To Visit the Sick
Some years back a young woman from my office ended up in the hospital in ICU. Honestly, the doctors had no idea what was wrong with her. What seemed to start out as a cold turned into a high fever with a coma. After a few days I had figured out the doctor's schedule and tried to be there when the doctor arrived. The news was grim: she was not expected to recover and the hospital was recommending transfer to a long term care facility. Her hands had already started to develop the curve common to deep coma patients.
When I was with her each day, I began to call her out of the coma, to call her to wake up. Although I didn't see it happen, later that day friends reported that her eyelids were beginning to flutter. In another day her eyes were open.
The doctor said that the left side of her body was paralyzed and would never regain movement. My approach by then was to simply contradict whatever the doctor negatively diagnosed and to sing in tongues whenever I was with her. She began to move her left side. The doctor said she could hear but didn't know English. I knew better and proved it to a room full of hospital staff. Although she was on her way to recovery, she still had no idea who I was. The doctor said she would not speak again. More prayer. She spoke.
They moved her out of ICU onto a floor for patients who had suffered a stroke. The doctors admitted she had not had a stroke, but she had weakness like a person after a stroke. Physical therapy began to rebuild her strength. The doctors said she would not regain her ability to swallow and would have to be fed through a feeding tube the rest of her life. I continued to contradict, in prayer, what the doctor prophesied and to pray over her in tongues. Finally, she remembered me. She was speaking, weakly and hoarsely, but she was speaking. Her mother had arrived from South America and was sitting by her side and praying also by this time. She was walking and moving both sides of her body.
She was transferred to a rehabilitation facility. Eventually she completely recovered because God healed her and healed her and healed her. She was wasn't healed instantaneously, but over a period of a couple of months she regained all of her previous abilities and was able to go home and be with her husband and young daughter again. Later she returned to work.
"To visit the sick" is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. Visiting the sick is something many people do. But when Christians visit the sick their purpose is to pray for healing and to persevere in that prayer. Doctors diagnose what they can see and test for. But Our Doctor healed people, raised them from the dead, and rose from the dead himself. That's the kind of visiting doctor we should be.
For Reflection: Do I shy away from visiting the sick? Do I offer to pray with them when I visit?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the Divine Healer. I offer myself to be used by you to not only visit the sick but also to pray with them. I offer to persevere in that prayer and not become discouraged.
We are looking at how Jesus began to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah which he read in the temple in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21). He has been preaching the good news to the poor (financially poor and spiritually poor), he has been healing people and working other miracles. Now it is time for him to choose a team who can help him with doing this work of God.
Alone Jesus cannot cover enough ground, even in one country, to make a big difference and spread the word as far as he wants it to go. He needs help (Luke 6:12-16). His next step is to spend the night in prayer. That's a long time to pray about one thing. I don't know about you, but I don't very often spend the night in prayer. But as you read through the Gospels, you see that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, often late at night or early in the morning when he could get away from the crowds.
After the night of prayer, Jesus didn't choose just any 12 men. He chose from among those who had been with him consistently, who knew his basic message, and who had seen his miracles. Even with the choice of Judas, who ultimately betrayed him, I believe he selected the men his Father wanted him to name.
This short passage can teach us a couple of things: the importance of prayer before important decisions, or developing a team rather than trying to go about God's work alone. But it also causes me to think about those who were not chosen. What happened to them? Were they fine with Jesus' selection or were they jealous and disgruntled? What did Jesus say to them to smooth things over?
For Reflection: Have I been passed over, not chosen for a team before? Was I the last one chosen for a team in school? Was I turned down for a date? Was I passed over for a job? Let us forgive the person(s) who did not choose us and pray a blessing for them.
Let us pray. Jesus, there have been times when I was not chosen, when I was overlooked. I choose now to forgive that person(s) for not choosing me. And I ask you to heal the memory of the rejection in me and pour out a special blessing on that person today.
Jesus in the House
Jesus is in the house! As we saw in yesterday's post, in Luke's Gospel, Jesus' standing up and reading from Isaiah in the synagogue is the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He then goes out to start fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy, as he said he would do. He teaches with authority (Luke 4:31-32, 36); he frees a man possessed by a demon (4:33-35); he heals many people (4:38-41); he preaches the good news to all who would listen (4:42-44).
Jesus does not ask us to do anything for which he did not give us an example. And just as he did not do things in his own strength, he does not want us to do things on our own strength. He had the authority of the Father and the power of the Spirit to preach, to free, to heal. He prayed before he began his ministry, he prayed all during his ministry, he continues to intercede for us before the Father (Romans 8:34).
For Reflection: If Jesus needed to pray, how much more so do I need to pray?
Let us pray. Jesus, you set the example. You laid out the mission. You showed us how to accomplish it - through our prayer, with the authority of the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit and your own intercession. It is in partnership with you that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). You are the source, the holy one.
Give Me Back My Stuff
God has now worked two miracles regarding food for Elijah. First, he fed him through ravens in the wilderness. Second, he fed him through the widow of Zarephath. The third miracle related to Elijah, so far, is that God has withheld rain from Israel in order to prove to King Ahab that he is the one, true God.
Elijah is biding his time, waiting for the next call from God, when the son of the widow becomes ill and stops breathing. The woman immediately blames this on Elijah. Why not? By now she knows that not only is he a foreigner but also an enemy of the King of Israel. Surely her housing of this man has brought this evil upon her (1 Kings 17:17-18).
Elijah ignores the accusation and God uses Elijah to raise the boy back to life. This saving act, more than anything else, convinces the woman that Elijah's God is the true God and she has done the right thing by taking him in. "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth" (1 Kings 17:24), is her confession of faith. The multiplication of food had not convinced her, but bringing her son back to life has.
For Reflection: How many miracles does it take to convince me that God is at work?
Let us pray. Lord, I can be so hard-headed and disbelieving sometimes. Help me to recognize you in my life every day.
We've reviewed the reasons for and against believing in divine healing. Today let us listen to some words of encouragement through song.
Thorn in the Flesh
Another argument against healing is what's known as Paul's thorn in the flesh. The apostle Paul mentions this in his second letter to the Corinthians (2:7-10). Many people have interpreted the thorn in the flesh to be some physical illness, and argue, therefore, that if Paul was not healed of his thorn in the flesh then healing is not for all Christians.
Paul says the thorn in the flesh was given to him - God does not give us sickness because God is all good. Paul says the thorn in the flesh is a messenger from Satan - obviously not from God and Paul recognized that it was not from God. Paul then goes on to testify that he prayed, asking God to take it away, but God said "no."
There is really no indication that this is a physical illness. More likely it was a person or persons who followed him around accusing him of apostasy to the Jewish faith and leading people astray. This is similar to what Paul was doing when he was called by God. God does not remove this person(s) who constantly reminds Paul of his former life. So it is another instance of Paul suffering on behalf of the Gospel - an irritating thorn in his side rather than the 40 lashes or stoning or shipwreck that he suffered at other times.
Let us pray. Jesus, you suffered much more than we will ever have to suffer. Give us discernment and the ability to hear your voice as Paul did. Help us to know how to pray for healing and deliverance from suffering.
Offer It Up
We have been considering arguments against healing in modern times. Another point brought up by people is the prayer of Jesus when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. As recorded in Luke 22:42, Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
Jesus was not asking if his Father was willing to heal him because Jesus was not sick. Jesus was asking if there was some other way to redeem the world other than his suffering and death. The answer to that prayer was "no", but the Father graciously sent an angel to strengthen his Son in his time of anguish.
So the idea of "if it by thy will" (to heal) is not justified by Jesus' prayer before he died. We've looked at suffering on behalf of preaching the Gospel (which Jesus certainly did) in other posts. We will come back to it again soon when we consider Paul's "thorn in the flesh".
Let's look now at the idea of "offer it up" which is another popular response to illness. Offer it up seems to mean that we are to combine our suffering with Jesus' suffering on the cross. Scripture says that Jesus died once for all. I can't imagine that he didn't get the job done or that the redemption of the world requires some suffering from me in order to be complete. Surely not.
But there is a meaning for "offer it up" that is useful. What is offered to God, or sacrificed to God, is placed on the altar. It is literally "given to God" so that the person offering it no longer owns it; it now belongs to God. If we can offer our illness to God, place it on the altar and let him have it, then the sickness is no longer ours. We are free from it.
Perhaps we are hesitant to give him our illnesses. Why would he want to take them anyway? Yet we believe that he takes our sins, which are much worse than our illnesses.
Let us pray. Christ, my Redeemer, I give you today all the things that I have been holding on to that I don't need, don't want and can't handle.
There are some arguments against healing by Christians. The first is that healing was meant for the early years of the Church in order to give weight or proof to the Gospel but it was not meant to continue and is not necessary now. (Again, I give only the briefest summary here.)
My response is that healing never completely died out in the Church and the Gospel still needs to be preached with signs and wonders. People still get sick today and seek healing. God still heals today.
The second argument is that it is not always God's will to heal. There are a couple of responses to that. If we don't know whether or not it is God's will to heal someone (and, as I pointed out before, Jesus healed everyone who came to him in faith asking for healing), why not pray until we know God's will and then pray in accord with what we have discerned of God's will? That way we are praying in accord with God's will.
God does not "put" any sickness on us; God does not make us sick. God is all good. Jesus came that we might have life to the full, abundant life (John 10:10). Nowhere does Jesus say, "My Father gave you this sickness so that you could learn ...."
Let us pray. Father, show us your will regarding healing today. Show us what it means to have life to the full, to have abundant life.
More Reasons for Healing
The disciples continued to heal people as they preached the Gospel after Jesus ascended into heaven. Healing and working miracles were quite common and are well documented in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a man who had been lame all of his life. The man was not asking for healing, he was begging for food or money. So there doesn't seem to be any faith present on his part. Yet Peter and John healed him anyway. This was a very public miracle because the man begged every day at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
Acts 5 is even more dramatic. Beginning with verse 14 we read, "More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed."
As with Jesus, all of them were healed. None were turned away. We could continue to heap up citations from Acts as from the Gospels. The clear fact is that the disciples continued to heal and work miracles in support of preaching the Gospel. They didn't heal people just for the sake of healing people; they healed people to show the truth of the Gospel message. And the basic Gospel message is this: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who became a human being, who suffered, died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins. Repent of your sins and believe this good news. Be baptized and spread the kingdom of God further.
Let us pray and meditate today on Peter's words to the High Priest and the Jewish Council: "We must obey God, not men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from death, after you had killed him by nailing him to a cross. God raised him to his side as Leader and Savior, to give the people of Israel the opportunity to repent and have their sins forgiven. We are witnesses to these things - we and the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to those who obey him." (Acts 5:29-32)
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.