Praying for healing
With great love and compassion, Jesus healed everyone who sought Him for any disability, illness, and disease. He never turned anyone away. Yet not everyone who prays for healing in Jesus’ name receives it. What blocks healing and how are we to understand healing from a biblical perspective?
Matthew 9:35-36 ESV And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Most of us would love to experience miraculous healings like the ones we read about in the Bible. But when healing doesn’t come immediately after our fervent prayers, we may be disappointed and tempted to wonder:
- Does God not love me?
- Have I done something wrong?
- Do I not have enough faith? Should I try to believe harder?
- What steps am I missing?
- Do I find someone with the gift of healing to pray for me?
To better understand God’s healing, let’s turn to His Word, starting with what He says about our bodies.
Our bodies are made for God’s glory
1. We have been wonderfully made
When God designed creation, He called it “very good”. Of everything He created, He made mankind in His image to reflect His holiness, goodness, and authority over all the earth.
Genesis 1:31 ESV And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:26 ESV Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So regardless of what the world tells us about our bodies should look or be like, we need to remember that God created our bodies uniquely for us. He chose our DNA and designed every organ in our body. We should, therefore, praise God for our bodies and not be tempted to call it “bad” or curse it.
Psalm 139:13-15 ESV For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
2. God commands us to rest our bodies
Physical, emotional and spiritual stress takes a heavy toll on our bodies. God, our Creator, programmed our bodies to be restored through Him as we rest. This is why He commands us to rest our minds, bodies, and souls for an entire day once a week, working six days and then putting down all distractions and striving to honour Him on the seventh. Even God Himself rested on the seventh day after He created the earth and put resting on His Sabbath in His Ten Commandments. Neglecting our Sabbath rest is a sin.
Exodus 20:8-10 ESV “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
Exodus 31:15 ESV Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.
3. Sin brings sickness
Sickness can be a signal that we have unwittingly submitted our bodies to Satan through sin. Described as a thief, Satan will kill off our immune systems and destroy our bodies if we let him. Satan knows that if he is able to torment our bodies, the pain we suffer can overwhelm our desire and ability to worship God.
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Sin separates us from God’s goodness and all His good plans for us. When we rebel against the Creator of our bodies, we open ourselves up to “grievous and lasting sicknesses“. God in all His goodness, simply cannot reward us for turning away from Him to follow Satan, the god of this world. Adam and Eve had already made that grievous mistake and we continue to suffer the consequences of their actions today. Our bodies are not meant to be used as “instruments of evil to serve sin”, they are meant to do what is right and to glorify God.
Deuteronomy 28:58-59 ESV “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.
Romans 6:13 NLT Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.
4. God is compassionate towards us
Thankfully, our Heavenly Father hears all our prayers and is forever compassionate and faithful to His children. He promises to uphold us when we call on Him. His great compassion is the reason why Jesus came to die for our sins. Let us, therefore, approach Him with the right understanding of His characer and love for us.
Psalm 145:13-14,16,18-19 ESV … The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
5. Jesus paid for our bodies and the forgiveness of our sins
By dying the cross for us, Jesus paid to redeem our bodies from Satan’s destruction. He provided access to an abundant life through the forgiveness of our sins. At the same time, He took on all our curses of spiritual and physical affliction upon His body, so that our bodies can become holy and acceptable before God.
Galatians 3:13-14 ESV Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
Romans 12:1 ESV I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
6. His Holy Spirit brings new life to our bodies
Where we have suffered sickness and spiritual death in our bodies in the past, God’s all-powerful Spirit will bring new life to us. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the abundant life, and He gives us the ability to claim that back from our enemy, Satan.
Romans 8:9-11 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
7. We are called to use our bodies to glorify God
In gratitude, we are called to praise and honour God by the way we use our bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:20 ESV You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body
What brings sickness and affliction
We naturally fall ill when we don’t eat properly, get enough rest, and watch over our bodies in general. Sickness may also have spiritual roots.
1. Sin and disobedience
The subject of sin is not a popular one, but it is one we need to consider when we examine the reasons for our sicknesses, especially those that are debilitating. Sin invites spiritual death and oppression, as shown by some of the examples in the table below.
|1. Idol worship||Exodus 23:24-26 ESV you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.|
|2. Mistreating God’s Word||Revelation 22:18 ESV I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,|
|3. Lust for wealth||Ecclesiastes 5:10-12,17 ESV He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep… Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.|
4. Hatred and unforgiveness
|1 John 3:15 ESV Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.|
Moreover, Jesus also told people to stop sinning after He healed them, so that “that nothing worse may happen”.
John 5:8-9,14 ESV Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”
2. Demonic oppression and torment
Jesus also rebuked and cast out evil spirits related to certain disabilities, such as blindness, muteness, epilepsy, and various body disorders. Everyone that He cast demons out of was healed.
Matthew 12:22 ESV Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.
Matthew 17:14-15,18 ESV … a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.
Luke 13:11-13 And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.
Matthew 4:24 ESV So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
3. Dishonouring Communion
Communion is taken in honour and thanksgiving of Jesus’ torturous death for our sins, so that we may have eternal life. The Bible warns us against taking the wine and bread at Communion disrespectfully, without regard for its true meaning. This can bring God’s judgment on us, in the form of poor health, sickness, and even early death. If we have ever made this mistake, God will graciously accept our confession and repentance.
1 Corinthians 11:28-30 ESV For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
4. Generational sins
Sometimes, sickness gets passed down to us because of generational sin. We see an example in Gehazi, the prophet Elisha’s servant. God had told Elisha to heal an army commander, Naaman, of leprosy. In his gratitude, Naaman presented Elisha with lavish gifts but the prophet turned these down. Instead, his servant, Gehazi, secretly lied to Naaman and took some of the gifts for himself. As a result of his greed and lies, Gehazi and his descendants were cursed with leprosy forever. Thank God that we can break generational curses in the name of Jesus Christ today.
2 Kings 5:27 ESV Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.
5. God’s higher purpose
Certain people may encounter sickness because God intends to manifest His glory through their bodies. It is not their sins that caused them to be afflicted. We see this in the example of Job, whom Satan afflicted with sores on his body, as well as the blind man whom Jesus healed. Both had a powerful personal encounter with God afterward. These examples are more the exception than the norm. As we can see from the numerous examples of Jesus’ miraculous healings, sickness is often the result of the brokenness in this world and sin.
Job 2:7 ESV So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
John 9:1-3 ESV As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Some reminders when seeking God for healing
All of Jesus’ miraculous healings were done to point people to God. Even His instructions to His disciples on healing included sharing the gospel with those they healed in Jesus’ name.
Luke 10:9 ESV Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
1. Beware our motives and attitudes
Anyone would naturally gravitate to quick fixes to relieve pain and discomfort. Often, the better option might actually be to first seek God Himself. He may be pointing us to a more serious issue in our hearts. Like King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20, we can miss God’s heart and intentions for healing and seek only to fulfill our own plans.
King Hezekiah received a miraculous healing from God for a fatal skin condition and even received an extra 15 years on his life. Instead of thanking God, the king challenged God for a difficult sign, which God also graciously agreed to.
2 Kings 20:1-2,4 ESV In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death… Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord…. Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you.
2 Kings 20:8-11 ESV And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord on the third day?” And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.
Despite all this, King Hezekiah did not humbly honour God. When some Babylon visitors came to inquire about his health, the king gladly showed them that he was physically alive as well as his nation’s treasures. Because of the king’s foolish irreverence, God proclaimed judgment on the kingdom. Sadly, the king was not remorseful or repentant because he knew he would not live to see the judgment come about. King Hezekiah may have been healed from his fatal disease, but his heart was evidently sick with selfish pride. His actions led to the suffering of many people.
2 Kings 20:15-19 ESV And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon… They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?
2. Beware the prosperity gospel
There is a teaching nowadays that preaches that God wants to heal everybody. This is certainly true because God wants to redeem all who are lost and hurting, but we cannot presume to know His wisdom, will or timing. As we see from the example of King Hezekiah, miraculous healings do not always lead to good outcomes for people. God may choose to withhold His healing for reasons we may not be able to understand. Nonetheless, we can still praise God in any circumstance. Let us not stifle the Holy Spirit who lives in us by doubting God’s higher and better plans.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 ESV Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
3. Beware the chasing of signs and wonders
God does amazing things throughout the universe every day. On earth, such signs and wonders are meant to point us to our Heavenly Father. Miraculous healings are not meant to justify God’s power, stoop down to our fancies or intrigue us. God is our Almighty Ruler, not our entertainer. He uses signs and wonders to draw people closer to Him.
Matthew 12:38-40 ESV …“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. So he left them and departed.
4. Beware spiritual oppression
Often, we only examine sickness from a visible perspective. As God’s Word and testimonies from this website show us, some illnesses and insomnia are due to unseen demonic oppression. Thank God that we can be set free in Jesus’ name. God’s Holy Spirit will reveal the demons or generational curses that oppress us physically as we humbly fast and seek Him.
How we can block our own healing
Our lives are driven by many subconscious patterns of thinking. Some of these subconscious ways may also block healing. God calls us to be renewed in our minds so that we know God’s will and pray accordingly.
Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Unbelief can block God from doing any good work in our bodies, because our self-will rejects His. Jesus “did not do many mighty works because of the unbelief” in His hometown of Nazareth (see Mark 6:1-6). Collective unbelief will make it difficult for healing miracles to take place.
Matthew 13:58 ESV And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
Unbelief can take many forms. For example, we may believe:
- “God doesn’t heal today like He did in the Bible.” | Hebrews 13:8 ESV Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
- “There are some diseases that God won’t heal.” | Psalm 103:2-3 ESV Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases
- “Ordinary people can’t pray for healing.” | James 5:16 ESV Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
2. Bondage to lies about our bodies
Our minds can also be kept in bondage to destructive lies, such as “I am bound to get sick because it runs in my family”, or “God gave me this sickness for my good”, “If I receive healing, I will miss the attention I get from being sick” or “I will fall sick again after I step out of here.” We need to watch out for destructive forms of thinking that will hinder healing in our bodies.
Proverbs 4:23 ESV Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
3. Prioritising deadly emotions and thoughts over God
Another way we block our own healing is by hanging to fear, trauma, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. The Bible says that a “joyful heart is good medicine”. We grieve God when we place greater faith in our own emotions and ways of thinking than His power to heal us. We need to repent for these in Jesus’ name before we ask for healing.
Proverbs 17:22 ESV A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Acts 3:16 ESV And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
4. Curses spoken over us
The words that other people say over us can bring sickness or early death as well. For instance, if we put our faith in a medical practitioner who says we will die in a year’s time, our brains may start to react in a way that affects our bodies negatively. We may not literally die in 12 months but the words spoken over us may become a curse. See more on curses.
Proverbs 18:21 ESV Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Psalm 16:9 ESV Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
Godly attitudes towards health and healing
1. Seek God, obey Him and confess any sins
God promises to keep us from sickness if we follow His laws for living abundantly. Let us start by seeking Him first and asking Him to check our hearts to reveal any sin that may be causing us to fall ill.
Exodus 23:25 ESV You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you
Then we can confess these sins with a God-fearing brother or sister in Christ to ask for healing. To “obtain a blessing” of healing, we will need to also forgive anyone who has caused us physical pain, injury or injustice, and bless him or her.
1 Peter 3:9 ESV Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
2. Pray for guidance to the right doctors
While we pray for healing, we should also be responsible and consult doctors and specialists for severe sicknesses. The apostle Paul, who performed miraculous healings, also told Timothy to drink some wine because of his frequent illnesses. Even Paul relied on “medicinal” solutions.
Pray for God to lead us to doctors who will speak His words of life and will pronounce the diagnosis that God wants us to hear, rather than speak irresponsibly and curse our bodies.
3. Be prayerful and patient
There are instances in the Bible where healing comes over time, such as the blind man whose eyesight was slowly restored. We just have to trust God in His sovereign wisdom and timing. He knows what He is doing. We can wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Mark 8: 23-25 ESV And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Lamentations 3:24-26 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
4. Keep up our spiritual disciplines
As far as is possible, we should not slacken on the study of God’s Word and fasting. This spiritual nourishment also helps in the healing of our physical state.
Proverbs 4:20-22 ESV My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
Isaiah 58:6,8 ESV “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily…
5. Be realistic
On earth, we will have to put up with some sickness. The apostle Paul was a great faith warrior who healed the sick and raised the dead. Yet he too endured body ailments and his disciple Timothy suffered from frequent illnesses.
It is only in heaven that the Bible promises that there will be no sickness and pain. With God, we can learn to be content and at peace whether in sickness or in health, knowing that even if our bodies “waste away”, our spirits are being renewed every day.
Galatians 4:13-14 ESV You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:11-13 ESV Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
A prayer for our health and healing
Based on the overview of what the Bible shows us about healing above, here is a prayer for our health.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I praise You for Jesus’ death on the cross to pay the price for my sins and to purchase my body from all curses. I believe in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and declare that He has destroyed all the works of the enemy. Father, please search my heart and show me anything that separates me from You. I confess (name the sins that come to mind), please forgive me. I also forgive (name anyone that comes to mind). Today, I humbly ask for healing to come upon my (name the condition) in Jesus’ name. May my (describe the body parts) come back into their original God-ordained wellness. I send any afflicting spirit of (name the condition) from Satan to the feet of Jesus, in Jesus’ name, and command you not to return. Holy Spirit, I welcome You to do Your redeeming work in my body. May Your will be done in my life and my body be used for Your glory.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
Also, see a sample prayer for healing.
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