Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Prayer of Faith - Does It Work?

Copyright © 2006. Bill Fisher. All rights reserved


Does the prayer of faith really work? What does Scripture say on the subject? That must be our standard for answering this question. Here is a sampling of some key scriptures:

James 1:25 - But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.

James 4:2-3 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

James 5:13-18 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

1 John 3:21-22 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.

1 John 5:13-15 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.

Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Mark 11:23-24 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

First, there are only two passages in scripture where praying for healing is mentioned. One is James 5:14, 16 where James says we should call for the elders to pray for us if we are sick and that we should pray for each other so "you may be healed." The other scripture is Num. 12:13 where "Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘O God, please heal her.’" He was asking God to heal Miriam, his sister, whom God had struck with leprosy because of her opposition to Moses. In all other cases, healing came about as the result of someone speaking words of healing similar to, "Take up your bed and walk," or "Be healed."

Second, there is this idea that when we pray, we have to ask according to God’s will or we won’t get what we pray for. There is one scripture that says this...sort of. 1 John 5:14 says "if we ask according to his will, he hears us." But then, Romans 8:26 says, "We do not know what we ought to pray for," so the Holy Spirit intercedes for us "in accordance with God’s will." So, if we pray in the Spirit, we are praying in accordance with God’s will, and "whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him."

Someone will say, "Yes, but what if it doesn’t work?" If it doesn’t work, does that mean God’s Word is untrue? Or does it mean I’ve missed something. Either the fault lies with me or with God. There is no other possibility. Either what His Word says is not true, or my experience does not line up with the truth of His Word. If it doesn’t work, I will keep doing it until it does work. The alternative is to give up, to quit, and accept whatever bad thing is happening in my life. Now let me see, where do bad things come from? Where do good things come from? If I am praying for good things for my life, to whom to I pray? What are the words coming out of mouth saying? Are they faith-filled words, or are they doubt and unbelief?

I knew a woman whose husband became gravely ill, and she (and her whole family) prayed for his healing. She tried as hard as she could to stand on her faith that her beloved husband would be healed, but, in the end, he died. Some members of her church told her that her faith just wasn’t strong enough to save him. Some members of her family told her that it must have been God’s will. In fact, some of those same family members still, to this day, continue to say that it must have been God’s will. They say that because they prayed, and it didn’t happen. Therefore, the prayer must not have been according to God’s will, because that’s what 1 John 5:14 says. Therefore, it was God’s will that he die. Any mention of how faith works causes deep pain in this woman and her family, and they become defensive, to the point of attacking anyone who dares to suggest that we can have what we ask.

If Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13), and the curse of the law was death, sickness, and poverty, then it cannot be God’s will that someone die of sickness. We don’t have to be sick to die! There is not one verse in the Bible that says it is God’s will that we be sick, or that we die from sickness. Not ONE! Yet, people continue to say this based on their misunderstanding of one verse.

There are many, many verses that tell us things like "I am the God that heals you."and "By his stripes you were healed." Health is God’s will for his people. Abundance in every area of life is God’s will for his people. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life abundant." So, why do we continue to cling to wrong thinking about this? Because it is more comfortable to remain in ignorance than to stretch ourselves into the shape of the new creation that God has made us. Our old skin feels more comfortable. We have not "taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Col. 3:9-10)

The children of Israel wondered in the wilderness for 40 years but, even though they died, they did not get sick. God punished those adults over the age of 20 who grumbled when the spies returned and who refused to go in and take the land. Those particular spies who came back with a bad report died of plague, but the rest of the people just died.

Ex. 15:26 - He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you."

Ex. 23:25 - Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you,

Duet. 7:15 - The LORD will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.

What kind of God do we serve who would "will" that we get sick and die? Is this the God that heals us? Is this the God that brings us life abundant?

If you are one of those who believes that every bad thing that happens to you is God’s will to teach you something, then you need to go search out the Word of God to see what the Word says about this. That idea is an old religious doctrine that is simply not in line with the Word of God.

Psalm 103:2-5 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits -- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Do you believe there is a divine purpose behind the bad things that happen in your life? Do you believe sickness and trouble are part of God’s plan for your life? Before you can even begin to operate in faith, you must answer those questions. If you believe these things come to you from God because they are God’s will for you, it will be impossible for you to believe that it is God’s will for you to be healed. To believe God will heal you, then would be to believe for something that is not God’s will for you.

Religious doctrines have taught us, wrongly, that God brings trouble to us to teach us something. They use the children of Israel in the wilderness as an example. God did not leave the children of Israel in the wilderness to teach them anything. He left them so those unfaithful people would die out. He would not permit them to enter into the reward of the Promised Land.

Psalm 103:2-5 tells us that God forgives our sins, heals our diseases, redeems us from death, crowns us with love and compassion, and satisfies our desires with good things.

Psalm 37:3-4 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
No this is the God we serve, the God who heals us, who blesses us with abundant lives, who saves us from the curse of the law, who gives us the desires of our hearts. God does not will that we be sick or that we die of sickness. He can call us home without sickness and disease when our time comes to leave. But, he will not put sickness on us to get us out of here.