Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

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”.


10 Responses to A Theology of Healing

  1. Andrew Arndt says:

    JR – as always, love the thoughts here. I grew up Pentecostal/Charismatic, so healing was a big part of my Christian experience growing up. As good as that experience was, eventually I grew uncomfortable with it somewhat (doing my undergrad at Oral Roberts University probably had something to do with that ;), particularly in how it mechanized God – i.e., you put in faith, God puts out the miraculous; every time, no exceptions.

    After leaving ORU, I went a very Reformed seminary. I loved the stress on the sovereignty of God and certainly the more robust theology of suffering, yet even there the mechanized view of God persisted – the decree settles it, we submit to it. Hard to distinguish “God” from “Fate” under that scheme.

    In any event, I think a strong notion of the “PERSON”hood of God helps cut against mechanizing tendencies… remembering that we’re not dealing with an impersonal force, but with a Loving Father who lives in an intersubjective relationship of love and care with us, and who aches for our good; both immediate and ultimate. And so we cry out to him in our pain and on behalf of others’ pain like creatures dependent on their Creator… and when healing happens, we rejoice and give thanks with all our hearts… and when it doesn’t, we mourn and grieve and lament, and keep worshiping (like David) the God who one day will make all things right.

    So I loved your closing statement – In the end, “we have not been called to explain sickness and healing, we have been called to heal the sick”. Amen and amen I say.

    Sorry for the rant. Peace : )

  2. JR Woodward says:

    Andrew,

    Dude, I have to thank you for your “rant” because I could listen to your thoughts for a long time. I love hearing about your journey and what you have learned and picked up along they way. I really appreciate your thoughts on the personhood of God, and the language of “an intersubjective relationship of love and care with us.” You paint a beautiful picture of the core of our faith, our relationship with the Triune God, and growing in trust in Him, even through suffering. So thank you for your thoughts. We should connect soon on the phone. I’d love to catch up a bit more. Shalom.

  3. Ben Sternke says:

    Great stuff, JR! I think that so often this issue unnecessarily divides the Body of Christ. Some of those who object to some of the excesses of the “charismatic” folks find it easy to avoid the issue of divine healing, assuming God will do something if He wants. And some of the folks who are excited about divine healing find it easy to disregard those who have questions about it, assuming they are simply “religious.”

    So I like the balance you’ve brought here. Reminds me of something I heard Mike Breen say, “Don’t throw away the gift just because you don’t like the wrapping.”

    So we have to grapple with uncomfortable questions, like “Why does faith play such a prominent role in biblical healing?” and “Why doesn’t everyone get healed when we pray?” and “What do I say to someone who doesn’t get healed?”

  4. Ben Sternke says:

    “remembering that we’re not dealing with an impersonal force, but with a Loving Father who lives in an intersubjective relationship of love and care with us, and who aches for our good; both immediate and ultimate. And so we cry out to him in our pain and on behalf of others’ pain like creatures dependent on their Creator… and when healing happens, we rejoice and give thanks with all our hearts… and when it doesn’t, we mourn and grieve and lament, and keep worshiping (like David) the God who one day will make all things right.”

    Amen to that Andrew!

  5. Ty Grigg says:

    Hey JR,
    Blue’s book is required for a class I’m currently taking. Looking forward to reading it! Thanks for the post.

  6. JR Woodward says:

    Ben,

    So true. Life is messy but we ought to live on the edge of chaos, taking risks in faith. You do a great job of that. And I amen Andrew’s words again, because he has such a gift at expressing truth. Peace bro.

  7. Andrew Arndt says:

    Aw thanks guys : ) JR – would love to catch up sometime. Let’s figure it out!

  8. JR Woodward says:

    Ty,

    What class is that for? I think you will like it. Good theological grounding and very practical.

  9. Dan says:

    Its a wonderful thing to have faith and pray for healing, but its dangerous to resist medical attention in lieu of faith. If your hungry, do you pray to be filled? Or do you eat a meal? There are healers among us, they’re called doctors. Perhaps an effort to help oneself combined with prayer is the logical approach?

  10. JR Woodward says:

    Dan,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Seeking healing from a physician who is trained in medicine is great, especially if you are in a privileged place to get it (unlike most of the world). I encourage both praying for healing and seeking medical attention. I don’t think we ought to live in an either/or world, when we have the both/and option.

    We must also keep in mind that the only thing the Lord had against King Asa was that he sought a physician before he sought the Lord. We ought to seek the Lord in everything, including our food. And of course be thankful for all that he provides, be it medical attention or food on our table, for all comes from Him.

    With that said, while God has blessed us with people who have trained to be doctors, plenty of people realize that doctors “practice” medicine, sometimes extremely well (thank God) but there are some illnesses that doctors and medicine has not been able to cure, but we can always pray.

    Prayer for healing should take place before, during and after any medical attention. Medical attention should be sought, especially for the privileged people who have it and can pay for it (for many of my brothers and sisters that I visit around the world do not have this luxury yet), and we should seek to continue to encourage people to train as physicians, finding new cures to ailments, while at the same time praying to the Great Physician and encouraging the ministry of healing our in congregations.

    Again, thanks for your thoughts, I hope this response is helpful to you as well.

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