What Does the Bible Teach about Healing: Biblical Principles for Healing and Prayer
It is the hope of this writer that the gems of Biblical truth that this article contains will provide renewed hope for the weary seeker.
Each of the Bible’s sixty-six books work together to point to Jesus. Keep that in mind as you explore the following six principles regarding God's miraculous healing and intercessory prayer.
*Note: Many of the following principles are promises and directives for Christians. Believe and receive Jesus as your Savior today!
1) Jesus is our Healer
Why does God want us to go to Him first in sickness? We don’t always ask Him how, when and where we should eat or sleep, so why is this aspect of caring for our bodies different?
In Scripture, Jesus repeatedly reveals Himself to be our Healer. Jesus does not have limitations like our earthly physicians do. Accounts in Scriptures report to us that those healed by the God-man Jesus did not just feel better. He healed them completely.
Sometimes our healings today are a process (more on this later), and sometimes physical healing is not part of God’s plan (more on this later), but a complete healing is still possible. Not only did Jesus come to give us abundant lives here on earth (John 10:10) despite any circumstances, but one day we will live with Jesus in eternity where there is no more pain or sadness. The healing will be complete! (Ezekiel 47:12)
You may have noticed that God created our bodies with some natural ability to heal. That is why we don’t bleed to death when we cut ourselves. However, when our bodies require extra help, it’s the physician’s job to put us into positions where the healing process has a better chance. But this is as far as man is able to take us. All restoration in creation happens only within the Creator’s will.
Do you truly believe Jesus is your Healer?
*Note: The body’s ability to heal does not mean that there is a supernatural energy that can be manipulated to heal us, as some Alternative medicine asserts. Find out the hidden spiritual dangers of today's alternative medicine trend here.
2) You Have Not Because...
God clearly wants His children to bring matters of health to Him in prayer. But prayer can be tricky for some.
For instance, some people struggle when it comes to asking the Lord for help for themselves. They have no qualms offering prayer for others, but they feel a sense of guilt when seeking His favor for their own needs. As other examples, some Christians feel they don’t want to bog God down with their many requests. Some aren’t so sure that God will do for them what they won’t do for themselves; they become people of action more than people of prayer. Still some are uncomfortable and uncertain about how to pray. Or they simply don’t consider themselves worthy of God’s healing, so they do not ask.
Are you in need of healing, but you are not going to God about it?
Did you know the Bible says, “You do not have because you do not ask God?” (James 4:2)
It is sinful to take matters into our own hands instead of going to God because it means trusting ourselves instead of trusting Jesus. Jesus also tells us that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5), so it will be a fruitless effort, rife with disappointments.
Whatever our fears or hesitations about prayer, steps of faith will be rewarded with a deeper relationship with Jesus. Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you! (I Peter 5:7)
If you still feel uncomfortable asking God for help, consider the boldness of Jabez...
"Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!’” (1 Chronicles 4:10)
Note God’s response: “And God granted what he asked.”
Learn how to pray according to what Jesus taught His disciples here.
3) Receiving God's Irrevocable Promises of Healing
Speaking of prayer, have you ever heard someone say to pray according to God's will? What does this mean?
A young child asking God for an ‘A’ on a test for which they did not study does not guarantee a good grade, but asking God by faith for His peace if we have submitted our requests to Him with thanksgiving according to Philippians 4:6, will result in peace that goes beyond understanding according to the promise in Philippians 4:7.
The difference is that the Word of God does not promise A’s on tests to all those who ask. But any promises it does make can be claimed in faith by any Christian.
Is that difficult to believe? There is one promise that is easy to believe, so let’s look at it first. Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life! When someone becomes a believer, they receive eternal life, according to the Word of God. We easily believe that. Why?
God’s Word is infallible. He will not revoke His promises. He cannot, or He would be made a liar. Since God cannot be a liar, Christians know that their inheritance is guaranteed.
However, a Christian’s inheritance includes not just the promise of eternal life, but all of God’s other promises, too!
Sometimes it feels like God’s promises do not play out in our own lives the way they do in others. Here’s the secret.
Notice that the promise of eternal life is for whoever believes in him because God so loved the world. We know that salvation has already been purchased for everyone. It’s a free gift which Jesus offers to all. But none can possess it until they believe it is real and choose to receive it.
The same is true for the other promises of God. The Bible is filled with over 3,000 promises, and God is faithful. He always makes good on His Word. Is there a promise that you need to claim as a Christian? Such as, by His wounds we are healed? Believe and receive.
However, if there are spiritual reasons for our sickness, those often need to be dealt with before healing can take place. Learn what the spiritual reasons for sickness are here.
*Note: During the last supper, Jesus not only said that His blood would be shed for us (for the forgiveness of our sins), but also that His body would be broken for us. Jesus’ body was broken for our healing, as Isaiah describes: “by his wounds we are healed.” This is an ongoing promise for Christians. Healing may not happen in the time frame or the way we think (more on this later), but our healing, just like our forgiveness, was already taken care of on the cross. (Life to Body by Marci Julin goes in depth about the meaning of the promise “by His wounds we are healed” in Chapter 12.)
4) Intercessory Prayer and Fasting
God makes it clear that He is the true source of power and we must turn to Him. Yet sometimes, it seems our prayers for help and healing go unanswered.
The Bible gives us some clues that one quick prayer won’t do at times. Consider the parable of the persistent widow, which Jesus told to show his disciples that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1) In it, a woman repeatedly begs an unjust judge for justice against her adversary, which he finally grants because of her persistence. The he Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? (Luke 18:6)
As another example, a real woman in Scripture was in need of healing for her demon-possessed daughter, and it was her persistence in faith that got Jesus’ attention. (Matthew 15:21-28).
Sometimes, God seems to want us to get serious. Throughout the New Testament, the writers of the epistles implore Christians to always be praying for one another. Jesus Himself set this example when He prayed for his disciples, and us, just before He was arrested. The duty of intercessory prayer for Christians should not be neglected, nor should we forget its worth. For the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)
And sometimes, when we are trying to help to free ourselves or someone else from any kind of bondage, it will take some extra fight.
For example, in the healing account in Mark 9:14-29, Jesus’ disciples could not cast the demon out of the boy because prayer was required for such a one.
In older translations of this account as found in the Matthew 17 version, the requirement also included fasting as well as prayer. There is some controversy over the words “and fasting," however the principle for our purposes remains the same. Intercessory prayer on behalf of the afflicted is necessary. Fasting was also a regular part of Jesus’ earthly life during the days of his ministry, and Jesus expected his disciples to participate in the spiritual discipline (Mark 2:20), which has always preceded big breakthroughs in Scripture (example – II Chronicles 20:1-19).
Consider taking your prayer life a step further to combat medical concerns. Remember, prayer is not necessarily for changing circumstances. It is for changing us. Prayer is part of our relationship with Jesus. God may be using this time of illness to spur you on to a deeper level with Him.
5) Healing Miracles of Jesus
It takes a lot of faith to believe Jesus can help with problems that are so big and that have persisted for so long, but faith is what Jesus asks of us nevertheless.
In the Matthew 17 version of the above account of the demon-possessed boy, Jesus tells his disciples that they had too little faith to drive out the demon.
Over and again in Scripture, when Jesus healed a physical affliction, he often said to the person, “Your faith has made you well,” or “Your faith has healed you.” (Matthew 9:22, 8:13, 15:28; Mark 5:34, 10:52; Luke 8:48, 17:19, 18:42)
He was saying that their faith, or confidence in Him, was the reason for their restoration. It is important to notice that it is not the power of faith that saves. It is the power of Christ alone which heals and saves. But just as everyone who receives eternal life must first believe, so some are enabled to be healed in connection with their faith in Jesus for their healing. In the same way, healing can be stymied by lack of faith.
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:58)
However, some people become discouraged over time, thinking their faith must not be big enough to merit God’s healing for themselves or their loved ones. Take heart, for faith as small as a mustard seed will do the trick!
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)
If you struggle with having faith in Jesus’ healing, why not be like the father in the Matthew 17 account? Ask Jesus to help your unbelief.
Nevertheless, even when we have faith, our healing does not take place in the same way miraculous healings did in the Scriptures, and that can be confusing.
The Apostle Paul explains in his first letter to the Thessalonians that the Gospel had come to them not simply with words but also with power (I Thessalonians 1:5), to demonstrate God’s power and authority. Signs and wonders accompanied the apostles’ message so that the Gospel would spread throughout the world. Therefore, the healing events in the Bible are not always the same as what we experience today. Often, the miracles of healing that we see are more of a gradual process rather than instantaneous.
I remember a story that a pastor once told of a young person wracked with illness. When the boy understood who his Healer was, he went down on his knees by his bedside and asked God to heal his body. By faith, he believed that he was healed, even though he still felt as sick as ever and could barely climb back up into his bed. As the days went on, quite slowly, his body began to recover.
Years ago, I was suffering from a lengthy bout of depression which had become physically debilitating. (Later, the Lord revealed it had started with giving Satan a foothold after a divorce.) One last time, I asked a pastor for prayer. It was my final effort to let God heal me instead of treating it medically. After the pastor prayed over me, I knew that if I was to be healed, I was now healed. I held on to the story of the young man above, believing that I would slowly begin to see changes even though I still felt awful. Sure enough, a few weeks later, the weight that had been sitting on my chest for the previous four years was gone, and I knew I was truly recovering.
Healing stories are encouraging, but sometimes, physical healing in this realm does not take place. See the next section.
6) God's Sovereignty
We live in a fallen world. Not all illness has a spiritual link (John 9:1-3), and not all illness will be healed on this side of eternity. God is sovereign, and His children must accept His purposes and trust Him who is our Lord.
I recall another story once told by a pastor. He said that a friend of his had fallen ill with a fatal disease. The pastor immediately traveled to his friend with the intention of anointing him with oil and praying for his healing. Upon arrival, the man informed the pastor cheerfully that his daddy (God) had already discussed it with him. He was going home (to heaven). The pastor replied that was good news, but he wanted to pray for healing just the same. His friend, not wanting the pastor to become discouraged when he passed away, replied that he could do that, but asked that the pastor not abandon his faith in the Lord’s willingness to heal after his friend’s death. “You just step over me and pray for the next one,” he told him. The pastor’s friend did go on to his reward, and the pastor went on to pray for healing for others in the name of Jesus, and to teach that Jesus is Healer.
Often people will say that a prayer for healing didn’t work. That same pastor always tells them, “Yes it did.” God always answers prayer. His friend did receive a complete healing, in heaven. We cannot know God’s plans, but the Book (The Bible) tells us to pray, and to trust.
God’s ways are not our ways, and in fact, they are higher than ours. When we truly understand this, we can face our circumstances with peace in our hearts.
Consider the lives of the following men in the Bible who understood God’s sovereignty.
How could Jonah be so calm in the belly of the great fish? It had become apparent to him that God had other plans for him. He wasn’t going to be eaten. Jonah knew now that nothing happening to him was by chance, circumstance, luck, or blind fate. When the fish spit him out on the shores of Nineveh, Jonah knew his deliverance had been directed by the Hand of God, Who rules all His creation.
Job also learned to understand God’s sovereignty. In his God-permitted affliction, Job acknowledged God’s greatness and splendor in contrast to his pride and sin. “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2) Job realized that God’s purposes are supreme and He is sovereign.
James reminds us, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:14-15)
Thankfully, our Sovereign God is good, faithful and loving. He causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Thank You for Reading!
The principles of this article are intended to be a concise but informative overview of health and healing topics as found in God's Word, but these are not comprehensive studies. They certainly do not cover all possible healthcare topics. I encourage you to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and go to the Scriptures yourself to find out if what I wrote is true.
I also encourage you to check out the biblical principles about healthcare here. And if you are seeking healing from sickness, learn biblical principles about sickness here.
Meg Grimm writes biblical studies and research articles that help set women free from impractical standards of the world. She strives to unveil true beauty and sensible body care principles from a godly perspective.