This past Sunday our sermon text was Colossians 1:9-11. These verses at the very beginning of the Apostle Paul's letter to the young church in Colossae, outline how Paul and his associates have been praying for them. As I preached this passage I noted that the prayer is focused on spiritual health in these believers as opposed to physical health. In our culture is quite unbalanced in its focus on prosperity, therefore our prayers can too often reflect our desire for physical health as the end-all, be-all for us. Our prayers for one another in the church are usually focused on praying for the health situation of a brother or sister. I made the point that when we read the New Testament we see that Paul and the Apostles primarily focused their prayers on spiritual health for the church rather than physical health. It is right for us to be challenged to adjust our focus on praying for one another, yet, I know I may have left some wondering if it is ever right for us to pray for the physical health and healing of our loved ones?
The answer is of course, yes. Praying for health and healing is a way to show God and others that we are completely dependent upon God for these things. He is sovereign, He can do all things, nothing is impossible with God, and He is wonderfully kind and gracious to us. Why wouldn't we humbly ask Him for healing or to help our fellow believers to recover their health? Even so, it is wise for us to learn what God's Word teaches us about how to pray for healing in a way that honors God and gives Him glory.
Let us first consider one key passage on praying for healing from James 5:14-15. These verses come within a whole paragraph focused on prayer. The Apostle is encouraging believers to pray in all circumstances and provides the example of the prophet Elijah who was a man just like us, not some divine super-human, yet his fervent prayers held great power, being effective. James stresses the importance of the church in praying for one another and caring for one another in times of need. The context of the prayer for healing though, comes right after a paragraph where the Apostle encourages the church to suffer with patience and to learn from the example of Job who was a model of perseverance and patience in suffering. This is significant for us who live within a culture of instant gratification and such an ever-increasing number of effective, as well as alleged, remedies for any discomfort. Before James encourages praying for healing he reminds us that God's will may be for us to suffer for a time in order to provide us with the opportunity to display the Spiritual fruit of endurance.
Let us also learn from the Lord Jesus, first, in his instructions about prayer and then second, from his own personal example. In Matthew 6:9-13, the Lord instructs the disciples on how to pray, "Pray then like this . . ." The main application we ought to consider when praying for healing and good health is the petition Jesus provides for us in vs. 10, "Your kingdom come, your will be done". Whenever we pray and what-ever we are praying our main concern must be the coming of the Lord's kingdom and the desire that His will be done, even over our desires.
We also can learn from the Lord's own personal example of prayer when he prayed the night before his crucifixion in the garden of Gethsemane. The Lord was anticipating incredible suffering on the cross both physically and spiritually as he was about to bear the sin of all of God's people and suffer the wrath of God for us. He prays to his Father to remove the cup of suffering God's wrath from Him, if it is possible. He would rather not have to endure such terrifying horror of the wrath of God. Yet, in the prayer he also makes it clear, "not as I will, but as you will."
We can apply these lessons then with an example of a prayer for the healing of someone who may be suffering within the church. -
"Our Father in heaven, You are our creator and you hold us all in your loving, gracious and powerful hands. Our lives are yours. You are sovereign over us. We confess our lack of faith and trust in you, especially when times are difficult. We so easily forget that our trials and sufferings are not surprises to you, but that you design them for us to serve a great purpose for our good, even though we may not understand here and now. Grant us faith, help us to believe your promises are true. We pray that your name would be honored and glorified through our lives in every way, even in the midst of these trials. We plead for mercy on behalf of our brother/sister _______ who is suffering today with __________. We would love for his/her suffering to be relieved and that his/her health would be restored. For the sake of his/her joy and that of his/her spouse and children/family. We long to see him/her regain his/her health. Yet we confess you know better than we do what will bring you glory and what your purpose is for our brother/sister. Your will be done O Lord, your will be done. Help us all to grow in our faith and trust in You and to rejoice always that Christ has won the victory for us over sin, death and hell. No matter what comes, we belong to Christ and will be with Him forever. Help us to hang on to that hope in these days and to display our patience with gratitude to You. In Christ's name we pray, Amen."