Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Healing Prayer

Fr. Tim Fountain
Healing Prayer Sunday
Does God intervene to heal human sickness?
A. Yes. This is the witness of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, and the testimony of Christians all through church history, including our own time.   Psalm 30:2, "O LORD my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health."

B. In our own Anglican tradition, the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) included THE ORDER FOR THE VISITACION OF THE SICKE. There are prayers for healing in our 1979 Prayer Book and other books used in Episcopal churches today, such as Ministry With the Sick and The Book of Occasional Services.

Why does God heal?
A. First, God heals to display his own glory.
1. As in the healing of Naaman the Syrian (II Kings 5:1-14). If we read on into verse 15, we see the impact of the healing. Naaman says, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel" and, in verse 17, "…your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord." (LORD reflects the Hebrew way of expressing God’s unique name.)
2. As in the healing of the Galilean leper in Mark 1:40-45. Jesus tells the man to show his healing "as a testimony" to God’s work. The man’s witness causes people to come to Jesus in great numbers, as they recognize "the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6).
3. We see how healing moves the Psalmist to glorify God (30:13), "Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing, O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever."
4. Often in the Bible, God explains that He is acting "For my (God’s) Name’s sake." Healings are one of various supernatural ways that God calls the whole creation back to its Creator and Master. This is not a comfortable way for us to think – it’s about God’s glory, not our agenda! We miss the point of the miracles if we ignore this.

B. Second, God heals because of who He is.
1. This is expressed clearly and beautifully in Mark: "Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand…" Healings show not only God’s presence and power, but reveal His personality. It is God’s nature to care about us and respond to our prayers.

Why does the church offer healing prayer?
A. Mainly because we seek God’s glorious and loving presence. Healing prayer is an opportunity to bring people to God and to let God’s kingdom break into their lives.

B. We pray because we need God – the church has no "magical" power to control who gets healed or when healing occurs.

C. We pray because we don’t have easy answers for why some are healed immediately, some later and some not at all – these answers are all in the mind and heart of God, and we go there by prayer.

D. We pray because the Bible itself tells us that there are times when we will not understand God’s ways. The Psalmist says (30:8-9), "Then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear. I cried out to you, O LORD… "

E. Our son, Joey, had another seizure this week. Tim, Jr. has undiagnosed shoulder pain and Melissa has chronic issues. We don’t understand why these problems persist. But we pray because God is both Lord of our lives and lover of our souls.

Let me end with some encouragement from Naaman the Syrian…
A. He did not "deserve" a miracle
1. He was an enemy of God’s people
2. He had a big ego
3. He wanted healing on his own terms, not God’s

B. But he was open to God’s possibilities
1. He listened to what the Israelite girl had to say
2. He listened to his servants’ advice

C. He had just enough humility to try things God’s way (as a combat officer, he probably had a realistic and practical personality, able to say, "This strategy is not working - I need to try something else.")

D. Naaman shows us that we don’t have to "earn" a miracle – but we might find one if we are humbly open to some possibilities:
1. The possibility that God’s glory is in this place, this morning;
2. The possibility that He knows our needs and is waiting for us to seek His help;
3. The possibility that the Creator and Master of the Universe cares about each little creature, each human being – each of us – personally.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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