Each month when we gather together we exchange prayer needs and often these involve someone dear to us who is unwell and we desire to lift them up in prayer. In addition, just about every week we each get requests from friends and family to pray for a health situation. We began our evening raising the question, why do we do this? What is our expectations? It was discussed that as physicians we are men and women of science. We are clearly reared in the need to seek out the best treatments for our patients based on scientific evidence. We expect that the medicines we give and the procedures we do lead to a patient healing. So it may be more difficult for people in our profession to believe in or expect a miraculous healing. Some were willing to express real skepticism about healings. Some of the members of the group shared that when asked to pray in these situations they pray more for spiritual and emotional healing and that God will use the sickness for a greater good rather than to pray or expect a real physical healing. One member of the group has real difficulty praying for healing in that he is so aware of so many people with so many more terrible sufferings and situations that he often wonders why God would take his comparatively minuscule problem and heal it. It was voiced that the reason God would intervene in even small problems is that God Loves Each of Us that much. He is not bound by time or place and can intervene in all things that is in his will to do so. Others in the group expressed real belief in supernatural healings but admit that they are very rare. It was also brought up that spiritual or emotional healing is as big a miracle as physical healing. Stories were shared how patients or their family member came to faith in Jesus through the experience of a loved one’s illness. The question remains, if we all believe God can heal us spiritually and emotionally, is there really that much more faith involved in receiving a physical healing?
We all agreed that God heals patients from our illnesses using the wisdom and gifts that have been bestowed on us as physicians. In that way we are doing his work that we have been called to do. But there is still this element of rare healings that do not seem to be explainable by our present science. We then read James 5:13-16 in which James instructs those who are sick to call the elders of the church so that they can pray for him and thereby be healed. This, of course, was written in the first century when there basically was no proven remedies for illnesses. Clearly the expectation of James is that this prayer would cure the sick individual. Why else would he tell them to do it? This brought up the fact that more miraculous healings are reported in third world counties where the access to medical care is much less. Perhaps our tendency to rely on our won abilities and knowledge in some ways lessens the instances of healing in our society. We then discussed the characteristics of a miraculous healing and the things that were mentioned were: 1) They are rare. 2) They are connected to faith but not necessarily the level of faith of the healed one but rather the faith of those who pray for them. 3) Some action – primarily praying is needed. It was pointed out that even when Jesus healed during his ministry he did something to elicit the healing, whether that was praying, putting mud on the blind man’s eyes or touching the cripple. We are clearly called to pray for one another in these situations. 4) They are healed by the Spirit of God and not by the person who is praying for them.
We then shared whether we had ever witnessed or had a patient who had a miraculous healing. In our groups there were just three that were shared. One of a woman with two shoulder joints that were going to need surgery but was prayed for and was completely healed. One of a teenager with a broken wrist that would not heal and was facing surgery but was prayed for and at the next visit to the orthopedist not only was the bone healed but the MRI showed no evidence of the previous fracture at all. Lastly, there was a young man who had been declared brain dead by his neurologist but his mother refused to stop his life support. He was transferred to a long term facility and shortly thereafter he woke up and was restored to full function. We then briefly discussed how we might react if a patient of ours came to us and claimed they had been healed of their affliction. It was generally agreed we would be open to believing that but would want to verify it with our worldly tests and scans.
The final portion of our discussion concerned that if God can do these healings why doesn’t He do them more often and for everyone. We read 2Cor 12:7-10 in which Paul relates that he had a “thorn in his flesh” that he had prayed repeatedly to be healed of but was not. We can say from this that its not just the degree of faith a person has that determines whether they will be healed. Who had more faith in Jesus than Paul? It was stated that all things are in keeping with God’s plan for us. We are not meant to live forever, we are meant to die and join Christ in the heavenly realms. Also, the suffering and pain we endure are ways in which we are forced to rely more heavily on God. As Paul says in Vs 9&10 God’s grace is sufficient for him and therefore he can rejoice in his weakness for when he is weak, then he is strong (through Christ).