Healing is children’s bread
Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Sickness, suffering and death are mysteries that we cannot fully understand in this life.1 The Scriptures are clear that Jesus went about healing and casting out devils during his earthly ministry. He likewise gave his apostles and disciples authority to do the same, and encouraged believers to pray for each other for healing.
Healing prayer takes place today. Some people are visibly and obviously healed. Some people receive healing over time. Some do not appear to have been healed. Some receive strength to cope with what they are facing. As a matter of faith and belief in the Word of God, we believe that God answers prayer. Therefore, our job as Christians is to pray for healing and to leave the results up to God.
We can never blame another person for not being healed. We are not God. Only God knows how He is answering our prayers. We trust in God’s loving Providence for His children. Jesus therefore warned us not to assume a link between a bad outcome and a person’s sin. Instead, he directed us to look at ourselves first and repent.2
This brings us to the striking Gospel story about Jesus encountering a gentile woman begging for Him to heal her daughter. This encounter contains a lesson about healing for us today.
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not fair 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 master’s 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.3
There are many dimensions to this encounter, but our focus will be on two aspects. First, what unlocked the healing power of Jesus here? Her humility. The woman’s humble response, which manifested her faith in Jesus, was the key to unlocking the healing power of Jesus for her daughter. Second, we see that what is described as a “healing” was accomplished by her deliverance from a demon.
What are the implications of this Gospel message for healing in our lives? The first lesson–that humility unlocked the healing power of Jesus–suggests that there might be things that block the healing power of Jesus. Following the advice of Jesus to first look at ourselves and repent, we need to ask ourselves a question:
Is there anything blocking me from receiving the healing and deliverance that Jesus wants to give me?
Unforgiveness is commonly identified as the main block to healing. That is truth. Unforgiveness is a major block to healing and we should examine whether we are harboring any unforgiveness or resentment towards others. That is a topic worthy of a separate article!4
There is another block to healing, however, that this Gospel story highlights. That block is pride. How is pride a block to healing and deliverance? Let me suggest a couple points for personal reflection.
Pride makes us unwilling to acknowledge there is something wrong with us.
We all think we are good people, and we all think we are healthy spiritually. Anyone who has pursued a Christian spiritual life comes to recognize, through grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, that they are not “good.” As Jesus said, “only God is good.”5 We begin to recognize our sinfulness. Our eyes are opened to how truly awful we would be without God’s grace and help. As we pursue a life of prayer and virtue, however, we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, as the light of the Holy Spirit shines more powerfully on us, we start to see that maybe we are not as healthy spiritually as we thought. We may experience things that are outside of our understanding; things that may even be frightening. Spiritual problems can be like layers in an onion; as we peel one back and get rid of it, another may present itself.
If we do not recognize that something is wrong with us, we will not seek help or strive to overcome it. If we refuse to pray in humility for God to show us where we need healing and deliverance, He will let us plod along, blind to our blindness.
Pride makes us ask God for a miracle while we refuse to take advantage of the ordinary means of healing that are available to us.
I can give you an example from my life. I have had a cyst on my head for the last ten or so years. I have prayed that it would go away. I have rubbed blessed oil on it. There it sits. I have finally admitted that I just really did not want to deal with having an incision and taking care of it while it heals. The time finally came, and I am going next week to have it removed.
The Church wisely teaches us that “recourse to prayer does not exclude, but rather encourages the use of effective natural means for preserving and restoring health, as well as leading the Church's sons and daughters to care for the sick, to assist them in body and spirit, and to seek to cure disease. Indeed, ‘part of the plan laid out in God's providence is that we should fight strenuously against all sickness and carefully seek the blessings of good health.’”6 We can and should pray for God to show us what natural means for healing, including modern medicine, He wants us to use.
Pride also can make us ask God for instant healing instead of recognizing that biblical healing can take time.
Pride says, I want it all to be made well instantly. Humility tackles each layer of the onion as God reveals it, trusting in His power and grace to help us overcome.
Pride looks for a quick fix. Humility accepts that the process is part of the solution to our problem.
The Scriptures show us this principle that healing is a process. Jesus told us that “these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover.” The phrase “they shall” here uses a Greek word meaning to have or possess progressively – over time. And the Greek word for “recover” here (kalos) means “to recover” or “be well.”
This is seen in healing ministry in “soaking prayer,” where repeated sessions or longer sessions may be necessary to see progress with a particular ailment. This is also biblical. Jesus prayed over the blind man twice before he could see clearly.7 Even Jesus had to pray twice!
Not all divine healing is instantaneous – it can occur over time. Sometimes we get frustrated looking for the instant miracle, and we miss the miracle happening over time.
Pride makes us reluctant to ask for help; more specifically, to ask for prayers.
If we recognize that we have an issue that is beyond our capacity to fix, pride tells us to “suck it up,” “don’t bother people with my problems.” We refuse to ask others to pray for us. But Jesus said:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; . . . ; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”8
Prayer for healing is an integral part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is how the early believers operated. While the laying on of hands to pray for healing is normative in the Gospel, that is not required. (It may not always be prudent to ask someone to lay their hands on us. We need to use discernment in the Holy Spirit before having anyone lay their hands on us to pray.) We can always, however, ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us without laying their hands on us. They can intercede for us before the Lord.
Philip went down to a city of Samar′ia, and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.9
Philip preached the Gospel, and the message was confirmed by healing and deliverance. This ties into the second aspect of the gospel passage I mentioned earlier – the fact that the healing came about as a result of the daughter’s deliverance from an evil spirit.
There is purely natural sickness, illness and infirmity. There are also infirmities and illnesses that are demonic in origin. If the evil spirit is cast out, the person will be healed. This need not make us fearful—we have hope because the power of Jesus is still working today to heal and deliver people. This is taking place today in the ministries of those with the power of anointing of the Holy Spirit.
A friend in Nigeria with such a ministry messaged us just this week that “there have been many miracles since his return to Nigeria—the lame walked and demons are cast out in the name of Jesus Christ.” Last week, they brought an elderly woman to see him who cannot walk. She has been paralyzed for two years. She was carried into the room. After the prayers, she started walking. She has not worked for years, but is now working by the grace of God. Her family had put a curse on her, but Jesus has released her and set her free. Glory to God!
Release us, O Lord Jesus, from spiritual paralysis!
Healing is children’s bread.
Healing and deliverance are for the humble.
Jesus told us that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”10
Let us resolve to humble ourselves before the Lord, to ask for His light and His grace, and to receive the healing and deliverance that He desires to give us. In all things, trust in God’s great love for you.
Eric A. Welter is an employment lawyer and trial attorney with a long-time devotion to intercessory prayer. He is a Catholic Christian who has been involved with intercessory and healing prayer ministry for over twenty years. The Abound in Hope Ministry website is https://www.aboundinhope.org/ministry.
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“Suffering is certainly part of the mystery of man.” Section 31, Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris (on the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) (Feb. 2, 1984).
Luke 13:1-5. (There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Silo′am fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”) St. John Chrysostom explains one dimension of this mystery: “For he does not punish all in this life, giving them a time meet for repentance. Nor however does he reserve all for future punishment, lest men should deny His providence.”
This is also discussed in Effective Intercession for Our Loved Ones: “Power Tools” for Prayer, in the chapter on forgiveness and Fr. DeGrandis’ prayer for forgiveness in the appendix to the book.
Instruction on Prayers for Healing, and note 17 (citing Rituale Romanum, Ex Decreto Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II instauratum, Auctoritate Pauli PP. VI promulgatum, Ordo Unctionis Infirmorum eorumque Pastoralis Curae, Editio typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, MCMLXXII, 3).