How to Pray for Healing

Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: Australian James Christopher Harrison, known as the “Man with the Golden Arm,” has an unusual plasma composition that has been used to make a treatment for Rhesus disease. He has made 1,173 blood donations throughout his lifetime, and these donations are estimated to have saved more than 2.4 million unborn babies from the condition! Of course, the blood of Jesus has healed many more ...

Sickness is a huge problem in our world today, touching virtually everyone on the planet. It’s estimated that 6 out of 10 adults have a chronic illness.

That’s why it should be no surprise that one of Jesus’ primary activities during His ministry was healing the sick. But one might ask, “Does Jesus still heal today? And if so, how do I experience that healing?”

Today, we need many kinds of healing—in our homes, our minds, our bodies, our families. And eternal healing can come only from God, the Great Physician.

Take note of this comprehensive passage that summarizes the ministry of Jesus. Right after His baptism and temptation, when He is filled with the Holy Spirit: “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23). 

I especially like this verse because it says that Jesus taught, preached, and healed. All the facets of His ministry are encompassed in this one sentence.

The passage goes on: “His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them” (v. 24).

Isn’t that encouraging? There is no record of a medical case brought to Jesus that He was unable to handle.

But how important is our physical prosperity to the Lord? His Word says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2). God regards your physical health as important as your spiritual prosperity. He does care, and He does want us to be physically well. In fact, good health was always part of God’s perfect plan.

The Priority of Healing

Throughout His ministry, Jesus spent as much time healing as He did preaching. Why? For one, God is compassionate! Another reason is that, as physical beings, we experience everything in our bodies. If we are sick, it’s difficult for us to concentrate on anything else—including our relationship with Him.

But I believe the most important reason Jesus healed people was so that He could point them to the kind of healing that would last forever. Indeed, all of Christ’s miracles of healing did not prevent people from eventually dying, no—but He healed in order that they and those who experienced it would seek after the ultimate healing He offers to us all: an eternal life with Him in a new body that will never weaken, age, or die.

When the paralytic was brought to Jesus, the first thing He said to the man was, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). The scribes were quick to accuse Him of blasphemy. He responded, “‘That you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house’” (vv. 6, 7). 

The multitude saw it and were amazed. Why did He do it? As a trick to impress? No! He did it so that they would know He had the power to forgive sin—to bring spiritual healing.

It’s a sad fact that many people want physical healing but don’t appreciate spiritual healing. They feel a little bad about being bad but feel very bad about feeling bad. What their behavior really says is, “Lord, help me to feel better so that I can enjoy sin more.”

The Causes of Our Sickness

Let’s identify the seven primary reasons that account for the physical sickness in our lives. 

First, you can become sick because of your ancestors. We all inherit various genetic weaknesses, which can affect longevity and overall health. Indeed, certain people groups are predisposed to particular diseases. Doctors often tease, “Choose your ancestors very carefully.”

Your actions can cause you to become ill. Do you exercise? Do you get enough water and sunlight and rest? Do you eat healthy food? The lack of these things can invite disease and weaken the body’s defenses.

Accidents happen, and sometimes when one part of the body is injured, it can begin a chain reaction of other internal problems that may lead to illness.

Attitudes are another major factor. Some people are sick not because of what they eat but because of what’s eating them. Many people become physically sick because of mental stress, negativity, bitterness, or a spirit of unforgiveness.

Sometimes sickness is acquired. You can catch communicable diseases and infections from others or from the environment.

As strange as it may sound, sickness can have an angelic (supernatural) cause. The devil can make people ill. When Jesus healed a woman who had suffered for many years, He stated that Satan had bound her. (See Luke 13:11–16.) In another example, “Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils” (Job 2:7).

And, finally, aging brings illness. While the human body does have an incredible ability to automatically heal, a miracle in itself, the recovery process weakens as time goes by. Additionally, cells and body systems inevitably succumb to old age. That’s not to say that God doesn’t heal the elderly, but at some point, aging will lead to some catastrophic failure. The ideal would be to go out as Moses did. The Bible says Moses lived 120 years, had clear vision, and was still able to climb a mountain on his final day (Deuteronomy 34:1–7). But it doesn’t usually happen that way.

A Passage to Healing

When we seek healing from the Lord, we should consider six biblical principles.

First, ask God for healing. But along with that, repent. Ask forgiveness for your sins and be willing to forgive others. Some think that repentance is a simple confession, but true repentance involves not only a confession but also a turning away from sin.

  • “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

  • “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

If they turn, God says, then I will. That’s a conditional promise. When Jesus healed a person, He often urged, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14).

Another important element in healing, one people often struggle with, is belief. Remember the leper who came to Jesus, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2)? He had full assurance that Jesus was capable of healing him. And Jesus did, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed” (v. 3).

Moreover, the Bible says that God is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). I think that because sometimes God does not immediately heal us, we’re often afraid to believe and to keep asking. But more times than not, Jesus did heal those who came and asked. I wonder how many have not been healed because they didn’t ask and believe.

Do you know somebody—a friend or family member—who is ill? You should also be interceding for them. When the centurion went to meet Jesus, he said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

Jesus was so amazed by this man’s attitude, He stated, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel” (v. 10).

The centurion was a Gentile, not a church member, which brings up another point. Does God miraculously heal only those on the church books? No, our merciful Lord sends the sunshine and the rain on everyone.

All the same, faith is a crucial element in prayer and healing. “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15). When Jesus was on the cross, two thieves spoke to Him. Only one was saved. One said, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us” (Luke 23:39, emphasis mine). The other one said, “Lord, remember me” (v. 42). The one who said “if” did not have faith in Jesus as his Savior and will likely not be in the kingdom.

We need the kind of faith displayed by Job when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). A true servant will trust God regardless of whether he gets what he wants. If we’re only in it for the loaves and fishes, we have the wrong attitude. We need unconditional faith.

It’s also important to cooperate. God often heals through modern medicine. Have you known of people who were praying for healing but wouldn’t use the practical means available? I’m sorry to tell you that I know of people not with us today who, if they had used proven medical methods, I’m quite certain would still be alive. But their attitude was “I’m just going to pray” while they neglect proven medical treatment.

While there is a place for natural treatments, God is also the one who gives doctors their skill and wisdom and helps scientists discover medical cures. Remember Jesus’ statement that “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17)? It means that those who are sick sometimes need a physician. “Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:12).

It’s also important to cooperate with the laws of health and healing. Instead of going back to the things that made you ill, cooperate with God. If you pray for healing from high blood pressure but are still eating donuts every day, you may be subverting God’s desire to heal you.

God’s Timing

Another point is persistence. Whatever you do, don’t give up quickly. Persist in using every reasonable avenue to work on the problem. When the paralytic’s friends couldn’t reach Jesus because of the large crowd, they didn’t give up; they kept on trying until they found a way to get their friend into the presence of Christ. Their persistence paid off. 

If you’re praying for yourself or others, you may wonder why the answer is slow in coming. That’s God’s domain. Your job is to keep praying. While you’re praying, remember that there is strong medical evidence that people who pray experience a higher percentage of healing than those who don’t. In fact, some studies show that people who are prayed for—even if they don’t know they’re being prayed for—get better results than those who aren’t prayed for.

Finally, accept God’s response to your prayer. Elisha was a great prophet filled with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, yet unlike Elijah, who was translated to heaven, he eventually got sick and died. Paul was an apostle who healed others, yet he had a physical malady. 

He wrote, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9). 

God’s purpose in healing you forever might mean that you need to accept less-than-perfect health in this life. Is it possible that God might be using physical affliction as a way of saving you? Could He be using it to get your attention or to minister to others through you as you bear your illness patiently?

Let me be clear that God is never the One who causes suffering (James 1:13), but you can be sure that He will use any trial that comes to reach us or others or both. During any kind of struggle, we might ask, “Well, Lord, what do You want me to learn from this?” or “How is this trial affecting my or other people’s salvation?”

Yes, even dedicated, praying Christians can die prematurely from some terminal disease. But their prayers for healing will be answered in the most profound way during the first resurrection.

Jesus healed all manner of affliction. He healed hands because God wants to heal our works. He healed feet because God wants to heal our walk. Jesus healed eyes because God wants us to see where we’re going. Jesus healed tongues because He wants us to speak His words. Jesus healed backs because He wants us to stand for Him. But, most important, Christ said He was sent “to heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18). Jesus heals hearts because He wants to give us new hearts, ones like His.

Maybe your heart is sick, broken because someone or something has hurt you. Or maybe your heart has been broken by your own sins. Whatever your circumstance or problem, Jesus has the answer. The Bible says, “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Because Jesus died for us, we can be healed from anything. I love the verse that says, “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise” (Jeremiah 17:14). Heal, save—that’s what Jesus wants to do for you. Most of all, He longs to give you healing that lasts for eternity.


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