Did Prayer for My Knee Change Anything?
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:15
Prior to my surgery last week, I asked for prayer, and I believe that many of you went to God, asking for the operation to go well. I also believe that some of you also questioned the concept. Some of you likely doubt the existence of God (that’s beyond the scope of today’s blog) but some of you simply mistrust the idea of prayer. Others of you may also have questioned the arrogance of asking for prayer. Do you think you’ll have a good outcome if enough people pray? If, after all, God is real, and he is all powerful, then why doesn’t he answer all prayers for healing? Why do children die of cancer? If those kids had a big enough blog audience, would they have been healed? In fact, if God could heal, then why did I need a surgeon in the first place?
As a side note, I’ve not prayed for miraculous intervention with my knee. Maybe I should have, but I’ve not. I believe God gave us medicine and science and that he works through physicians. When I needed to get sober, God used professionally trained counselors to help me. When it came to my knee, I had confidence in my surgeon, but I was still concerned about my continuing faith and recovery. I prayed for the strength to avoid opioids, and I prayed for God’s will to be done. If that meant there was some complication, then I’d pray that God would teach me something through that. That’s how I prayed about it.
Still, today’s passage addresses healing, and that is the question. Can prayer heal us? In the passage (James 5:13-18), it seems that James prescribed a specific formula for those who desire miraculous healing. If you read only this passage, it would appear that healing is guaranteed to those who follow the directions. For this to be true though, then everyone who follows the recipe, would find healing for all afflictions, and would never die from any illness. Of course, this is absurd. As Christians, we believe that the world is broken (Genesis 3) and that illness and death are simply a part of life. We also believe that it is God’s plan that everyone dies (Hebrews 9:27). No one lives forever. Miracles are the exception, not the rule. Personally, I’ve not personally seen any miraculous physical healings.
You know what I have seen though? Profound spiritual healing. Personally, my life has been miraculously transformed as I turned from following myself to following God. And that, I think, is the point of the passage seen in the larger context of the entire Bible. God is far more interested in our spiritual health than our physical health. We see our health as the most important thing in the universe. We’re all going to die though and in the grand scheme of things, our lifetime is a blip compared to eternity. Seen in that light, it is far more important how we live than how long we live. Do we know God in this life? Will we know him in the next life?
The world is broken and we all experience sickness and death. We will not all receive miraculous healing. In fact, few of us will. Miracles, by definition, are rare events. When we pray though, we turn ourselves to God, which may be the most important thing about prayer. God may not heal us physically, but if we’ll turn to him, abandoning our self-destructive pursuits, he will always heal us spiritually.