Praying for Those with Cronic Illness

 by Janine Ridings

One of the most important aspects of prayer when praying for healing is to make sure we are praying according to God’s will and sovereignty. Jesus was our ultimate example. While praying in the garden in Gethsemane, He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will”  (Matt. 26:39).  I think one of the most controversial topics in the church today is in regard to healing. Most of my life, I was taught that if a person just had enough faith, they could expect God to heal them. After living with a chronic illness for seven years, I have found this to be an erroneous assumption. That whole premise leaves out the very important principle of God’s sovereignty, which is taught in Scripture. Isaiah 45:6-7 says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.”

An acquaintance of mine, Jim Dolhanyk, helped me grasp the importance of God’s sovereignty in regard to praying for healing.  Jim was diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer in his early thirties. Four months prior to his death, he was interviewed by Hank Hanegraaff on the radio show The Bible Answer Man. Hank asked Jim how he would respond if someone asked him if he had enough faith to be healed.  I’ll never forget Jim’s response.  He said, “The question is not, ‘Do I have enough faith to be healed?’ The real question is, ‘Do I trust God’s sovereignty?’”  Jim hit the nail on the head.  It is important for us to be willing to accept God’s will and plan for our life, even if it is not that we are to be healed.

According to Hank Hanegraaff, of all the people who pray for healing, the number of people who are not healed far exceeds the number that are. Often the only testimonies we hear about are from people who are healed. That can leave those who aren’t healed feeling disappointed, discouraged, and maybe even cheated by God.  Whenever we pray for God’s healing, it is always important to keep in mind that God is God, and He alone decides who is healed and who is not.

I would now like to address some more practical suggestions in praying for healing. All throughout the New Testament, we see many references to the fact that there is power in the name of Jesus.  On numerous occasions we see people praying in His name.  One example is when Peter prayed for healing for the crippled beggar. In Acts 3:6, Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Later, the rulers in Jerusalem asked Peter and John, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7)  Peter responded, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed”  (Acts 4:10).  Another example of praying in the name of Jesus occurs when we see Paul casting out an evil spirit. According to Acts 16:18,  “Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.” We see many occasions in Scripture where people pray using the name of Jesus.  I would encourage you to do the same.

Another verse in the Bible that gives us advice about praying for healing is found in James 5:14, which says, “Is any one of you sick? He should call on the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.” Here we see the importance of having others pray for those who are ill, in this case, the elders of the church.  This passage also emphasizes the importance of praying with faith, and again we see the encouragement to pray in the name of the Lord.

Next I’d like to address the role that faith plays in praying for the chronically ill. There are many passages in the New Testament where faith is seen as an important aspect in a person’s healing.  Jesus gives us an example of this in a situation where He healed a leper.  In Luke 17:19 Jesus tells the leper, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”  In another situation, Jesus healed a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering”  (Mark 5:34).  It is important to pray with faith, believing in God’s healing power, but as mentioned earlier, it is also important to accept God’s answer when it is not to heal.

Another thing to keep in mind when praying for the chronically ill, is to pray that God will be glorified through the situation. In John 9, Jesus’ disciples asked him why a certain man was born blind.  They asked Jesus if it was due to the man’s own sins or those of his parents. Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).  Here we see the aspect of God’s divine purpose in illness. Sometimes chronic illness can be caused by our own poor choices; other times it is God’s sovereignty at work in our lives.

One of the ways God can be glorified in the midst of illness is through the process of spiritual growth. Romans 5 talks about the spiritual benefits of suffering. Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” It is appropriate to pray privately for a person’s illness to be used by God in that person’s life and in the lives of those around them for the purpose of spiritual growth and the shaping of godly character. The person themself may also wish to pray for God’s character to be developed in his/her life as a result of the trial of illness they are experiencing. It is important to note, however, that if someone is in a state of crisis or severe discouragement, they may not be in a mental place to be able to pray in this manner. The person who is ill may be in a survival mode, and may be questioning God or experiencing emotions such as anger or depression. If this is the case, then the person should feel free to suffer and struggle right where they are at, and be given time to work through their emotions.  It is appropriate to be honest with God in prayer about various emotions, just as Jesus was honest on the cross when he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

In addition to praying for  the spiritual growth of people, it is also appropriate to pray for perseverance for them in the midst of their situation, as well as for hope. Romans 5 talks about suffering producing perseverance, which in turn produces character, which then produces hope. Perseverance and hope are two things that most people with a chronic illness may be struggling with. At times the challenges of a chronic illness are overwhelming, and the road ahead may seem very long, so praying for perseverance and hope are very helpful for someone who is chronically ill.  Also, persevere in prayer for the chronically ill, since we never know what God’s timetable may be in terms of healing for that person.

An important thing to remember in regard to the topic of healing is that everyone who suffers from illness on this earth will be healed someday, whether it is on this earth, or in the life to come.  I Corinthians 15:40 says, “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.”  I John 3:2 says, “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  Now that is something we can all look forward to!

A final note about praying for the chronically ill: Ultimately, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your prayers for the chronically ill.  He is our counselor and guide in life, and if we ask Him, He will show us how to pray in each unique situation.  John 14:26 says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

While on this earth, we may never understand why God chooses to heal some and not others. In I Corinthians 13:12 it says,  “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  The important thing is that we trust in God’s sovereignty, knowing that His ultimate plans for us are good. Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  We may not understand, but we need to trust His plan for our lives.

Categories Special Subjects | Tags: | Posted on January 30, 2012

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