A meditation on three forms of healing at a gathering of the Kingston Order of St. Luke, December 10, 2003
by Robert Brow
As we think about our ministry in the Order of St. Luke it is good to distinguish three quite different forms of prayer for healing. First there is personal prayer for our own healing. Then there is prayer for the sick in a healing service. And thirdly there is intercessory prayer for others.
Personal prayer for our own healing The secret of this kind of prayer is boldness. "Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:6). We are too hesitant, too cautious, we wonder if we have a right to ask. It is not part of our denominational tradition to ask favors from God. Are we worthy enough? Other people have far greater needs than our petty problem. Satan is accusing us of this and that. Why should the King of kings and Lord of hosts bother with me?
The picture here is of a totally powerful King. He is sitting on a throne, and he loves to exercise grace. We push boldly past the guards at the door. If they try to stop us, we walk past them. "Don’t you realize I am one of the King’s children." Then we go straight up to the throne, take the King’s hand and say "I know that I am not perfect. I have many faults that need correcting, But right now I have this pain that is bothering me." Or we might say "The Doctor says I have prostate cancer." I remember when I did that four years ago, and since then I have an implant every three months that keeps my PSA level right on normal.
Prayer in a healing service One after another people come up, we take their hand, and they expect us to pray for them. At that point there is no desperate pleading, psychologizing, or trying to offer solutions for problems, or suggesting treatment that helped us. We just bring the person to Jesus and let him get on with it in his own way You remember how "Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them" (Mark 1:30-31). All we have to do is put the person into the hands of Jesus. "Lord, Mary is concerned about losing her sight. That is your problem, and as I lay my hands on her I leave her in your loving hands."
But this is not a quick formality before we move on to the next person. It is helpful to keep our eyes open and see how the person is receiving our prayer. We could have a moment of silence, and ask "Have you anything else that is on your heart right now?" Often people come forward asking for prayer for something obvious, but they have a much deeper concern that needs Jesus’ more immediate attention.
Intercessory prayer for others Here we are on our own in a quiet place. The Holy Spirit gives us a sick person to pray for. Our first reaction is to say. "Lord this is too difficult. What can I pray?" Then we remember the words of Paul. "The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27). This is called prayer in the Spirit. We have no idea what to ask. We just let the Holy Spirit do the praying, and he knows exactly what the Father has in mind for this person.
Often as we do this the Holy Spirit will take us to circle around the person in need. There are parents who are concerned but they don’t really know how to pray. They need support in the situation. Brothers and sisters may be helping or hindering the work of healing. There are other people praying. And there are doctors and nurses who are too busy to figure out what is really wrong. Healing prayer will touch and influence all of these. And that is when real healing begins to take place.
In some cases, as when Paul prayed three times for a severe eye condition, the answer may eventually be "My grace is sufficient for you." But we should not begin by wondering whether the Lord will heal. We pray boldly asking for the person to be healed. But prayer for healing is not answered as we expect, we have a right to ask for an explanation. He might for example answer that "my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
But in all three kinds of prayer situation great boldness is needed. Little children don’t qualify their asking by considering all the ifs and buts. "Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:6).