Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around… (Mark 5:42)
In the fifth chapter of Mark’s gospel there are two stories that can teach us a great deal about how to pray for healing. In my previous post, I wrote about the first story: the woman suffering from a bleeding problem. In that story we learn the following from Jesus’ response to her: 1) He has great compassion for those who are sick and suffering, 2) he has complete authority over what has made them sick, and 3) he has the power to restore them to life and health. From the woman we also learn something very important: Having faith that Jesus can heal means we also believe he will heal – and we should never let anything (or anyone) deter us from seeking healing from him. (Click here to read the post.)
In the second (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43) of these two healing stories, a ruler of the local synagogue (an administrator who oversees worship) prostrates himself before Jesus and asks Jesus to come with him and restore the life of his daughter, who is dying. The evangelist, Mark, doesn’t give us any details about Jesus’ response to this request other than to say that he went with the man.
It is important to note that this man shows no evidence of pride or hesitation. He falls at Jesus’ feet, which is a gesture of worship, and petitions Jesus with the belief he has the power to cure his daughter. Jesus sets off with him, but along the way, some men from the official’s household meet up with them and tell him his daughter has already died and that he shouldn’t bother Jesus any more.
However, Jesus turns to the official and says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (v. 36) In Classical Greek, to frighten – φοβέω (pho-bé-ō) – means, “to cause to run away,” while believe – πίστευε (pis-too-eh) – in this instance means, “be firmly persuaded.” So, in a sense, Jesus is saying to the father, “Stand your ground. No matter what they tell you, continue in your belief that I can and will heal.”
As with the woman suffering from bleeding, the father who is seeking healing for his little girl believes that Jesus has the power to heal and is determined to see that she receives it from him. Yet, even before he makes his request, he first gives Jesus the honor due his name by falling to his feet before him. His was an act of worship before the One who has command over disease – and even death. Like the woman who was healed when she grabbed a hold of Jesus’ garment, he has great faith, which we see in his unwillingness to back off and give in to fear. Our prayers for healing should incorporate these elements. We too, should be worshipful, persistent, and hopeful – not put off by what other people may say or by a disquieting medical report.
“Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
In all four gospels there is not one instance of Jesus denying healing to anyone who sought it from him. He healed everyone who came to him. In one of the first healing stories in the gospel of Mark (1:40-45) a man with leprosy falls on his knees and begs Jesus saying, “If you are willing you can make me clean.” Some translations indicate that “Jesus was indignant” in response to what the man said. In reply, Jesus says, “I am willing. Be clean.” (v. 41, emphasis mine) What this tells us is that Jesus was always willing to heal – and we can be assured he always will be willing to heal because he does not change (Hebrews 13:8). He is just as willing now as he was then.
When I pray for healing for myself or lay hands on someone and pray for them, I never add, “if it be thy will” because I assume it is God’s will to heal, based on Jesus’ words and actions in the gospels. Therefore, I think we should pray for healing with the same confidence in God’s love, mercy and grace as we do when we pray for the forgiveness of our sins. We would never think of saying, “Forgive us our sins…if it be thy will,” would we? We know that it is God’s will to forgive us because of the cross and the empty tomb. And, the evangelist Matthew tells us that, upon the cross, Jesus “took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (8:17) These words, infirmities and diseases, refer to bodily ailments as well as to the ailments of the soul. So we are led to conclude that God’s saving grace extends to our bodies as well as to our souls.
God is willing, today and every day, to both forgive and to heal. We never have to question that. I am aware that some people do not receive healing, at least the healing they requested, but that doesn’t change my mind about God’s willingness (which includes his compassion, authority and power) to heal us. Jesus himself said that he came so that we would have life abundantly (John 10:10). He wasn’t simply referring to our life to come – in the kingdom of heaven when he returns. He also meant this life, right here and now. He came, he died and he rose again from the grave, so that we would have abundant life, in body as well as soul, as we live out our lives on this earth, praising him all our days.
So in prayer for healing, be worshipful – honoring God by offering praise in word and song – be persistent and be hopeful: pressing in and standing firm with faith in Jesus Christ. For Scripture tells us that our God has the power (and is willing) to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
Next time: What we learn when Jesus commissions his followers to heal.