Recently I was talking with an online Christian about healing. One of the many reasons I don’t believe the Bible anymore is the Bible contains many, repeated promises that prayer can heal people. The Christian told me this was not the case. Here’s her direct quote:
God does not promise to heal those who pray. Never does the Bible make this promise, although I was once in a group who taught this very thing. It is false, and it is an evil lie, giving false hope to desperate people and then destroying their faith when God doesn’t heal them or their loved one.
So I did a quick collection of some of the many Bible verses that do, in fact, promise healing.
Let’s talk about Jesus himself. What was Jesus most known for? Powerful preaching, and healing the sick. Flip through the book of Mark, and the headings are things like “Jesus heals a paralytic”, “A man with a withered hand,” “Jesus heals a deaf man,” “Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus,” and so on.
This wasn’t Jesus healing once in a great while, or only in secret; he was well known for this.
“And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and they ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”
So why talk about what Jesus could do? Because Jesus said all his followers would have the same power!
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Some Christians try to say when Jesus said “greater things,” he meant things like showing love or saving souls. Even though that ignores the part that says “you will do the works I have been doing.” Also, if Jesus spent his whole career healing, but when he said we could do ‘greater things’ he didn’t mean greater healing, he’s being deliberately misleading. Jesus is being like an ad that promises you a free iPod for playing a game, but you later learn you have to buy a $90 per month subscription to a gaming service to get the iPod.
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and THEY WILL GET WELL.” (emphasis mine)
Some Christians say this verse wasn’t in the original book of Mark. But it IS in every English translation we have. Why would God, who promised his words would never pass away, allow so many Christians throughout the centuries to read a verse that makes a false promise?
And the apostles are healing folks all throughout the book of Acts. In Acts 5:15 people bring the sick out to see Peter, just like they did for Jesus. Peter raises Dorcus from the dead in Acts 9:40.
“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”
And of course, the well-known passage, James 5:14-15:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith WILL MAKE THE SICK PERSON WELL; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
It doesn’t just say they’ll be raised up or have their sins forgiven; it also says they WILL be made well. If you have read the Bible and think it doesn’t say God will answer prayers and heal the sick, I think you are deliberately misleading yourself because you don’t like the truth.
“Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it WILL BE YOURS.”
That passage doesn’t have any fine print or ‘weasel words’ about “if it’s not God’s will” or “Sometimes God’s answer is no.” It says believe it, and you will receive it.
In other words, the most obnoxious, most harmful churches with the damaging “name it claim it” theology are the most Biblical. And in spite of the Christian’s insistence that the Bible never promises to heal those who pray, the promise is made over and over again.
Also note: The church has had this Bible for around 2,000 years. They have had lots of time to come up with excuses. I’m sure any Christian can give a nice complex explanation of why those verses I quoted don’t really mean what they say. But I think doing that makes God into kind of a sleazy corporate lawyer, you know? The kind who draws up a nice guarantee agreement that makes it look like you are totally covered, but when you read all the fine-print caveats and disentangle all the legalese, it turns out the promise means nothing.