When Grant, a Dallas firefighter, came to be prayed for, he had been given zero chance of survival from one hospital and 1% chance of survival from another. He had already had esophageal cancer and had his esophagus removed. Cancer now was in his lungs and liver. He was anxious and downcast, having been told he had weeks left to live. He said, “I’m going to die a horrible death for sure.” We began praying for him every day. He improved so much, his doctor told him he might be able to go off chemo at some time. That did not happen.
For almost two years, Grant worked every shift as a Dallas fireman. He also worked out at the gym. He drove 36 miles a day, each way to our office, when he was not working to come in and receive prayer. His attitude was amazing. He was tall with a great smile. At almost two years, the cancer went wild. Grant died peacefully with his wife, Michelle, and family, around him.
Healing came to Grant in more ways than physical. He received hope and his fear and anxiety disappeared. He became confident that if he died, he would be in heaven with Jesus who died on a cross for his sins. And he lived until he died. He lived two years longer than anyone expected. He got to see his two grandchildren born. He took trips to Denver to see his parents. He vacationed with his wife and gave his testimony before 110 people in Phoenix, Arizona. Two years of life gave him time to live and glorify God!
We thank God for Grant and the way God took care of him and finally cured him in heaven. But he was not physically healed on this earth. So, the question arises, “What do you do when healing doesn’t come?”
It’s a good question.
Anyone who prays for people will admit they struggle with why some are healed and others are not. Praying for healing means you will see some healed. You will also see many not healed and wonder why they were not healed. It is the cross of healing that not everyone we pray for gets physically healed. So, what do we think and do when physical healing doesn’t come to people like Grant or someone special to us?
First, if you are praying, beware of projecting your powerlessness on the person receiving prayer. We often speak Law rather than the Gospel when we don’t understand why healing doesn’t come. The Law is what God demands, it is what we do or not do. Job’s friends suggested the reason his troubles came was because he sinned. Eliphaz says to Job, “Who, being innocent has ever perished?” (Job 4.7). Bildad, another friend seemed to believe Job’s troubles were because he was a hypocrite, “Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so, perishes the hope of the godless.” (Job 8.13) In a similar manner, we may inadvertently blame people for their lack of healing. Here are some statements that have been heard being spoken to someone who was experiencing sickness or tragedy in their life as an explanation of why healing has not happened:
• Perhaps you haven’t forgiven someone.
• Maybe God wants to teach you something.
• Have you confessed your sins?
• Maybe someone in your family sinned and you have a curse on you.
• Why are you holding on to your disease?
• You just need to believe more.
It is possible some of these statements may be true and need to be explored at some time. Some statements may or may not be helpful and may become the voice of the accuser, the devil, placing responsibility for not getting healed on the person being prayed for. When Jesus’ disciples were confronted with their inability to drive out a demon from a boy, “I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” (Luke 9:40), Jesus didn’t project powerlessness on the boy. He cast out the spirit and explained the problem was in the disciples, “Because you have so little faith.” (Matthew 17.20) Mark adds to this story quoting Jesus as saying, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9.29) The powerlessness to cast out this evil spirit had to do with the one praying, NOT the one receiving prayer! We who pray for people may want to look inward before we look outward.
Secondly, we who pray are aware we have shortcomings. However, we look to our God, not ourselves when praying for healing for people. And we are thankful that even with our many shortcomings,God uses us to pray for others. Isn’t that like our gracious God? The Gospel (what God does, not us) tells us God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Moses had a speech problem and God gave him Aaron to speak and help deliver the Israelites from slavery. The Bible tells us Moses was unsure of his speaking ability and said to the Lord, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” … the Lord said, “…your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country.” (Exodus 6.30-7.2) Gideon was timid and said, “Please Lord how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6.15) God, however, used Gideon and 300 men to route an army of 120,000. Gideon didn’t see how God could use a weakling like him. But God turned Gideon into a mighty warrior. David was a young boy whom God used to kill a giant. “So, David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.” (1 Samuel 17.50) When the Israelite army was afraid and said Goliath is too big to hit, David said, Goliath is too big to miss.
Peter was a fisherman who was constantly putting his foot in his mouth. The only time he took it out was to insert the other one. Yet God made him one of the greatest preachers of all times. On Pentecost, he preached and “…about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2.41) God used each of these men and their weaknesses to accomplish something great by His power and His glory.
God will use you and all your weaknesses to glorify Him. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12.9) And never forget, God is the one who heals, not you. One of God’s names is Jehovah Rapha “I am the Lord who heals you.” (Exodus 15.26)
When healing doesn’t come, it is often a mystery. The cross we bear is that we live with this mystery. But God is the healer not you. You don’t get the glory or the responsibility for healing. Allow me to further explain this: We all know God converts people, not us! The Bible says, “Therefore, I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says Jesus be cursed and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12.3) The Holy Spirit is the only one who creates faith – not us!
While God still uses us to witness – He does the winning. Once again, the Holy Spirit creates faith in a person, not us. If people reject Christ, you are not responsible. You are responsible to witness. God does the winning. In a similar manner, you are to pray and God does the healing. He receives all glory. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your holy name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”(Psalm 115.1) When healing doesn’t come, you may be sad, but you don’t have to blame yourself. God is the healer, not you! It is very difficult to understand why some people are not healed when we pray. But, it is one of the secret things of God (Deut. 29.29)
An eighty-six-year-old woman had breast cancer. It was so bad you could smell the rotting flesh. We prayed fervently for her, but she died. She professed Christ as her Savior and went to heaven. We fasted, prayed, did everything we could, but she was not healed on this earth, but in heaven. We grieved, but not as those “…who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4.13) And we did not blame ourselves. You and I are called to pray for people but only God does the healing! If you don’t receive the credit for healing, be careful in blaming yourself for someone not being healed.
Thirdly, don’t give up. If healing doesn’t come, continue to pray fervently for people. Despite the mystery of healing, more people are healed when we pray for them than when we do not. Press into the throne of God in prayer. He is a good Father who loves you and the people you are praying for. Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7.7) In the original Greek language the verb tense of this verse is continuous action and means to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.
Fourthly, remember healing is not just about physical healing. It includes mental and spiritual. Healing is about wholeness in Christ. Many receive a peace in their suffering. Others receive comfort and hope. Some have received salvation.
Finally, if people do die, stand beside the family. Continue to lift the family up. And when the burial time comes, encourage and bring comfort from God’s Word. Help the family celebrate and heal as they journey through grief. Celebrate the time they had with their loved one. Grant’s family said “We had two years more than anyone expected. It was a blessing from God.” Never forget the greatest healing anyone can have is their salvation won on the cross by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! Believers in Christ are alive and live with Him forever. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
Whenever a person has a serious ailment, it is appropriate to ask about their relationship with Jesus. Sue, who came in for prayer, stated “The only thing I know about God is from the movies Ben Hurand The Ten Commandments.” She was ecstatic when she learned salvation is free because of what Jesus did on the cross. She came into a saving faith as the Holy Spirit led her to receive Jesus as her Savior. She finally realized she was saved by grace through faith in Jesus. She ran to the other teams that were praying and joyfully shared she was saved! She was spiritually healed, which led to breaking of shame, guilt, and condemnation when she realized God was for her, not against her.
Throughout it all, we all have the privilege of sharing Jesus as our hope and joy. He is our salvation, our Savior, our Confidant, our pearl of great price, our Life. He is all we ever need and He is for us, not against us. He is our greatest healing and healer. All that He has for us comes through the cross. He paid for our sins and opened God’s blessings to us. When healing doesn’t come, it is a mystery. But, even then, Jesus always comes to His people when we pray – bringing comfort, strength, peace, and more. So…. “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17) even when healing doesn’t come. Our God loves you.
Prayer Ministry “The Mystery of Healing – When Healing Doesn’t Come”