There are moments in our lives that are recognize as being a point of a major life change. There is birth, marriage, divorce (for some), critical sickness and death.

I’m not talking about the kind of sickness that can be cured by penicillin, but sickness that leads to hospitalization or intense treatment. In the Bible, Jesus always seemed to arrive at the point in a persons life where no other options existed.

The woman with the issue of blood had spent all her money on doctors and still did not have wholeness. A man born blind, living as a blind man for 30 years, only had a mat and a beggars life to look forward to. A daughter, so sick, that she died before Jesus could touch her. A friend, at the end of his illness, dead for three days before Jesus came to see the man’s sisters.

In the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus – Jesus arrives when it’s too late (John 11:1-46).

If we looked at Jesus and His miracles, we can’t help but wonder, “if He had only been here sooner, then He could have done something to make a difference.”

Jesus purposely can delay so that He can show to the unbelieving world that He is God.

As incredible as a healing is, it isn’t as wondrous as the raising of the dead. Jesus allows time to pass so that the stakes can be raised beyond human intervention.

This can be troublesome, especially for the person who is sick and, might die. It was disturbing to Mary and Martha as they waited for Jesus to arrive in time to heal their brother. Hour after hour, they looked to the hills waiting for their help to come… and He didn’t arrive on time.

When we encounter serious illness, it is our every desire to be healed. I don’t know of any person that would rather choose death over a life filled with joy and peace. Though there are some who would choose death over a life filled with pain and certain death.

Yet, for some of us, our initial prayers are directed to rid the illness that has the potential to bring about a life change.

How do we pray for the sick?

The Bible commands us to always pray for the recovery of the sick. God is looking to produce wholeness in the lives of His children and although we can’t determine the outcome of what He chooses to use to produce that wholeness, He always tells us to pray.

What do we pray for?

The Bible commands us to believe God for His very best outcome. Unfortunately, that may not be our best outcome. I have heard countless stories of illnesses that have brought about dramatic life changes in an individual. It seems that illness has the potential to produce clarity, if our hearts are directed to God.

By default, we should seek God for His solution. In Mary and Martha’s case, Jesus purposely delayed arriving until after Lazarus had been dead for more than four days. Jesus did not send His healing power ahead of Him, like the centurion and his servant. Jesus did not let the power flow out of Him, like the woman with the issue of blood. Jesus had a different plan.

I have to emphasize that before we declare “healing”, we have to spend time with God waiting and listening for His divine purpose. Only after we have received a Word from God, balanced by His Word, can we spiritually confess His purpose as total divine healing.

I have experienced that tragic pain of a declaration of healing in a person’s life and then they die.

“God will do it!” they proclaimed. Then, He didn’t. I felt like somehow I didn’t believe hard enough or maybe, my last minute, bed-time prayers wasn’t enough. The selfish self-doubt of “maybe we could have done more” comes into our hearts and we are forced to let God off the hook.

That’s how Mary and Martha felt. Martha went out to confront Jesus on His failure. Mary stayed home, unwilling to face Jesus. Both had the same ache in their hearts —“If You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus confronted them with a harsh reality, God is more than a healer! He raises from the dead!

God wants everyone to witness His greatness!

Martha returns to Mary who stood at home and tells her sister that Jesus asked for her. Mary, with her friends in mourning, gets up and rushes to meet Jesus. The Jews, noticing Mary leaving her house in a rush, followed after her thinking she was going to the tomb of her brother.

Look at these events as a whole:

  • Mary and Martha send messengers to Jesus to come quick >
  • Jesus delays leaving for two days, Jesus arrives about 4 days later >
  • Mary does not go out to meet Jesus, but Martha does (no crowd follows) >
  • Martha confronts Jesus >
  • Jesus corrects her beliefs and Martha returns to Mary >
  • Mary then leaves her house and runs to meet Jesus >
  • a crowd of people (the Jews) follow her >
  • Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead >
  • many Jews believed in Jesus!

And not just any people, but the Jews.

Today, we think of “the Jews” as all the descendants of Abraham. They are a specific people group, but in Jesus day, they weren’t all called Jews. The Jews were a specific group of believers that held themselves up as the moral authority of God. Martha was a Hebrew and a Jew, but wouldn’t be grouped in as being part of the Jews.

The distinction in the Gospels is that the Jews were in hostile disagreement with Jesus and included the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, lawyers of the law and their followers. The Jews were not the normal, run of the mill religious person.

Jesus’s purpose for allowing Lazarus to die and arriving well beyond the point of resuscitation, was to show God’s glorious and exclusive power.

Jesus declares this in verse 41 and 42:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

God uses illness in our lives to show His power.

In this case, Jesus used the power over the dead, to show that He was sent by God. Other times in our lives, He may choose to use the faith-filled journey of illness to build faith in others. The sick person may not fully recover to our satisfaction, but they express the joy that can only come through faith in Jesus.

So, after we have spent the time praying to know God’s will, we should declare what He has said to us or the sick person.

How can I pray if God doesn’t clearly say, You will be healed?

If God has not clearly said He will heal, it doesn’t mean that He won’t heal. It only means that God is still taking this person on this faith-filled journey. Our prayers should always be with faith and include the Biblical promises of God. We as the family of God should always encourage and look to build faith in those who are sick. Nothing we say or do should make a person feel like they are less than a child of God and we should not “declare” unless God has said it!

James 5:15 teaches us that if there is someone sick, they they should reach out to the elders of the church to pray over them. In other places, the fellowship of the church can provide a place for physical, hands-on prayer and also, in our modern society, prayer through phones or websites.

When we pray for the sick, we are to believe that God has the power to heal and ask for His willingness to heal. If He has spoken to us through prayer and the Word, we are to speak that Word in faith and without doubt. The end result will be God’s responsibility.

One last thought.

If, you pray and you feel like God is telling you the person will be healed and then, that person is not healed – you are responsible to repent from your false prophesying. I lose respect for any person, whether they are pastor or faith-healer, who pray for people and they do not recover but continue to declare a lie.

God’s evidence of faith is clear, if He is willing to heal, He will heal. It is our responsibility as Christians to speak what we know and be quiet on those things that we don’t know. Speaking where God has not spoken is dangerous and despicable in God’s eyes.

Maybe you have declared healing over someone and they died or got worse, there is opportunity for you to repent. Go to that person, surviving family member or church and apologize. Admit that you didn’t hear correctly (they already know it) and make a promise to listen more closely and not presume God’s actions before He is ready to perform them.

The most soul-crushing, faith-killing words I heard when someone declared healing and then that person died was: “They received the ultimate healing in death.” I felt like this was a cop-out to the truth, the leader did not hear God correctly and by adding a wild-card statement like that, I realized that my faith was under attack.

Death is not the ultimate healing. Death is Death.

Healing is for the living.

Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash