Many Christians are confused about prayer for healing. Like The Little Engine that Could, some contend that the sick should say “I believe God will heal me, I believe God will heal me, I believe God will heal me,” because to get God to heal them they cannot doubt that God will heal them. Others treat the Lord as if He were a cosmic combination lock that must be dialed precisely to release the treasured healing. In years past I’ve done both and both are scripturally mistaken, spiritually and emotionally unhealthy, fundamentally misunderstand who God is, and often result in our being a bad witness to the lost.
About My Healing Journey
But before I go any further, let me tell you a little about my story. At about 14 years old (I became a Christian at 12) my family started attending a non-denominational charismatic church with over 10,000 in weekly attendance.
This church believed in healing, to say the least, and often hosted the biggest healing ministers in the world (for example, for those old enough to remember, Kathryn Kuhlman was there several times—she was a huge deal back then). Later in high school, I was the co-leader of a charismatic high school group that met in my parents’ home (we had about 65 high school students attend every Friday night). We had an “after-glow” and constantly prayed for people’s healing.
In my late teens I even embraced and taught what is called “confession teaching,” which amounts to telling someone after prayer for healing that they should not doubt that they were healed but should “confess” their healing even if they still had the “symptoms” of the illness. In other words, if we prayed for you to get over the flu, but you still had a temperature of 102, that was just a symptom to be ignored. You had been healed, fever or no (I could talk about this at length, but that’s not the point of this post). During this time, I held that God always, and I do mean always, wanted to heal those who asked because healing was in the atonement. After a while I began to realize that this view was scripturally false. Most Christian realize this is false so I’m not going to talk further about it.1
Just as I graduated from college I was brought on the pastoral staff of the large charismatic church I mentioned and those of us in leadership would sometimes kid about being “God’s man of power in the hour with all nine spiritual gifts at our fingertips.”
Then, just as I was finishing my MDiv at American Christian Theological Seminary (yes, it was a charismatic seminary whose initials formed ACTS—thankfully, apologists John Warwick Montgomery and Walter Martin taught there), I was hired by John Wimber to be an associate pastor of a fast growing congregation called Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda. While I was on staff at that church it became The Vineyard and the flagship of what is now the Vineyard movement. John Wimber’s perceived success at doing signs and wonders led to his teaching the popular course at Fuller Seminary, “Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth.” I left the Vineyard because of some doctrinal concerns (maybe a discussion for another time).
Although I’m no longer a charismatic, I still believe that God can heal any time He wants. Since my Vineyard days, I have always attended churches which hold that healing is something that God might do today. I do believe that on occasion God does miraculously heal those who ask, but mostly He works through providence.
I told you all this because without it there would be many who would disqualify me as one who doesn’t “get it.” I know they would do this because that’s what I thought about those outside the spiritual gifts movement—they were the Christian equivalent of muggles.
As I said, misunderstanding prayer for healing has confused a lot of Christians and I’m especially concerned about sick Christians or even terminally ill Christians being confused about this. I will continue this tomorrow.
- When I was 19-years-old my telling people they should ignore the symptoms, and just claim their healing, ceased when another Christian asked me, “Where in the Bible did Jesus ever heal like that?” At that moment I was done with the confession movement because Jesus never healed like that! The way someone knew they were healed when Jesus or the apostles healed them is that the “symptoms” were gone! [↩]