This is a serious problem and one that Shell and I have coped with personally during her 17 year illness. The “faith” community has taken the role of faith in healing prayer and exaggerated its importance to the point where it is treated as a magic formula. Just generate enough faith and God HAS TO heal you. It actually borders on magic. I did a study years ago on the healing ministry of Jesus. I took the parallel gospels and listed every instance of physical healing that was described in enough detail to identify the sick person and the circumstances of their healing [I did not include deliverance]. I came up with 19 separate incidents. There may be one or two more or less because in a few cases it is difficult to tell if the incident described in one gospel is identical to what appears to be the same incident in another.

Also, I was only using those incidents in which the story makes clear the reason for the healing, either overtly or through the context of the healing. By the way, if my memory serves, pretty well all the stories make clear the reason for the healing. Of the 19, 13 make it clear that faith is the reason for the healing. The remaining 6 break down into three groups of 2. The first two were healings on the Sabbath the context of which suggests that Jesus chose to heal on the Sabbath to highlight His value of the person over the religious institution. This is clear from the heat he took from the Pharisees after the healing. The second group of two were healings that the text clearly says were done to fulfill Messianic prophecy.

The third group of 2 were healings motivated by Jesus’ compassion for suffering, “Jesus had compassion upon them”. The 13 in which faith is given for the reason for the healings are the interesting ones. Only 5 of the “faith healings” involved the faith of the sick person. 8 involved the faith of family or friends.

This tells me that any doctrine that suggests that the healing is the responsibility of the sick person is misleading and potentially dangerous. For example, Shell went to a healing meeting which we drove 8 hours to attend. The faith healer told us all that everyone who had faith for healing that night would be healed. Shell was not healed and she was devastated! I mean, breaking down and weeping with self hate because she could  not generate  enough faith to be healed. It was hosted by a friend of mine and I took his senior staff out for lunch the next day and told them that this theology was un-biblical in its exclusive emphasis on the faith of the sick person. I told them that it was pastorally irresponsible and that if they are going to allow that teaching in their church then they need to offer help to all those who came and were not healed, including those who came from other churches who are going to take their “failure to receive healing” home with them and dump it on their unsuspecting pastors. My friends cancelled any further meetings with that “faith” healer. Here is the interesting conclusion. Since the majority of faith based healings in Jesus’ ministry involved the faith of the community rather than the faith of the sick person, we should focus on increasing our church’s faith for healing and take the responsibility off of those who are sick. This is my practice and our church’s practice and we don’t have the kind of pastoral problems you see in the “faith movement”. When one of our people is not healed in the first session we tell them that we love them and that we are not going to stop praying for them and then we pray for them at every opportunity. We tell them that the timing of a healing is in God’s hands and our job is simply to pray, His job is to heal. We preach to increase our whole church’s faith level so that we become a people who expect God to demonstrate His power among us [not just in healing but in every way possible]. This is a corporate responsibility and I think that is the Biblical way to view it.

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