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Healing Line

Healing Line

The Mystery: Why Some Are Healed & Others Are Not

by Francis MacNutt
Nov/Dec 1991

You all know the problem: Why is it that you pray for one person, who is not healed, and then the next person gets out of the wheelchair and walks?

One woman, for example, has tumors on the side of her neck that you can actually see and feel. While you pray you see them go down and, in fifteen minutes, they are gone. You pray for another woman with the same kind of tumors — and, apparently, with the same spiritual outlook — and nothing seems to happen (at least, not on the level of the cancerous tumor).

If you are a healing evangelist, praying with a crowd of thousands in a one–night appearance at the Civic Auditorium, you can call all the healed people up to the stage to give their testimonies, and you don't have to counsel all the others. But if you are a pastor, and those cancer patients are in your congregation, you may have to give them an explanation as to why God doesn't seem to answer their prayer.

That perception is not true, of course. At some level we are sure our prayer is answered, for we do believe that God hears and answers all our prayers. Yet, although that may be true, it may not be satisfactory to the patient who suffers from the cancer.

The deeper answers explaining why people don't seem to receive physical healing are, however, very helpful and I would like to share several of them that have guided me in that spiritual direction that does lead to physical healing, for I do believe that, ordinarily, God wants us to be physically whole and healthy.

1) The first, of course, is our real need for faith, an ardent belief in Jesus' desire to heal us. Sometimes healing is blocked by our lack of faith —sometimes in the sick person, sometimes in the minister of healing. Much has been written, as well as spoken, about the key importance of faith, and I need not comment further, except to say that lack–of–faith is not the only reason the sick are not healed. When people get that idea about lack–of–faith then sick people who are not immediately healed take on a burden of guilt which only intensifies their physical sickness with the added sorrow of spiritual darkness. I have known some patients dying in hospitals devastated by well–meaning Christians (who have usually disappeared at the end) who keep telling them that they will be healed if only they have faith.

But here are some of the other reasons we have discovered that help us break through to total healing.

2) Sometimes a deeper spiritual healing is needed; the physical sickness is a surface sickness calling our attention to a deeper spiritual problem that needs ministry. Most of us know by experience that refusal to forgive enemies can result in an abiding tension and anger that can cause sickness. Some (but not all) arthritis is caused by unforgiveness. Or, if disaster strikes us in the form of rejection or the death of a loved one, this may lessen (perhaps unconsciously) our love of life which, in turn, weakens our immune system. Some doctors believe that cancer often follows upon a significant loss. If this is true, we need to help the person grieve and pray through the bereavement or rejection, leading to a spiritual healing that finally results in the cancer's disappearing. One orthopedic surgeon I know told me that when she had a chance to pray with her cancer patients for a profound healing of their losses, their cancers almost always went into remission!

The account of Jesus' healing the lame man let down through the roof (Mark 2:1–12) implies that the forgiveness of the man's sins had some connection with his ability to pick up his stretcher and walk.

3) The minister of healing simply doesn't have the giftedness or power needed to act as a channel for healing at a given moment. St. Paul (in l Cor. 12:8–10) talks about gifts of healing which are given to some and not to others, and he also rebukes his disciples (Mark 9: 14–29) for not having prayed and fasted enough to free the demoniac boy from his epilepsy. From Scripture then, as well as from experience, it seems that we can lack power, either from our own lack of preparation, or from our lack of giftedness, to heal or deliver someone. In one case it's our own fault (Jesus rebuked the disciples) or it can be, at other times, that more severe cases simply are beyond our present level of spiritual growth or giftedness. For a paraplegic in a wheelchair to be healed, it ordinarily requires, I believe, the special gift of healing (or miracles) that Paul is talking about in Corinthians 12. The important consequence of all this is that if we are going to blame anyone when healing does not take place, we should hesitate before blaming the sick person. I think it just as likely that the ministering person is not sufficiently prepared by prayer, or else, does not have the spiritual authority required to bring Jesus' healing to this person. I admire John Wimber's refusal to pray for someone unless he gets the Spirit's guidance to "go for it". In the famous passage encouraging us to call the elders of the church when we are sick, the passage seems to imply that it is the elders' faith that will help raise up the sick man: "The prayer of faith will save the sick man ... " (James 5:15).

At any rate, let's not blame anyone when a person we pray for doesn't seem to get well, unless the Spirit convicts us of not preparing ourselves sufficiently, or unless, by a word of knowledge, we find that the sick person needs faith or needs to forgive someone.

4) Lastly, the reason many people are not healed is that people don't weigh in and really pray over a period of time (we call this "soaking prayer"). Even Jesus sometimes needed to pray more than once: "Then he laid his hands on the man's eyes again and he saw clearly" (Mark 8:25). Nor did the demons (Legion) leave immediately when Jesus commanded them to go. The demoniac shouted "What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God ? Swear by God you will not torture me!' — For Jesus had been saying to him, 'Come out of the man, unclean spirit"' (Mark 5:7–8). Then, even after he had commanded the spirit(s) to depart, Jesus asked their name, before giving them permission to go into the pigs. In other words, that particular exorcism took time.

If Jesus occasionally took time to heal or exorcise people, we certainly can expect that we also, upon occasion, must take time. When some sick people are not healed through prayer, it may simply be because we haven't prayed long enough to bring the healing to completion. "Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them?" (Luke 18:7) JB translation.

For all these reasons, when people are not healed through our prayer, we should not immediately assume that it is not God's will to heal, nor should we automatically assume that the patients lack faith. The good news is that many more sick people can be healed if only we pray:

— for the deeper, spiritual roots of sickness.
— if we ourselves are better prepared by prayer (and by fasting).
— if we are willing to spend more time praying for the sick person.

Love, in Christ,
Francis & Judith
Rachel & David

P.S If you haven't already read it, I encourage you to get Jamie Buckingham's moving new book, Summer of Miracles (Creation House). It is a powerful testimony showing all the above principles in action in Jamie's own struggle against cancer.


Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Nov/Dev 1991 Issue