Dare we risk healing prayer?
Have you ever felt uncomfortable reading the book of Acts? Or felt that the first Christians in Acts set the bar a little too high? Did Jesus really mean what he said in Mark 16, that signs will follow those who believe: demons will be cast out, the sick will be healed, and poison won’t harm us?
It’s hard to relate to biblical testimonies like this one: “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles . . . And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women . . . The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed” (Acts 5:12, 14, 16 ESV).
Signs, wonders, and revival all mentioned in one breath. Are you like me: does this make you a little uncomfortable? This seems so far from my reality and my daily walk with Christ. What does this have to do with us anyway? What does it have to do with missions in a highly technological country like Japan in the 21st century?
Healings, revivals, and church growth
I believe that healing is one of the keys to grow our churches and invite people into the arms of our loving Father. I believe healing is for today, and it’s as much for our beloved Japanese people as for any other nation.
There are countless reports from all over the world on healings that sparked revivals. For example, Revival Fires by professor and former missionary Dr. Geoff Waugh is just one of the books that document these inspiring stories.
In a sermon titled “Divine Healing and Church Growth”, Dr. McGavran, founding Dean of the School of World Missions, stated, “All Christians ought to think their way through this matter and realize that there is a power which a great many of us have not sufficiently used.”1
Examples of healing I’ve witnessed
I have seen several healings throughout my Christian walk. So far, many of them were small healings for things like tennis elbow or severe back pain. I’m praying and believing for bigger ones to come.
Recently, I went to a park in Ikebukuro with friends from the ministry “Healing Time.” We saw a Japanese man walking with a crutch. He was in pain from an accident a few days prior. We asked if we could pray for him. Five minutes later he was completely pain-free and able to walk normally. I enjoyed his loud, astonished Japanese “eeehhhh!?!” We were able to tell him the gospel and that it was Jesus who invited him into a relationship through this healing. He accepted Christ then and there in that small park. We rejoiced and gave God all the glory.
And then there was a young friend who had an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS). She fought hard for 10 years and eventually died at the age of 26. I prayed countless times for her and it seemed to not make any difference. It made me so sad. I still don’t understand it, yet I resist the temptation to fabricate explanations. And I won’t let this stop me. I believe that Jesus heals today—even tough stuff like MS. He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. The same power that flowed through the apostles in Acts lives in you and me—we have exactly the same Spirit.
Does the Bible back up a connection between revival and healing?
Let’s look at Acts 9:32–35: When Peter was visiting all parts of the country he came to the faithful followers who were living in the city of Lydda. A man there named Aeneas was paralyzed. He had been in bed for eight years. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your bed.” He got up at once. All the people who lived in Lydda and in the city of Sharon saw Aeneas and they turned to the Lord. (Author paraphrase)
One healing and two cities turned to God. Amazing! Did the people put their trust in Peter, or in healing, or miracles? That’s not what it says. We are sometimes afraid that the supernatural will distract from Jesus or the gospel. But Jesus called them “signs.” Healings are signs that point people to the love and power of the living God. Throughout the Gospels and Acts, we see that many people decided to believe the Lord after they saw signs. Can this happen in Japan—a whole neighborhood turning to God because someone gets radically healed? Is this even possible in our day and age?
Just like Jesus and the apostles?
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matt. 9:35 NIV). Jesus said in John 14:12, “I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing” (NIV). The keyword here is “believe.” I know you believe in Jesus. But do you believe what he said in this verse and that his power lives inside you?
For many years we have built a theology that put the power of the ministry of Jesus to the sidelines. In our seminaries and discipleship courses we rarely train people how to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. We’ve done well in following Jesus in his teaching ministry; we have been preaching a lot of wonderful sermons. But is the kingdom of God only a matter of the intellect?
How well are we copying the other aspects of Jesus’ ministry—deliverance, healing, raising the dead? These are uncomfortable questions, and we usually prefer to ignore them.
Embracing the risk
Yes, the topic comes with a risk and a price. There can be opposition within the church when you start talking about healing.
It scares many of us, and I understand some concerns: What if we create a hype and things get out of control? What if people run after signs and thrilling experiences and reject discipleship? What if some people get healed and others don’t? What if people get disappointed and hurt? These are absolutely valid concerns and we need to address them. Nevertheless, I believe rejecting and ignoring healing (and other signs) is not an option. Let’s face the fear in our hearts and churches and let’s give the Holy Spirit permission to do his work, not only in us but also through us.
One of my favorite verses that encourages me to believe that we can actually do what Jesus commanded us to do is this: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). If Christ lives in you and me, healings are possible today.
It’s all about him
How we do address the concerns I mentioned above?
First, love always needs to be the driving force (1 Cor. 16:14). Anything done without love is dead. Anything done in love is a success (1 Cor. 13:8). Healing without love is pointless.
But not praying for someone in need when The Healer lives inside us is not loving either (James 4:17).
Second, we don’t need to make a show of it. But when someone gets healed, we use it to testify to God’s goodness and love. We let the healing bring glory to our wonderful Yahweh Rapha, the Lord who heals (Ex. 15:26).
Third, if people don’t get healed we make sure that they know God does not love them any less. We love on them, walk with them, and encourage them. At the same time, we keep praying and believing for healing.
Let’s get practical
Do you desire to see healings happen through you? Start with believing that it really is possible. Faith is the springboard. The Healer lives in you. He empowers you. Get in touch with people who already walk in it, ask questions, watch, learn, practice. You can also contact Healing Time or other similar ministries. Don’t just sit back and wait for others to start.
Jesus promised in the final moments before he ascended, “signs will follow those who believe” (Mark 16:17 NIV). Let’s dare to believe this together.
Disclaimer: Simone did not intend this to be a theological article on healing.
A missionary and teacher from Austria, Simone Gögl has lived in Tokyo for over five years and can be contacted through the website www.healingtime.info. She and her ministry team are happy to receive requests for healing prayer.