“Lord, if it be your will, please heal…”
I have heard the above phrase countless times evoked on the behalf of the seriously infirmed. I do not question the sincerity of the person praying nor their willingness to submit to a sovereign God. Certainly the spirit behind all of our prayers should be that God’s will be done (Lk. 11:1,2). My question is simply this… is this prayer made in faith and pleasing to God as we beseech Him to work on the behalf of others?
I wonder sometimes if people pray “God’s will” as a sort of loop-hole to help God “save face” if things don’t turn out as we hope. As I look to the Bible for answers on how to pray for the sick I find saints pleading with God, holding on to His promises as a life-preserver, falling upon His mercy, and continually seeking His face for answers. See the Gospel record for many examples: the nobleman (“Sir, come down ere my child die”), two blind men (“crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us”), ten lepers (“Master, have mercy on us”), the centurion’s servant (“say in a word, and my servant shall be healed”), Peter’s mother-in-law (“they besought him for her”), etc.
In the Old Testament God’s prophet pronounced that King David’s child would die because of his sin with Bathsheba, yet David “besought God for the child” with fasting and weeping. To those that questioned his behavior, David answered, “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?” (2 Sam. 12:13-23). Who can figure out the sovereignty of God in relation to petitioning Him with prayers? Indeed, “Who can tell?” All I know is that as my Father, if I ask God for bread He won’t give me a stone (Matt. 7:9). So when someone I love is sick, I pray God will heal them without conditions. Will they be healed? “Who can tell?” God knows. And if it doesn’t work out like I hope, then I pray that I might have the right heart to be able to worship Him anyway, like David did.
There are two verses I’d like to mention as a kind of postscript.
I realize that 1 John 5:14 says, “if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” but how do we know “his will”? His will is revealed in the scriptures. An absurd example of not praying according to His will would be asking God for a successful bank heist in order to pay off your debt. Obviously the Lord will not answer this prayer because it is contrary to His revealed will in the word of God (“thou shalt not steal”)
Jesus prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done” (Matt. 26:39). This is submitting to God’s will and overcoming self-will rather than intercessory prayer on the behalf of others.
Some additional thoughts on healing…
People in the Bible get healed where they lack faith (Mk. 6:5,6), get healed on the faith of other people (Mk. 2:5), get healed when they are touched by another man (Acts 5:16) whether he prays for them or not.
This is just an opinion but I believe the “order” for healing of a sick Christian would be…
Prayer first (2 Chron. 16:12); then if that doesn’t work…
See a doctor or herbalist, etc. (Col. 4:14); then if that doesn’t work…
Try James 5:14-16 (anointing oil); then if that doesn’t work…
Assume Paul’s attitude in 2 Cor. 12:9,10; Rom. 8:28,35; and 2 Cor. 4:16-18 (which see)
The above is not a rigid sequence of events; obviously you wouldn’t cease to pray as you sought treatment from a doctor, etc.
In regards to anointing with oil from James 5:14-16…
The “elders” (pastors/leaders) in the church bring a bottle of olive oil with them to the sick person
They anoint the sick in the name of the Lord – this would be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost
Before this is done, the elders are required to confess their faults one to another in the presence of the sick person – “faults” (KJV) are inherent flaws in a person’s nature, not their listing of sins. Things like laziness, appetite, lack of consideration, indifference, etc. This is a testimony that those praying are flawed human beings without the ability to heal. Only God is “good” and capable of healing.
The healing of the sick is not dependent upon his faith alone to be healed but the faith of those praying for him (Mk. 2:5)
It may or may not work, if it does not then assume Paul's attitude regarding finding the Lord's strength in his own weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).