Did you know that there are at least five Biblical ways to pray for healing and other concerns? My guess is that many of us are missing out. The examples are in scripture right before our eyes, but maybe we haven’t connected the dots. Or perhaps, we have (mistakenly) believed that prayers like these aren’t intended for regular folks like us.
I can’t promise you that praying all five will always get the outcomes you want. That’s not realistic. However, I can guarantee that your sense of adventure in the Lord will expand exponentially, as will your ability to pray for healing in concert with Him. Jesus prayed using all five and He will certainly help you learn to use them, too.
The first step into this brave, new world is to understand the five different approaches and recognize the situations that call for them. I’ll get you started with all that, but the rest will be up to you (and the Lord). Enjoy your voyage of discovery, my friend.
True Life Illustration
Does God heal through prayer? Yes! Even prayers for cats…
Asking God for healing is always right. It is a natural, heart-felt and direct way to pray for healing. It hardly needs to be taught, though learning how to build up one’s faith is a helpful element for adding confidence to any request. Sometimes God brings swift and profound answers! However, since the answers may not come by means of petition only, it is wise to learn the other ways. There is an art, too, to learning how to release prayers of petition with expectant, believing faith.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:5-6 ESV
An Easy Starting Point
Keep in mind that there is no “formula” for praying that always works. Our relationship with God is the key element of effective prayer. The Lord desires us to get to know Him personally through conversation (talking all kinds of things over with Him), fellowship (spending time with Him), and intimacy (getting to know Him through His Word and life experience). Think of it this way: If you want to ask a lot of favors from someone, it helps if you know them well and have built a good relationship, right? The Lord starts us off with tons of grace—He will answer desperate, honest prayers from anyone, even if they have zero relationship with Him. But it really helps to grow “favor” (for an enhanced effectiveness in prayer, for instance) by growing the relationship.
Jesus gave His disciples a model prayer, which we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” though it really could be more accurately termed “The Disciples’ Prayer.” This is a truly wonderful model, or pattern for how to form our own prayers. By it He shows us to approach God as you would a loving father whom you know to be good, whose power is supreme and whose will can be trusted in all things. Place your requests before Him in a simple, straightforward way describing your need (“give us this day…”). Be sure that you let Him search your heart while you are there, especially in terms of forgiving others (you are asking for God’s merciful help for yourself—remember?). Then pray that He free you from any attempt of the enemy to overtake you.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13 ESV
Praying it Through
According to the teaching of Jesus, we are to carry our prayers of petition to the Father (as He showed in the disciples’ prayer) or to Jesus in His own Name (as He shows in John 14). Everything else we have to say can come freely out of our heart, our need, and our understanding. Just let your requests flow like you would to a wise or trusted friend.
With prayers of petition the main idea is to offer our requests to God and (with thanksgiving) leave them with Him. I like to say that effective prayer is moving the concern “out of our heart into His Hands.” The old timers used to call this “praying through”, meaning you pray it to the point of effectiveness when the concern leaves, and the peace returns. Until we have prayed through like that, we not through praying!
Prevailing prayer is more than persevering with petitions, though it certainly includes that. The main theme of petition, as mentioned above, is release of the burden to God. We leave everything about the answer entirely up to Him. With prevailing prayer, we persevere until the desired breakthrough comes. The image is that of the widow Jesus recommended as an example of “importunity” in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). She couldn’t get the judge to pay any attention to her requests, but she refused to give up. She prevailed upon him—not by seeking compassion (he had none), but by making a general nuisance of herself!
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Luke 18:1 ESV
Appearances to the Contrary
A thing sometimes missed in reading scripture, but which often appears in regular life, is the phenomenon of the Lord’s seeming reluctance to act. You have to press past the apparent indifference or resistance that seems to be in God. Don’t take “No” for an answer: God’s stated desire is for us to be healed in every facet of our being (3 John 2). However, in some sense He actually wants us to “call Him out” and pray for healing by “storming heaven’s gates.”
We see this strange way of the Lord amply portrayed through Jesus’ conversation with the Canaanite mother who was pleading with Him for her child’s healing. Jesus seemed to be dismissive of her request, but when she persisted (using good humor to boot), He happily gave way and declared that she was a woman of “great faith.” How’s that for turning a delay into an advance!
But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:25-28 ESV
Prevailing prayer is persisting in prayer until the answer comes. Our model for this aspect of prayer is not how the prayer is shaped, but how persistently prayer is made. Frequently this means taking prayers of petition and, rather than offering them once, continuing to offer them until either an answer comes or a word from the Lord arrives concerning the request. Other kinds of prayer may need persistent application as well, but the two examples of prevailing prayer given by Jesus in Luke 18 describe petitions being offered.
No matter what the hidden reasons might be for the opposition we sense, we need to follow Jesus’ advice to “always pray and not lose heart.” We may be up against the enemy’s interference, or perhaps it’s a stubbornness in someone’s flesh that has to be overcome. Who knows? Just persevere! The Lord placed a wonderful promise in scripture that all of us can be inheritors of any of the promises simply by being determined to practice “faith and patience” (Hebrews 6:11-12).”
Jesus is our greatest exemplar of persevering, prevailing prayer. He prayed for our salvation, our sanctification and our unity in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the cross (see John 17). No one could hope to have a better understanding of prayer or a better faith relationship with the Father from which to do their praying. So His long prayer in the garden settled these issues once and for all, right? Apparently not. According to the writer of Hebrews, Jesus is persevering in prayer to this day on our behalf. (Read the rest of this article, “Prayers for Healing: Prevailing Prayer” and review further scriptures at our website.)
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 ESV
Many physical sicknesses and emotional disorders were healed in the New Testament by either Jesus or his followers rebuking the spirits that were causing the illness (Luke 4:33-36). It is a fact of scripture that we have been given awesome power to command the evil one and his kingdom, to curb their power and to overturn their works. This is not meant to make us arrogant or proud—not even against the evil spirits, but it is intended for our relief and protection from oppression by the enemy (Luke 10:17-20). Commands can be issued of either a defensive or offensive nature.
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. Luke 4:35 ESV
Are We Lacking, or Slacking?
Jesus and the first disciple rebuked demons regularly. Why don’t we? The problem is not in any lack of power on our part. We have been given the same Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence—you can’t have more power inside you than that! We have the same authority as believers which the first disciple possessed. Better yet, if we want further empowerment we can seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit and God will surely send it to us or lead us to it, however that is meant to work out. So the problem cannot be that the necessary power is unavailable to us.
Have the demons “thrown in the towel” and slunk away? Highly unlikely! Demons are difficult to discern, but fairly easy to deal with once exposed. Even so, some are stubbornly entrenched. In situations of personal ministry, I have experienced a few knockdown, drag out fights that went on longer than I would have liked. I have also been unable to dislodge some even after repeated attempts. But most often, once the demon is identified and the person has repented of what it represents (hate, lust, jealousy, etc.), then the rebuking or casting out of the spirit is simple.
Nevertheless, the demons are absolutely subject to the Name of Jesus and they know it. They have been utterly defeated by the Blood of Jesus and they know it. If you are a believer and you also know and have confidence in the power of that Name and of the Blood He shed, then they know that as well. They know it the way a disobedient dog knows when your command “means business” and when you’re just mouthing words you heard other people use, hoping for the response they got.
The one thing that the demons have going for them (other than being invisible, intelligent and very crafty), is that the person who needs deliverance from them, somehow gave them tacit permission to come in, or outright agreement to what they represent. That is why deliverance works so much better if the person seeking it is led through steps of cleansing by repentance first. This also helps them hold on to their freedom once they are delivered.
Don’t Get the Big Head
As in all areas of healing, however, we are dealing with great mysteries, as well as invisible realities that are complex beyond our imagining. There is no place here for presumption or complacency, as the seven sons of Sveca found out (see Acts 19:13-16). Rebuking prayer is similar to commanding prayer. The difference is that prayers of command are directed at things of the created order (nature, animals, human physiology), while rebuking prayer is directed at the infernal kingdom—the demonic henchmen who serve the enemy. Since the created order only turns against the purposes of its Creator when it is under the influence of the evil ones, this can become a fine distinction.
I was driving back from a church camp once, just beating myself to death over some inept thing I’d said. The usual ways of getting release weren’t working. The Lord said to me, “That’s a spirit of self-hatred. It’s never going to let you off the hook.” I said “I’ve got you now,” and turned my inward vision against it. Then I commanded, “You’re a spirit of self-hatred and I don’t have to think what you think or feel what you feel. Go now in Jesus Name!” Suddenly, all was peace and freedom. And I heard the faint echo of a song, “Ding dong, the witch is dead, the mean old witch, the wicked witch.” By now, I was laughing… (Read the rest of this article, “Prayers for Healing: Rebuking Prayer” and review further scriptures at our website.)
Not only are we invited to command the invisible spirits, we are also invited to command the natural realm. Disease can be commanded to leave. Creative miracles can be commanded to come. Even the kingdom of God can be commanded to come. We all know that Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom, come!” (Luke 11:1-4). Less well understood is that in the Aramaic the language is quite emphatic: “Kingdom come!” Of course we leave it up to the Lord to decide in what way and at what time His Kingdom should best arrive. Even so, He leaves it up to us to issues commands under His authority and leadership as needed.
Pray, therefore, like this: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 AM
We’ve Got the Power!
In speaking forth prayers of command we certainly are not presuming to issue commands to the Lord. Nevertheless, the powers He gives us include doing what He did. Jesus commanded healing and he commanded even storms to cease. Command was His primary way to pray for healing. He hasn’t changed His ways! He is in us still seeking by His Spirit to do more now than He did then, more even than “we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12 ESV
The prayer of command is real; it is also really hard to get right. Let’s take these points one at a time. First, we have been given the prayer of command and the expectation is that we will use it. Jesus and the disciples almost always commanded healing. We go at it differently and our results don’t match up with theirs.
Normally, we rely on prayers of petition which are also used in the Bible, but which are not nearly as much in evidence under the New Covenant as direct commands. The way Jesus healed the ruler of a synagogue’s daughter is typical of the way He healed everyone in the gospels.
Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. Mark 5:41-42 ESV
How did we miss this? It seems to me that we get overwhelmed by a religious appreciation (which is thoroughly correct) that Jesus is Lord and can still heal today just as He did then. Therefore, we place ourselves in the position of the people who came to Jesus for healing during His earthly ministry and we bring our petitions to Him. We seem to have missed the point that He has long since ascended to heaven, having committed to us His authority and given to us His Spirit by which to do His works. Jesus is not only our Master; He is also our Example. During His time on earth, Jesus was demonstrating how to live by faith, how to walk in the Spirit and how to pray for healing—among other things.
The disciples may have been slow to understand that Jesus had to die on the cross, but they seem to have quickly grasped that they were now to do what He did in the same way He did it. Shortly after the Ascension and the great events of Pentecost, the disciples commanded healing just as they had observed Jesus doing it. When leaving the Temple one day, Peter and John stopped to hear the petition of the man born crippled—just as Jesus would have. Then they took that petition and turned it into a command—just as Jesus would have.
Do We Really Have This Power?
We believe God can command nature. But us? Yet, the reality is that under the New Covenant, God is now inside of us ready, willing and able to act through us in any legitimate way that is in accord with His will. In a very real sense the New Covenant has created a new “reality” for those of us who believe. Not only are we “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17), we also have access to new ways to pray for healing. What can we command? By the example of Jesus and the disciples, we can command disease to leave (“He rebuked the fever”), healing to come (“little girl, arise”), the kingdom to come, winds and seas to be calmed, and even mountains to move.
If this kind of praying feels strange and seems strange that’s understandable. Nevertheless, we are called to live by faith under the leadership of our Lord. Just as He trained His first disciples in the prayer of command, He surely desires to pass the blessing on to us. In fact, He didn’t say “pray for the sick,” He commanded us to heal the sick—that’s a very different thing. Evidently, the responsibility is on us to learn how to do what He did!
The second point from above, is that this is hard to get right. Fortunately, there is abundant grace to cover us as we seek to learn, and prayers of petition can always be made when prayers of command don’t seem to work. Don’t expect people not to be healed (that would be “active” unbelief), but don’t be shocked when they aren’t (that would be naive).
Once, I was racing to put some home repair back together before leaving for a conference and dropped a heavy door on my naked big toe. I’d been a carpenter long enough in my earlier life to know what kind of injuries are emergency room worthy. This qualified in spades. As I instinctively bent down to hold my injured toe, wondering whether I would curse, scream or praise the Lord, He said, “Praise me and rebuke the pain.” I started praising God, rebuking pain, and commanding healing for all I was worth. Even the cats came around to see what the fuss was about. Five minutes later I was looking at a completely headed toe! (Read the rest of this article, “Prayers for Healing: Commanding Prayer” and review further scriptures at our website.)
Our last place to stand is in the place of entire surrender to His sovereign will. When you have done all, stand (Ephesians 6:13). At first glance this seems to be the exact opposite of commanding prayer and from our perspective, no doubt, it is. Rather than commanding events we are throwing ourselves into an abyss of Mercy instead. Ironically, our very vulnerability—when it is absolute—“commands” the Lord’s response. He will NOT allow His Beloved to suffer without divine intervention coming to the Rescue of one so completely dependent upon Him.
God is not asking us to accept disease as His desire for us, or as His best for us. Never! He absolutely wants us to pray for healing. He is the Giver of every good gift and the sworn Enemy of all that is dark, fallen and evil (James 1:16-17). Nevertheless, there came a time in Jesus life when the only honorable way forward through the suffering He was facing, was to make sure that His heart stayed firmly surrendered to the Father’s will. God greatly blessed Jesus for His willingness to prove the trustworthiness of God, even through the hard passage of the cross.
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. Luke 22:41-43 ESV
Our Secret “Weapon”
The prayer of surrender is no faint-hearted, resignation-weary, fallback position, as if yielding to God’s mercy was the last and worst alternative available to us. Sometimes it is the best way from the beginning, but only if you have the faith-confidence to believe that the Lord’s desire is to liberate you. Then, the release of your spirit into His may be the very thing He needs to effect your release from the illness, or whatever is hindering your walk. Above all, Jesus desires our inward and spiritual liberation.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NASB
The reality of our spiritual health is the primary concern of the Lord and it should be of ours. Spiritual health is the bedrock for emotional and physical health as well. It is easily identified: Spiritual health is the ability to trust God entirely no matter what He is allowing or what He is asking of us. The way we know we are trusting God is through the peace of Christ.
We can easily be tricked out on this by the enemy who is a past master at tempting God’s children to trade their inheritance for a bowl of porridge. We may rightly chide Esau who did just that in the natural realm (see Genesis 25:27-34), but our inheritance is the Person and Presence of Jesus who has come to live with us and in us. Being with Jesus in eternity is the fullness of our inheritance; living is His peace is the enjoyment of our inheritance right now.
Trusting God in the Trial
Just because trouble, suffering or disease have been allowed, doesn’t mean God caused it, desired it to happen, or wants it to stay. He wants us healthy in every way! Nevertheless, the fact that it has been allowed is always a test: Will we trust Him for allowing the trial and will we trust Him to show us the way through it that leads to life? Submitting to God in the midst of any trial restores us to peace and allows Him to raise us up.
Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. 1 Peter 5:6-7 AMP
Normally, if I feel led, I go after unwanted natural events by rebuking the enemy and/or commanding the storm. The same applies to the wider world of politics and economics. I’m not saying I have the greatest batting average, but I’ve gotten enough hits to stay encouraged. However, there have been times, even in the midst of this kind of intercession, when I felt impressed by the Lord to go to Gethsemane and release everything to Him on the emphatic ground of “Thy will be done!” Usually, at those times there is an over-riding, sincere desire to see exactly what His will is in that particular situation. All I can say is that I have been truly astounded and instructed (as well as rescued more than once) by prayers of submission. (Read the rest of this article, “Prayers for Healing: Submitting Prayer” and review further scriptures at our website.)
A Wing and a Prayer
OK! I’m sure I haven’t answered all of your questions about these five Biblical ways to pray for healing. I couldn’t even if I tried, since I certainly don’t have all the answers myself. But if you don’t have more questions, it can only mean you’re not eager to grow these prayer abilities, or haven’t yet launched out in the attempt. But that’s not who you are, or you wouldn’t have read through to this point.
Try to remember (never easy when the battle is on) that it is faith which gives wings to our prayers. What we don’t know is immense, but our God-given faith ability to trust God with our ignorance and our vulnerability gives us the edge over the dark empire every time. So, it’s great if you know these five ways to pray. It’s better if you believe in them. But best of all is trusting God no matter what…
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