Consider these texts from scripture. We will look at the matter with particular reference to healing.
"Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
"Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
And when the disciples saw [it], they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this [which is done] to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
"And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them]."
The conclusion to these texts is obvious: Jesus says that if we pray without doubting, that is, with faith (trust in Him), we shall receive a direct answer to our prayers. The text in Matthew says "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
Therefore, even a Christian with a small amount of faith will see answers to his prayers, no matter what the prayer is about. Of course, the prayer must be within God's will, or He will not listen to it. So, we have the parameters to answered prayer: live righteously so as to know God's will; listen to His prompting to pray for something; pray with faith that the prayer will be answered, because God does not lie and He said to do so; receive the answer. This is so simple, and yet most Christians fear it, because they either do not trust God, or they are asking for something not in God's will.
An Alternative Way
When Christ was on his three year journey around Israel, He healed thousands. But, did they have the faith spoken of in the texts we have looked at? There is no evidence in scripture that all those healed were people of faith. Most appear to have come to Jesus because He had healed others. Their coming to Him for healing seems to be a trust in what their eyes had seen, or their ears had heard, rather than in the Son of God.
At these times Jesus appears to have just uttered the word of healing, or just looked at the person, or touched him, such was the power of God. When the apostles healed, they did the same thing. It seems they did not pray before each healing, because they assuredly had a command from Jesus to do those things. The prayer was silent, then, within their souls, in the form of total faith. The healings came about just by doing what Jesus did. The difference is that healing can come about by prayer, but here it is by direct command of God; the utterance of healing is in obedience to Him.
Healing can also come about by calling on the elders (pastors) of a church, who will then attend the sick person's home and lay hands on him or her, with prayer. Thus, there seem to be three ways one can seek healing: (1) by calling on elders, (2) by one being gifted to administer healing with prayer, and, (3) by direct touch or word, with or without prayer (because the act presupposes full trust in God's will to heal).
It is the latter form that causes trepidation, because the one who may (or may not) be used in healing might not be sure if the healing will take place. He believes Jesus and the apostles did these acts, and knows God can heal at any time, if it is His will. But, if the man seeks healing for someone and utters the words of healing in Jesus' Name, and the healing does not take place, it can have one of two effects: he may be very discouraged or even depressed, or, he might not again call on God for any form of intervention.
The reason is that the non-healing, in the eyes of the one who sought to heal, could be a sign that his own righteousness or faith was not enough; or that it was not in God's will – in which case, he might forever wonder what is God's will, if he thought the first attempt at healing was in His will. So, rather than risk another non-answer he may not again seek any intervention at all.
Now, if faith the size of a mustard seed can bring about an answer from God, if there is no answer, does it mean we do not even have a mustard-seed's-worth of faith? Possibly. But, remember how Paul sought healing for an unnamed malady in his own body but did not receive it? No-one can accuse Paul of lacking in faith! So, it means that though good in itself, the request was denied because Paul had to bear the malady throughout his life as a reminder of his human weakness.
If a man is truly living a righteous life, God will not hold back His favours, whether in healing or any other request, for this is the meaning of the texts we looked at earlier, and is found in abundance in the Psalms. Paul did not retire into a shell and stop all pleas to God for His intervention. Rather, he shrugged and carried on, hard though it might have been.
Yet, we cannot deny the very direct link shown in the texts above, between faith (no matter how small), prayer, and receiving direct answers. Do we 'dare to be a Daniel'? Do we dare to live righteously and plead with God for answers to a need? It is a sign of true faith when we call on God to provide a direct answer! It is not good enough to mutter something like "If it is Your will", because such an utterance is only an excuse for not having faith. It presupposes failure of the prayer, and attributes a non-response to God's unwillingness, rather than to our own lack of faith. In this way we outwardly say we have faith, but inwardly lack it!
What to do? We must believe what God says, and what Christ said to His disciples. We must live with faith, walking with God. It is His will that we should ask for anything we wish, with faith, and that He will give us what we ask for. The man or woman who is righteous will KNOW when a plea is within God's will, and so the healing request will be met with actual healing. The only exception is that God, for His own reasons, may not give healing, as in Paul's life. In which case, the Christian must graciously accept and carry on, for other requests will be met in the Lord's own time.
We must all live life on this earth with one foot in Heaven; we must believe what God says about asking Him for things, and must believe that He answers the righteous person. This is to grasp our freedom in Christ with hearts that know the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (Note: This is nothing like the fakery of charismaticism, but is a straightforward reliance on God's word).
The non-answer to a desperate plea for healing can have devastating effects on the one who feels God has not answered. I know, because it happened to me, twice. Sadly, on both occasions I had no real idea about healing, and was influenced by charismatic notions. Only later did I research the issue for myself, and come up with real answers from scripture... and I am still learning!
At the time of the non-answers I was not just saddened. When there was no answer I was actually in shock, for I was convinced God was going to answer! Then came my personal distress and perplexity. It took years to look at the matter again. I saw that my 'faith' was not true, but was a reliance on the views of other men rather than in what God said.
God's word is very clear. If we live righteously, we will have genuine faith based on what God says. When we thus live, He listens to our pleading and then answers. At times his intervention will be immediate; at other times it may take time. Any non-answer will usually be 'discussed' in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, so that we understand the reasons for the non-answer.
I can say all this because, as Christians, we have the power and authority of the Lord! Do not despise it, but take hold of it with both hands and live with one foot in Heaven.
© October 2011
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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