It has been 40 years, but I remember the day quite clearly. I was just leaving the home of a couple from the church whose nine- or ten-year-old son was losing his three-year battle to leukemia. In spite of his leukemia, he had been a star baseball player — a natural athlete. We (the church) had prayed for him faithfully every Wednesday evening and most Sunday mornings. I had personally pleaded with the Lord regularly for his healing.
I could see so much good that God could do in the church, in the community, and among the parents of the other ballplayers if He would only heal this boy. I really can’t think of anyone I personally interceded for more than him. I wanted to see him healed.
As I stepped off the porch from that afternoon visit, having prayed with the parents (again) for his healing, the Lord spoke to me. There was no audible voice, but as clear as anything, I heard the Lord say that he was not going to heal this child. I didn’t understand. Frankly, I was angry. I was angry with God. We had a lot of people in the church, with strong faith, praying for him. If my own faith wasn’t strong enough, surely the faith of others in the church would bring about healing.
Scripture teaches us to pray for healing. We know that Jesus healed the sick and God used the apostles to heal, but I have seen many die who had been anointed and prayed for multiple times — and yet no healing. Is it a lack of faith on my part or a lack of faith on the part of the person who is seeking to be healed?
I knew that afternoon that instead of celebrating a healing, I would be preparing a funeral and I needed the Lord to teach me how to minister to this family. In fact, one of the things I heard the Lord say that afternoon was, “you need to prepare yourself to care for the family.” I really needed the Lord to work in me.
Obviously, my prayers changed. I confess that in spite of what I believed the Lord told me, I continued to ask for healing, but I also began to pray that the Lord would work in me. C. S. Lewis once said:
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
That’s what I began to experience. God was changing me, and I was learning to surrender my will to the will of the Father. That young boy died a few months later. I remember one of the last visits I made to the hospital to see him. He would lift his eyes and hand toward the ceiling as if seeing something or Someone far beyond our sight. God was ministering to him. He had no fear. He was at peace — more peace perhaps than I had. God was teaching me. I didn’t want this boy to die, but I certainly didn’t want to deny him the communion he was having with Jesus in those last days.
I confess that I don’t understand how and why God heals, but I will continue to pray for healing. In his book How to Have a Healing Ministry Without Making Your Church Sick, C. Peter Wagner talks about some of his experience. He said he has prayed for people and seen instantaneous healing. He also prayed for people and saw healing over time. There were also those people for whom he prayed and there was no healing. He went on to say that he could not account for any difference in his faith or the faith of those receiving prayer. His conclusion was that he would always pray for healing. Whether God heals or not, He always ministers his grace through the prayers of God’s people.
Francis Chan recently reported that on a trip to Myanmar, every person he prayed for was healed. He had no explanation. He had not seen anything like it in 52 years. I celebrate with him, and I would love to see that kind of expression of God’s grace. However, if I never see that kind of outpouring of God’s healing power, I will continue to pray, and I will pray for healing.
My prayers and my faith may never see what Francis Chan saw, but like C. S. Lewis, I pray because prayer changes me. I will always look for ways to partner with God through prayer and leave the work to Him. In the process, I will allow Him to continue to change me.