A Theology of Healing
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5: 14-16 NIV
Healing is an important ministry of the church because it alleviates human suffering and acts as a sign and foretaste of God’s kingdom. Yet, there are a number of theological hindrances that need to be uprooted for churches to fruitfully engage in the ministry of healing. First it is important to recognize that while we are called to endure suffering, we are always told to pray that we might be healed of sickness. Jesus never sanctioned sickness for anyone, but he did say we would suffer and be persecuted. We are not to passively accept illness as a decree from God, nor presume that there is some “faith formula” where God must heal in all cases. One of the most significant hindrances we need to overcome is the worldview that outright denies divine intervention.
Jesus reveals God’s heart and demonstrates that God in his compassion seeks to make us whole emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. The healing ministry of the church is rooted in God’s compassion for people. The atonement provides eschatological certainty for healing, but we must remember the “already-not-yet” dynamic of the kingdom. While there is no cause and effect relationship between faith and healing, there is a high correlation between having a child like faith in God’s loving character and ability to heal, and healing being realized because we pray for it. Yet the ministry of healing, like all other ministries is partial, provisional and ambiguous.
Thus if we desire to fully obey Christ and live in the power of the kingdom, all churches should engage in the ministry of healing and we should encourage those who have the gift of healing our in congregations. Ken Blue in his book Authority to Heal gives us practical advice on how to get started. First, it is important to interview the person in need, seeking to understand the nature and history of the problem. The nature and potential cause of the problem, give direction to discern the approach to prayer, remembering the connection of emotional, spiritual, and mental issues with the physical is important. We should pray for specific results, assess what has happened as well as give postprayer direction to people. In the end, “we have not been called to explain sickness and healing, we have been called to heal the sick”.