Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Healing Prayer

A few weeks ago, we talked about the different perspectives people have about the return of Christ. What people believe about the end of time can cause division in the church. Today, I will visit another topic that can create confusion and division in a church. The topic I want to discuss is spiritual gifts and specifically healing prayer.

 

One morning recently I woke up and realized that I had dreamt that God wanted me to do a sermon about healing. In my dream, I felt God was telling me to focus on the gift of healing prayer because our church has a mission of prayer. Our church is gifted by the Spirit to pray for others, and healing prayer strengthens our congregation. Communal prayer is a central part of the service at Place of Grace Fellowship.


The Church of God Anderson supports healing prayer. Historically, it was more visible in the church. Today, healing prayer is less prominent and practiced more away from the central worship of the church. Maybe the quiet withdrawal of healing prayer from worship was due to the rise of charismatic churches that made healing a focal point of worship. Charismatic worship gatherings were more flamboyant than most Church of God Anderson churches were comfortable with.


Here at Place of Grace Fellowship, we have prayer as part of our worship. For us, that time is a communal time of healing prayer. We believe that God hears our prayers, and God through the Holy Spirit has the power to restore and heal those we pray for. God can change anything. Christ is a builder, and Christ can rebuild any life or anybody. God can raise anything from the dead. As believers who live with Christ daily, we have Christ dwelling within us. We have the Holy Spirit guiding, supporting, and healing us. When we follow Christ, anything is possible.


In the presence of God’s power, we are humble. We acknowledge the sovereignty of God. We have no control over the outcomes of our prayers. Our prayers are not some magical incantations. But God wants us to be healed, God encourages us to pray for healing, and God even commands us to ask for what we need. Topping the list of what we need is often healing or restoration. As a matter of faith, we pray for healing.


Our Scripture reading for today is Titus 3:3-8:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is sure.

 

Every Sunday we have a communal prayer for healing. We have prayer chains and a prayer ministry to people outside of the church. Praying is part of what we do. In our reading, we are told that Christ saved us according to his mercy. The Spirit has been poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ. Our reading speaks of renewal and the Spirit’s work in our life today. The gifts of the Spirit are not future gifts. We receive the mercy of Christ, and we receive the Holy Spirit in our present day walk with God. The love and power of the Spirit in our life are available to heal anything.


On occasion, we hear stories of how God has healed people. Sometimes the healing is a miraculous physical healing like my story. Sometimes the healing is partial, and the journey continues. Sometimes healing is evident in the spirit of the person touched by God’s grace. Moments of healing bring moments of uncommonly positive energy and a feeling of the fullness of life. Often the feeling of Christ’s presence exists despite the continuing challenges a sick person may face. The reports we hear about Hannah are a perfect example of the Spirit bringing wholeness and fullness of life, even to someone who awaits their full healing.

Healing can take decades or happen in a flash. When I was first introduced to healing prayer, it was during my ordeal with cancer. Following that ordeal, I started to pray for healing. Sometimes people would be healed and sometimes not. The instance that most sticks with me was a time when I prayed for a woman in our church suffering from a bad sinus infection.  Since I suffered from sinus infections, I knew how painful it was and how hard it was to get rid of. For me, it usually involved two weeks on strong antibiotics. That evening I prayed for her, and it was gone almost instantaneously. That was a miracle.


I was a mentor and support system for a commodity trader who was a sex and cocaine addict. He accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. We would pick him up every Sunday and take him to church. Our young sons knew him and really liked him. He was great with kids, high energy, an unbelievable athlete, and sort of hyper. He would come to church with us, and he loved Christ. On some Sundays he would be AWOL, and we would have to explain to the kids what was going on. He would go through a cycle of getting sober and then fall off the wagon. He could hold it together for weeks and then binge and blow everything up. We eventually lost touch. Years later, he reached out to me. He is finally sober, married and has a family. He is now a pastor in a church in Illinois.

This man should be dead. His life was not headed in a good direction. However, Christ had a hold on him and was not going to let go. Over time, Christ regenerated him and rebuilt him and built a life for him. It is hard to imagine someone more sold out for Christ than this person. In the past, it was hard to imagine someone whose life was more lost and more broken than this person. The fact that Christ re-generated this person’s life should inspire belief that Christ can re-generate anybody, any marriage, and any family.


The Church of God Anderson movement has believed in divine healing as a biblical doctrine from the very beginning. Healing prayer continues to be an important part of our teaching and practice. The basis for healing relies on three basic principles of God.


1) God is the creator and sustainer of life. Healing is an essential part of who God is. Healing is well within God’s reach and authority.


2) God is all powerful. God has the power to heal at any time and in any situation.


3) God is love. God has the desire to heal because God loves us and wants the best for us. God has the authority to heal, the power to heal and the desire to heal.


Healing is a gift of the Spirit given to believers says 1 Corinthians 12:7-11:

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

 

The passage starts out with the statement, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” This passage makes clear that gifts are given to each of us as the common good requires. If there is a need for healing, in or outside these walls, then the Holy Spirit will give the power and gift of healing to believers. Each of us can pray for healing and expect results, when we pray for the common good, for people around us, for our family, for our church, and for our community.


Our ultimate healing is our salvation. We receive salvation because of the atoning death of Christ on the cross. The atonement we received from Christ can also heal our bodies and our minds and our lives. Matthew 8:16-17 speaks of the infirmities and illnesses borne by Jesus on the cross. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”


Salvation and healing are the good news of the Gospel. Christ commanded us to share the good news and make disciples of all nations. Jesus also commissioned us as his contemporary disciples to heal the sick. Healing is a compelling witness of Christ’s power and love. Here are two passages about healing as Christ’s disciples.


Matthew 10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

 

Christ’s words in Mark 16:18 They will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.


Put aside your questions about snake-handling for now. For us, I think there are two questions we ask in our minds about healing. First, is there some special category of Christian that are professional healers? In the past, and even now, pastors would tour the country and hold large gatherings. People would come from all around and seek a magical healing touch from these healers. Kathryn Kuhlman, Binny Hinn, and others were revered as spiritual healers. The belief was that the Holy Spirit anointed them with a special healing power that was not available to average Christians.


You have heard me say before, I see nothing in Scripture that singles out individuals as specially anointed in this way. Scripture does say that churches may have an individual that is “gifted” with healing, but that person’s gifting is for that group of believers and not for cross-country, impersonal mass gatherings.


Personally, Scripture leads me to believe that on any given day, the Holy Spirit can move through any believer and bring a sick person healing or restoration.

 

The second question we contemplate has to do with faith. Who must have faith to be healed, the one praying for healing or the one being healed? The professional healers will say that their faith brings about healing. Others say that the sick person must believe to be healed. Some say that if the sick person lacks faith, then they will not be healed. Scripture does not tell us whose faith is important and who must have faith for healing to occur. Scripture does not put a measure on the quantity of faith necessary for healing. It simply says that someone must put their faith in God. When we pray for healing, by the act of praying, we have faith and trust in God. Our prayer expresses our belief in God and God’s authority, power, and love. Our prayer can raise our expectation to see God move in our lives to bring about healing.


Ultimately, our healing is in God’s hands. The Holy Spirit carries our needs and prayers to the Father. Scripture says the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and God hears our prayers. God is in control, and God is good.


We do not know the breadth of God’s plan for our lives. In the end, regardless of how our prayers are answered, we need to have blind faith, enduring hope and unwavering love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have seen healing prayer go unanswered in this world many times, but the eternal answer is always healing. I have seen people seek after God and expectantly seek healing. What they received instead was the gift of a spiritual wholeness they had never experienced before. The Apostle Paul suffered from a malady throughout his ministry. Christ never healed the malady, but Christ did give Paul wholeness, peace, and joy. I have been at the bedside of those who were never healed and died. However, for those who sought Christ for healing and held on to Christ throughout their journey, Christ never left them alone. The presence of Christ was with them through their suffering and through their eventual death. It is a profound experience to sit next to the bed of a follower of Christ as they leave this world and meet their savior. In that moment, I have seen peace about them and a strong presence of the Holy Spirit.


I have come to experience and learn that Christ always heals—always. As followers of Christ, I think we are called to hold onto the healing power of Christ in all situations with expectant hope, no matter the outcome in this world. We need to hope and have faith in the truth that Christ always heals us. We need to believe in the grace and love of Christ that restores us to the wholeness that God originally created in us. We are completely healed because we are saved by the grace of God for a life of eternity in the presence of Christ.


As 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 


No matter what the reality we face in this world, faith, hope and love abide and the greatest of these is love. We can rely on the love of God to heal us no matter what happens to our physical body.


Last week, I asked you to pray for four people through the end of the year. I asked you to make note of the changes in them and the changes in you during that time. You can journal about your prayers. Now, I am increasing the focus of the prayer. Pray for their healing, their restoration, their wholeness, and their overall well being and health. Pray that the Holy Spirit will heal whatever may be hindering their life. Pray for their grace, peace, and joy.


We are a church that embraces healing prayer. We practice healing prayer in our own prayer time and in our Sunday worship. I challenge us to be a congregation that not only practices healing prayer but embraces it as God’s call on our church. I challenge each one of us, as followers of Jesus, to embrace the gift of healing and the Spirit moving within us in prayer for the common good. 


In closing, let’s return to our call to worship,

Psalms 103:1-5:


Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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