This coming Tuesday 11 May at 7.30pm will be the first of three evenings for healing prayers. Two weeks ago, I introduced the idea, and observed how healing in the gospels is intimately linked to teaching and community (here). This week, I will look more closely at what Biblical healing entails.
What does Biblical healing look like?
The gospels are peppered with stories of Jesus healing people, and he commissions his disciples to do likewise. This healing is always much more than a physical cure. The Greek word for ‘demonic’ means ‘tearing apart’; and so something which is demonic tears apart bodies, minds and spirits; people and communities; people and the wider creation; and people and God. Physical or mental illness, toxic and abusive relationships, racism, sexism, war, shame, greed: these are just a few of the demons which tear people apart.
Amidst all this brokenness, it is our claim that Jesus ‘saves’. The Greek word here is sozo, which means to save, heal or bring wholeness. In other words, Jesus throws out the demonic, bringing us together and integrating us. He heals fractured persons; he unites people and communities; he makes us whole.
Of course, being made whole does not mean pretending that our hurts never happened, or that our wounds do not exist. It does not mean perfection. Instead, as Frank Ostaseski writes, “It means no part left out.” It means including, accepting and connecting all parts of ourselves in Christ, who unites all things. When Jesus met his disciples after his death and resurrection, he was heavily scarred, and so, too, with our healing. We will still have our histories; we will still be scarred; and, to take the metaphor further, those scars will still need ongoing care—the gospel and prayer—if they are to hold together. Healing is an ongoing process.
What are we praying for?
We don’t exactly know! Like the first disciples, we ask Jesus to teach us how to pray (Luke 11), and we trust the Holy Spirit to intercede for us. But here are some starting points:
We ask the one seeking prayer how we can pray for them.
When speaking with blind Bartimaeus, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10). He did not assume that Bartimaeus sought healing for his blindness; therefore, we do not presume to know what form of healing a person seeks. We ask each person how we can pray for them, and we trust that, through listening and praying together, God will continually guide and teach us all.
But overall, we pray for wholeness.
In the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul prays, “May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ!” and so this is what we pray for, too. There is nothing in our lives that is too dark, too small, or too shameful to be offered up for healing. Indeed, it is precisely the dark, small and shameful things which most need healing and integration.
We do not assume that someone wants healing.
Even if it seems obvious that someone needs healing, we don’t assume they seek it. Many of us are comfortable in our suffering, are unwilling to do the work of transformation, or would prefer to deny that we are suffering at all. Jesus will not force healing upon us: we have to want it. So I leave you with a question to ponder, a question Jesus once asked a crippled man: “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5). Do you want to be made whole? And if not, what is holding you back?
Emailed to Sanctuary 5 May 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021. Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash.
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