I give some practical tips for the ministry of healing in this extract from my new book The God Who Heals.
Effective healing ministry is based on spending time with God in prayer. It is my experience that to partner effectively with God, we need to spend at least an equal amount of time in prayer as we plan to in ministering.
Asking God specific questions is a most helpful feature of preparatory praying. Uncertainty is a greater problem for most of us than disobedience and we learn to recognise God’s voice by asking him questions and sensing his replies in our spirits. As we pray, we need to ask God what he is doing and what part he wants us to play. If we are praying about a particular person, we can ask the Father what the real problem is, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual, demonic, or a curse. Most important of all, we can ask God whether his solution is prayer, deliverance, repentance, patience or healing ministry.
Ministering in pairs
The principle of partnership in ministry runs through the Bible.
Jesus sent his followers to heal and preach in pairs. The promises of Matthew 18:19-20 are made to two or three, not to one. The disciples learnt from being with Jesus when he healed, so it is good preparation and training for us to join with another believer who is more experienced. There are many advantages when we minister in pairs. There is greater power and protection for each other from mistakes, and a double channel for God to use in communication. Faith is maintained more easily. The flow of ministry can pass from one to another as common sense directs. Members of a healing team are precluded from claiming God’s work as their own personal achievement.
I think that it is best to avoid having more than three people ministering to one person as this can be confusing. Other members of the team who are eager to be involved can sit quietly and unobtrusively while engaging in urgent prayer for the empowering and guidance of those who are ministering.
Some believers are attracted to the Christian healing ministry for entirely the wrong reasons. Compassion and obedience motivated Christ. We will have been side-tracked by the enemy if we only want to gaze at a miracle or be entertained by a bodily reaction.
Jesus, the Healer
The Spirit’s main work is to glorify or illuminate the Son. When an ancient building is floodlit, it is the building which is admired – the floodlight and rays are necessary, but unnoticed.
In a healing miracle, the Holy Spirit acts as a floodlight and our anointed words and actions are like rays of light which emanate from, and are energised by, him. Jesus is the one who is illuminated and glorified.
The split in the New Testament healing miracles is surprisingly exact: half are in response to a divine instruction and half to a human request. In ministry, we need to listen both to God and to the person we are seeking to help and this is facilitated by creating a climate of quiet and privacy.
Jesus did not function only at a supernatural level, but also at the natural level of observation and deduction. The Gospels report him asking five obvious questions. If he, in his humanity, sometimes needed to ask these questions, then so sometimes will we.
What is your name?
(Mark 5:9). It is an important and natural opening question to put to people we do not know
What do you want me to do?
(Luke 18:40-43). For us, this is better expressed by, “What do you want Jesus to do?”
Do you want to be well?
(John 5:6). It is helpful to make certain that the person really is serious and aware of the consequences of being healed.
We must be sure that we are not trying to force healing on someone. How long has this been happening? (Mark 9:14-29). Occasionally the circumstances and background of the problem need to be investigated to clarify the cause of the sickness. Can you see? (Mark 8:22-26). We should always try to establish what has happened during the ministry.
Of course, we do not need to know all the medical details. We only need to know in what way the person is suffering. As well as questioning the person, it is always necessary to ask God whether anything else needs to be known. He may give us:
• a picture or word to pass on, suggest
• a statement to make, put a question into our mind or draw our attention
• to a non-physical cause.
In the Scriptures, the physical conditions of Abimelech, Miriam, Malchus, the man at the pool of Bethesda and the man let down through the roof appear to have had their origin in sin – sin committed either by or against the individual. Some leaders today would demand that Malchus forgive Peter before admitting any possibility of healing his severed right ear, but Jesus was silent about this and healed him unconditionally.
Jesus did not insist on a lengthy confession from the man at the pool of Bethesda. Instead, he returned after the healing to urge the man not to sin any more. At times, as James 5:16 makes plain, there is an association between giving and receiving forgiveness and healing, but this is not always the case. Other leaders teach that a demon lies behind every disease and demand that a demon is cast out before healing can begin. The Scriptures, however, clearly distinguish between deliverance from evil powers and physical healing and this difference needs constant emphasis.
Of course, a person may be healed as a direct consequence of the expulsion of an evil power – as in Matthew 9:32-34 and 12:22 – but we should not build a general principle from these isolated instances.
There is a natural tendency in all of us to drift into habitual patterns of ministry. Jesus, however, was unpredictable. He did only what the Father told him and his instructions varied with every individual.
I think, however, that we should appreciate three general scriptural points.
Throughout the Bible, when healing, God’s servants seem generally to lay their hands on the affected part of the body.
Second, in the Scriptures, petitionary or intercessory prayer usually precedes the actual ministry for healing – words of announcement or command, rather than words of petition or request, should most frequently accompany healing ministry.
Third, as in the cures of Naaman, Miriam and the John 9 beggar, God may prompt us to suggest an action or task for the person to perform and the healing will normally be delayed until this has been completed.
I make the following suggestions for those believers who are inexperienced in the healing ministry. Please vary them as the Holy Spirit guides you.
1. Show Christ’s love at all times. Smile, use the person’s name and relax, for God will perform the miracle, not you.
2. Together with your partner, quietly surrender to the Holy Spirit and consciously cultivate the relational aspect of partnering with him.
3. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you guidance, boldness and power.
4. Keep your eyes open. We often receive helpful information by watching the person’s reactions.
5. Listen to God and speak whatever you sense him putting into your mind. Keep on asking God questions and listening to his replies.
6. Ask God whether you should lay your hands on the person. If you are prompted, ask the person’s permission and gently place your hands on the clothing or skin nearest to the affected part of the body. In this situation be aware of inappropriate touching. I always have another woman with me if I am ministering to a woman. I either ask her to place her hands on the woman I am praying for or ask the woman herself to place her hand on her own body.
7. Ask questions like, “Do you feel anything?” and, “What’s happening?”
8. Watch out for bodily reactions. Though these reactions may indicate that God is at work, they are only the body’s natural response to God’s work. An extreme bodily reaction does not evidence a greater work of God, nor does the absence of it mean that healing is not occurring. The reaction sometimes ceases before the healing occurs, so do not stop ministering if the person stops shaking or sits up.
9. Continually offer encouragement and help the person to be at ease. Talk of the presence, power and promises of God.
10. Maintain a flow of ministry between yourself, your partner, God and the person you are seeking to help. While one speaks aloud, the others can listen to God, pray silently for guidance, and watch the person being healed.
11. Silently use the gift of tongues. If you are unsure what to do next or seem to be ‘stuck’ it may be helpful to use the gift audibly. Explain what you are about to do.
12. Stop ministering when the person is healed, or when the Holy Spirit tells you to stop, or when you cannot think of anything else to do, or when the person asks you to stop, or when anyone appears tired. If the healing is incomplete, arrange to minister again in the near future, allowing time to elapse for further preparation and prayer. Questioning people often ask why healings are not always instantaneous. There are many answers. For example, God is sometimes doing a far deeper work in us or the people we are ministering to than providing instant healing. At other times, it is his priority to produce faith in us by developing our patience.
One of the central reasons for the delay is that, today, we mistakenly associate healing with power. We covet a ‘power’ ministry for ourselves and our church. And so God has to keep on reminding us of our weakness, our ignorance and our vulnerability.
The God Who Heals is available from Amazon and other web stores.