Prayer for the Sick

Pastor: Prayer for the Sick

Prayer for the sick is a subject we do not often hear discussed, yet it is one in which every worker should be deeply interested. It is important to study carefully the instruction the Lord has given us on this subject.

Retired Minister, Pacific Union Conference

Prayer for the sick is a subject we do not often hear discussed, yet it is one in which every worker should be deeply interested. It is important to study carefully the instruction the Lord has given us on this subject. Let us first notice the great commission given by Jesus to His disciples:

"And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease." Matt. 10:1. "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." Verses 7, 8. (See also Mark 3:14, 15, and Luke 9:1, 2, 6.)

In the ministry of Jesus, preaching and healing went together. In fact, we are told that He spent more time healing the sick than preaching the gospel. This brings us face to face with the question whether this great commission, including preaching the gospel and healing the sick, applied only to those twelve disciples, or whether that has been His plan for His ministers to the end of time.

"The very essence of the gospel is restoration, and the Saviour would have His servants bid the sick, the hopeless, and the afflicted take hold upon His strength. God's servants are the channels of His grace, and through them He desires to exercise His healing power. It is their work to present the sick and suffering to the Saviour in the arms of faith. . . .

"The divine Healer is present in the sick-room; He hears every word of the prayers offered to Him in the simplicity of true faith. His disciples today are to pray for the sick, as verily as did the disciples of old. And there will be recoveries; for 'the prayer of faith shall save the sick.'" Gospel Workers, pp. 213-215.

"Christ has empowered His church to do the same work that He did during His ministry. Today He is the same compassionate physician that He was while on this earth. We should let the afflicted understand that in Him there is healing balm for every disease, restoring power for every infirmity. His disciples in this time are to pray for the sick as verily as His disciples of old prayed. And recoveries will follow, for 'the prayer of faith shall save the sick.' James 5:15. We need the Holy Spirit's power, the calm assurance of faith that can claim God's promises." Counsels on Health, p. 210.

In view of these clear and positive statements, we would do well to consider seriously an experience the disciples had while laboring with the Master. In Matthew 10:1 we read that Jesus called the twelve disciples together and "gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out." When we come to the seventeenth chapter we read of a man who brought his boy to Jesus, and kneeling down to Him, said, "Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is a 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." Verses 15, 16. Jesus rebuked the devil, and the child was cured from that 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." Verses 19, 20.

Fortunately for that poor, tortured father, the Great Physician was there in person to hear his prayer, but how tragic it would have been had there been only the disciples! And how heart breaking it would be if some poor, suffering father or mother should come to me with such a case, and I "could not cast him out"!

I think of an experience C. A. Russell and I had many years ago when a dear brother brought his loved one to us for prayer. It was one of the most shocking and pitiful cases I had ever seen, and the devil seemed determined not to give her up. We prayed from early evening until after midnight in what seemed like impenetrable darkness; but when the light from heaven fell upon us, and with a thrilling cry she fell to her knees with exclamations of praise and glory to Jesus who had set her free, we knew that Jesus had come and given us the victory.

"Christ feels the woes of every sufferer. When evil spirits rend a human frame, Christ feels the curse. When fever is burning up the life current, He feels the agony. And He is just as willing to heal the sick now, as when He was personally on earth. Christ's servants are His representatives, the channels for His working. He desires through them to exercise His "healing power." The Desire of Ages, pp. 823, 824.

If we are His representatives, should we not manifest just the same interest in the afflicted, suffering, crippled, and distressed as He did? I have just read some articles in a religious periodical discussing the psychological and psychiatric problems that pastors meet today as they minister to their members who are physically and mentally ill. In a conversation recently regarding the matter of healing through prayer, a physician was insistent that we give "scientific proof"' when we suggested that a miracle had been performed in answer to our prayers. I do not wish to discuss the matter from that view point, but rather to speak of the wonderful blessing, inspiration, and joy it brings to the worker who sees again and again the Saviour's love manifested in miracles of healing.

Preparation of the Patient

It may be well to make a few suggestions regarding the preparation of the patient. "In the word of God we have instruction relative to special prayer for the recovery of the sick. But the offering of such prayer is a most solemn act, and should not be entered upon without careful consideration." Gospel Workers, p. 215.

We know that many have sent for the elders and have been prayed for and anointed, but have not been healed. Some are perplexed and cannot understand why God does not keep His promises, when the trouble is that they do not understand all the promises in God's Word are made on conditions, and if we do not meet the conditions, we need not expect to receive the answer. Let us take as an example 1 John 3:22: "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, be cause we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." The majority of those who ask for prayer for healing will say that they are sincerely endeavoring to keep the commandments. But what about doing "those things that are pleasing in his sight"?

"Many persons bring disease upon themselves by their self-indulgence. They have not lived in accordance with natural law or the principles of strict purity. Others have disregarded the laws of health in their habits of eating and drinking, dressing or working. Often some form of vice is the cause of feebleness of mind or body. Should these persons gain the blessing of health, many of them would continue to pursue the same course of heed less transgression of God's natural and spiritual laws, reasoning that if God heals them in answer to prayer, they are at liberty to continue their unhealthful practices and to indulge perverted appetite without restraint. If God were to work a miracle in restoring these persons to health, He would be encouraging sin." Ibid.

Where possible, it is very helpful for the patient to read the beautiful chapter in Ministry of Healing on "Prayer for the Sick," or the tract by Ellen G. White on that subject. Also the chapter in Gospel Workers with the same title is full of important instruction.

Immediate Healing

A young man and his wife were very happy over their beautiful baby only about a month old. It was taken ill, and in a few days the doctor told them he saw no hope of recovery. Day and night they spent with the little one, until they were exhausted. At their request my wife and I went to their home to spend the night, and the parents retired to get a little rest. The baby was in a coma and appeared to have little life.

We prayed earnestly, claiming the promises in God's Word. In a few moments he opened his eyes and began to indicate that he was hungry. We called the mother, the baby was fed, and from that hour he was well. This was one of my first experiences of definite and immediate healing in answer to prayer.

Years later, while I was attending a camp meeting at Oakland, California, a young woman sent word requesting that A. G. Daniells and I pray for her healing. I visited her, and she told me of her eight major operations in various well-known hospitals. While at dinner that day with Dr. Thomason, one of our prominent surgeons, I asked him if he knew this young woman. He replied, "Yes, I do. I have operated on her." I asked what he thought of her case. He said, "She will die unless she has another operation, and she will die if she has another operation; that is all I can say."

We prayed for her, and the next year she was at the college, where I saw her occasionally. That was thirty-eight years ago, and many times through these years I have heard of her earnest, successful work in winning souls.

On another occasion Elder Daniells and I were praying for an elderly brother who was very deaf. Suddenly as Elder Daniells prayed I noticed the man lift his head. At the close of the prayer he rose, and with a smiling face said, "That is the first time for fifteen years that I have heard the birds sing!"

Dear fellow workers, I know that many of you have felt the thrill of joy that comes as we actually see the miracle-working power of God in answer to prayer. Since we are told that "He is just as willing to heal the sick now," and we know that is true, why do we not give Him a chance, by earnest prayer and faith, to do more of this blessed work?

Insanity Cured

While I was holding meetings in a large city church, the pastor, C, J. Coon, and I were asked one day to visit a sister who had been five years in the hospital for the insane. We tried to talk a little with her, and then asked her to kneel with us, saying we would pray for her. Later I learned that after we left she went out into the corridor, and a nurse met her and exclaimed, "Well, what has happened?" She answered, "My pastors have been here and prayed for me." A year later I was in that city. As I met her at church she said, "I am the woman you prayed for a year ago in the hospital. I have been home well ever since."

No Incurable Cases

With God Some years ago while I was attending a camp meeting in the South a brother and his wife asked me to get W. G. Turner and have prayer for the wife's healing. She had a malignant tumor, and the doctor had told her before she left home that nothing more could be done for her. She told him that she was going to camp meeting and would ask the ministers to pray for her, and if it was God's will, she would be healed. The doctor said, "O woman, don't you know that the age of miracles is past?" She told him she did not think so, and the doctor said, "All right, we will see." Elder Turner and I prayed for her, and after returning home she wrote telling me she had gone to the doctor's office to give him a chance to "see," and he had told her he was very glad she had come home well.

Not many months ago I was working with H. A. Crawford in a city in California. We were visiting the members, and one day he took me to the hospital where a sister was seriously ill with what the doctor described as multiple sclerosis. She suffered much, and could not move head or shoulders without great pain. Her case was considered incurable. We prayed for her, and the simple, childlike faith of that sister brought a look of joy to her face that I shall never forget. She sat up, put on her robe and shoes, and began walking about the room. Her nurse was amazed when she entered the room, and throwing up her hands cried, "What on earth has happened?" Elder Crawford explained, and the nurses and doctor seemed deeply impressed. Our sister went home the next day well.

I have noted here just a few instances of the scores I might mention, in which earnest, humble prayer and the claiming of the promises of God have brought not only deliverance, healing, and joy to the suffering ones but also great courage and inspiration to the members of the church, and they have been a witness before unbelievers. Sometimes we meet people who insist that if we really have faith and claim God's promises, every person we pray for will be healed. I do not understand this to be in harmony with the teaching of the Bible or the Spirit of prophecy.

Sometimes God permits affliction as a matter of discipline for His children, by which they may learn lessons for their own good. The apostle Paul prayed three times, but the Lord did not see fit to heal him. It is very important that we place the sick one in the hands of a loving Saviour and submit our wills wholly to Him, asking only that He do what He knows will be best for all concerned. Much instruction has been given to us on this subject through the Spirit of prophecy, and we would do well to study it carefully.

We know that spiritual healing, victory, and salvation come to us only through the study of God's Word and earnest, persevering prayer, and when we do our part our success is assured. We also believe that the same course will bring physical healing, except where our loving Saviour sees that a greater blessing will come to the afflicted one as he patiently endures the suffering and comes forth from it as gold tried in the fire.

What a precious privilege we have as workers to minister in behalf of our loving Saviour to the sick and suffering! Surely we should study to understand His will and cooperate fully with Him in this work. The time cannot be far distant when the words in Early Writings, page 278, will be fulfilled: "Mighty miracles were wrought, the sick were healed, and signs and wonders fol lowed the believers." "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." John 14:13.

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Retired Minister, Pacific Union Conference

March 1953

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