be correct and his treatment bring about a cure” (Sirach 38:12-14). Time after time, enthusiasts set up a kind of opposition between the world that God has created and the “supernatural.” This false opposition further damages the sick person and sets up a needless controversy with physicians that results in mutual suspicion between religion and science.
Lack of Faith. When the disciples could not cure the epileptic demoniac, Jesus upbraided them for their lack of faith (Matthew 17:14-20). I believe that this is still the reason we do not see more healings; there is a general skepticism that looks at healing as nothing more than a natural psychological process. But even for those of us who do believe, we need to grow in faith. I find that I have more faith than I did a few years ago. We need to grow in faith—even those of us who have seen miracles of healing—in order that God can use us still more.
Not Praying Specifically. Several times I have prayed for inner healing and I thought we were praying about the right problem, and yet nothing happened. It was only when we went back and found the root incident, which had been forgotten, and prayed for Jesus to enter into that moment and heal it, that the healing finally took place. Some evangelists teach that the reason why people who have been healed and later regress is that they lack the faith to hold onto their healing. That is one possible reason. But another reason may not be in the sick person but in the person praying for healing. It’s possible that he or she has prayed only for the healing of symptoms. We should never be too hasty in accusing people of lacking faith.