After years of not getting better, not seeing improvement, perhaps even regressing, do you still pray for physical healing?
In some ways its a simple question. A yes or no question. But just thinking about it invokes so many conflicting emotions, thoughts, and additional questions.
For me, the simple answer to this question is that I do still pray for healing, but mostly because it has become so ingrained in my prayers that it is merely routine. I don’t really think about it as I pray. It has simply become a request repeated over and over again.
That’s the simple answer.
The longer answer is that I even though I do keep praying for healing, I have a lot of questions behind this prayer.
What if I pray but God doesn’t respond?
Hasn’t God already decided what he wants for my life? So what’s the use?
Do I need to have a different type of faith or a greater faith for these prayers to be answered?
Should I be praying for other things such as strength to get through the day or peace and acceptance of where my life is right now?
This is the thing. I have never doubted God’s ability to heal me if he wants to. I just often get this feeling that full healing is not what he has in the works for me anytime soon. So, if I pray earnestly on a daily basis for healing, and he doesn’t answer me, then I will just feel worse about my situation. It’s easier to not think about the prayers or not pray for healing at all. Then, I won’t be disappointed.
Or, here’s another thing I do. I sometimes find myself praying for only those things that seem more reasonable or likely than full healing. Things that might be “easier” for God to answer. Like prayers for small improvements. Or maybe for a medication or treatment that will ease the pain.
But then, since those things seem somewhat more likely to happen anyway, when I do gain small improvement, sometimes there is the doubt of whether that was an answer to prayer, or if it would have happened anyway, even if I hadn’t prayed for it.
Sometimes it’s all a convoluted mess in my mind.
When I think about this topic, my mind goes to the woman who Jesus heals in Mark 5, and I am always convicted. She was the woman who bled for 12 years and who “suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”
This woman hears about Jesus, finds him in a crowd and touches his cloak, believing this will heal her. And she’s right. Immediately the bleeding stops. Immediately she is healed. Immediately her suffering ends.
I like to read between the lines of this story and think about her twelve years of suffering in which she went from doctor to doctor, only becoming worse over time. I think about the surge of hope that often comes before seeing a new doctor or specialist, only to come crashing down when expectations fall short. I think of the emotional toll that comes from seeking physical relief and finding nothing. The exhaustion that leads to hopelessness.
For 12 long years, she persevered and did not give up. I admire her for this. But I admire her even more that after all those years of searching for a cure, when she sees Jesus she looks to him in faith and thinks, “if I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” After so many years of unfulfilled hope, what incredible faith to believe at the sight of Jesus.
I like this story because it reminds me that the length and the severity of our illness does not change God’s ability to heal. I like this story because it reminds me that praying for healing is not a fruitless endeavor. This story gives me hope. Hope that at any moment, God could decide to heal me.
But he hasn’t healed me yet. And he may not, so I find myself right back at the beginning again.
This topic can feel like a convoluted mess. Knowing that God can heal me. Believing I should keep praying for healing. Knowing that God could decide not to heal me. Believing that I should pray for strength to persevere and peace to make it through.
And as I think about this today, I realize that praying for healing is difficult because it is hard to hold onto multiple truths simultaneously. It is hard to believe God is a healer but also a God who allows and uses suffering. It is difficult to remain grounded and faithful in the moment when we aren’t sure which truth will manifest in our lives right now and over the years to come.
Perhaps the way forward is to learn how to hold more than one truth at a time. To pray for both healing and strength. To pray for both relief from suffering and God’s will be done, just as Jesus did (Luke 22:42).
Sometimes it is scary to step out in faith and request healing because we wonder if it will work. And if it doesn’t work, perhaps that means our faith isn’t good enough. If he doesn’t say “yes,” what would that mean about us?
But, I wonder if God’s response to our prayers and faith isn’t as much about us as it is about him and his plan for our lives and the world.
We call out in faith, and he could respond as he responded to Job. He could bring healing and relief. Or, we call out in faith, and he could respond as he responded to Paul who cried out that God might remove the thorn in his flesh (II Cor. 12:7-9). He could say, “my grace is sufficient for you.”
To great men of God. Two different answer. I don’t believe one had greater faith. I just think God had different plans for their lives.
And perhaps we can only know his plan for our lives if we ask.
Do you still pray for healing?