Miracles of healing

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

In our culture, the word miracle is often used rather loosely. For example, if a quarterback completes a 60 yard-long Hail Mary pass into a crowded part of the end zone to win a game, the TV commentator will likely praise it as a miracle. Here’s another example: ailing Dodger outfielder Kirk Gibson won a game in 1988 by hitting what was said to be a miraculous walk-off home run. Being highly unlikely, his hit was certainly entertaining, but it was not a miracle.

A miracle is a supernatural event that goes beyond the productive capacity of nature, though as C.S. Lewis notes in his book Miracles, “miracles do not…break the laws of nature.” When God performs a miracle, he intervenes in natural processes to do something only he can do.

Healing of the Blind Man by Bloch
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, Christians sometimes embrace false ideas about miracles. Some say, for example, that there would be more miracles if more people had faith. But history shows otherwise—though the Israelites witnessed numerous miracles from God, they lacked faith. As another example, some say all healings are miracles. But many healings do not fit the formal definition of a miracle—many are the result of natural processes. When we cut a finger and it heals gradually, a natural process God designed for the human body has occurred. This natural healing is a sign (a demonstration) of God’s goodness as our Creator. However, if the cut heals instantaneously, we understand that God has performed a miracle—he has intervened directly and thus supernaturally. In the first instance we have an indirect sign and in the other a direct sign—both pointing us to the goodness of God.

Unfortunately, some who claim the name of Christ abuse and even fake miracles to build a following. You see this sometimes in what are called “healing services.” But such abuses of miracles are not found in the New Testament. Instead we find worship that is about faith, hope and love for God, looking directly to him for salvation that comes by way of the proclamation of the gospel. However, abuses of miracles should not diminish our appreciation for genuine miracles. Let me tell you about one I witnessed. I joined others in praying for a woman whose virulent cancer had already eaten away some of her ribs. She was receiving medical care, and now was being anointed, asking God for a miracle of healing. The result was that she became cancer free and her ribs grew back! Her doctor told her, “This is miraculous. Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.” She explained to him that it was not her doing, but God’s blessing. Some may claim that her medical treatments put the cancer at bay and the ribs grew back on their own, which they can do. But that would have taken a long time, and hers quickly returned to normal. Because her doctor said that her return to health was “not explainable,” we conclude God intervened and performed a true miracle.

Believing in miracles is not necessarily anti-science, and looking for natural explanations does not necessarily indicate a lack of faith in God. When scientists propose a hypothesis, they run tests seeking to falsify it. If their attempts at falsification fail, the hypothesis is strengthened. Thus we understand that looking for natural explanations for what might seem to be miraculous is not necessarily a refusal to believe in miracles.

We’ve all prayed for the sick to be healed. Some were delivered immediately and thus miraculously while others recovered slowly and thus naturally. In the case of those healed miraculously, it does not seem to have depended on who prayed or on how many prayed. The apostle Paul was not healed of his “thorn in the flesh” despite praying three times. My point is this: when we pray for a miracle of healing, in faith we leave the means and the ultimate outcome to God. We trust him to do what is best, knowing that in his goodness and wisdom he takes into consideration factors we cannot be aware of.

Praying for a sick person to be healed is one of the ways we show love and compassion for those in need, joining Jesus in his faithful intercession as our Mediator and High Priest. Misunderstanding the instruction in James 5:14, some may be hesitant to pray for a sick person, thinking that only church elders are authorized to do so, or that somehow an elder’s prayer is more effective than the prayers of friends and family members. It seems that James’ intent in telling church members to call on the elders to be anointed when they are sick was to make it clear that elders, as servants of the people (and not lords over them), must make themselves available to those in need. Biblical scholars see in James’ instruction a reference to Jesus sending out his disciples in pairs (Mark 6:7), who then “drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:13). [1]

When we pray for healing, we must not think that our task is somehow to persuade (or otherwise condition) God to act according to his grace. God’s goodness is always freely given! Why then pray? Because through prayer we participate in what God is doing in the lives of others, and in our own lives as well, as God prepares us for what he will do according to his compassion and wisdom.

Let me add a note of caution: When a person comes to you asking for prayer concerning a health issue, and they say they want to keep the request private, their request for privacy should always be honored. People should never be made to think that their “chances” of being healed are somehow increased proportionate to the number of people who are praying for them. Such an idea reflects non-biblical, magical thinking.

In all our thinking about healing, we must remember that it is God who heals. Sometimes he heals through a miracle and other times he heals using the natural means he has placed within his creation. Either way, all the glory goes to him. In Philippians 2:27, the apostle Paul thanks God for having mercy on his friend and co-worker Epaphroditus who was deathly ill until God healed him. Paul does not mention a healing service or a particular power possessed by a particular person (himself included). Instead, Paul simply praises God for healing his friend. That’s a good example for us to follow.

Based on the miracles I’ve witnessed, and ones I’ve heard about from others, I’m confident God still heals today. When we are ill, we have freedom in Christ to ask anyone to pray for us and to ask the elders of our church to anoint us with oil and pray for our healing. It is then our responsibility and privilege to pray for others, asking God, if it is his will, to heal those among us who are sick and hurting. In all instances, we trust God for his answer and timing.

Thankful for God’s healing,
Joseph Tkach


[1] Though GCI does practice anointing the sick with oil for healing, it does not consider this practice to be a matter of obedience to a command (as is the case with the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper). For additional information about this practice and GCI’s understanding of the related instructions given in James 5:14, click herehere and here.

6 thoughts on “Miracles of healing”

  1. I find this article as potentially helpful to those, all along supposing that God’s power is availed through special people, instead of His own prerogative—using anyone, according to His pleasure. Thank you!

  2. Dear Joe,

    I much appreciate the addressing of a subject that all too frequently is greatly abused and distorted. I do also firmly believe that God can and does still heal today.

    Suffering, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, can have redemptive qualities. In our human frailty, and amidst agonizing pains, we may well fail at times to recognize that reality. God’s love, is forever sure in every and all circumstances. And so, we strive to hang on to Him when dark moments overtake us.

    The Father truly knows best!

    Every blessing,
    Santiago
    ——————————————————————————————
    “The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed…But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t. Either way, we’re for it.”

    ― C.S. Lewis

  3. Another extraordinary, remarkable, exceptional, outstanding (oops- almost used the word “miraculous”) article filled with wisdom and a balanced approach – always asking for God’s will to be done and then trusting him for the answer. Members requesting prayer, anointing and healing do so often at important times in their lives and deserve the sound biblical principles as expounded here – much appreciation!

  4. Even Jesus didn’t heal on his own,He did only what the Father told Him to do.
    So all our prayers aught to end in thy will be done.

  5. Dear Moderator(s),
    This weekly update appears somewhat unusually ‘coincidental’ with what I have been experiencing recently, particularly in the last week.

    I attended the funeral of a 33 year-old person this week, the child of a friend of mine. It was, and is, heartbreaking.
    My friend’s child had been diagnosed with cancer almost 11 months ago.
    Numerous people prayed for her healing from God.
    God did not heal.

    I will be 69 years of age this year, and have had a few episodes of experiencing the fear, stress, anxiety, panic, trauma and terror of not knowing, and thinking and expecting a bad outcome from a potential life-threatening situation. This occurred during experiences of heart attack, stent procedure and bypass operations.

    My few instances of anxiety pale into insignificance however, when I think of the daily, and continued mental, emotional and psychological, and possible physical, suffering, fear, trauma, agony that this young person must have experienced and endured during the last 11 months.

    I don’t understand God. I cannot see any positive purpose, reason, result or outcome from God not answering prayer and healing.

    It may have been God’s will to not heal. However, I cannot see any of God’s goodness there.

    Other emotional words that come to mind are: ‘bowels of mercy’; ‘lovingkindness’; ‘tenderhearted’;’thy tender mercies’; the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; … his truth endures to all generations’.

    I must admit to being ‘tormented’ by the existence of so much suffering and evil and pain and agony in this world, and that this was somehow a necessary part of God’s plan for planet earth.

    There are many, many other similar, and connected points and topics that could be mentioned and related in association with the present one, but time, space, and my weak faith and disappointment with God prohibit much further comment.

    Let me conclude my comment by stating what I believe would be of very great encouragement, support and help in strengthening a person’s faith and walk with Christ and God. I also communicate this to God – no doubt He is watching, reading this site as well.

    A ‘Damascus experience ‘ of some sort that is ‘tailored’ to each individual is, I believe, what is needed. It seemed ‘definitive’ for the apostle Paul. He keeps repeating the account of his experience, indicating its profound and lasting effect, turning him around from his previous views and way of life.

    Big or small, dramatic or nuanced, a ‘Damascus experience’ that unequivocally reveals God’s presence and assurance that he is there, working for good (eg. Jer. 29:11) in our life, and which then becomes an ‘anchor for the soul’ in future, would be of profound help.

    Thank you for reading this comment.

    Regards,
    Peter Grach

    1. Peter, I’m deeply moved by your comment and the deep feeling behind it. The pain your friends must feel at the premature death of their son is impossible for me to grasp, I’m sure—though I’m also sure some of our readers have experienced such trauma and understand.

      I think many of us can relate to your struggle to understand why God sometimes answers our prayers for healing and sometimes does not (at least does not in the way we hoped and prayed for). In my experience, there are no easy, pat answers. Some Christians try to provide them—saying things like God always heals (eventually), or that the reason he doesn’t has to do with a lack of faith, or is a puishment for someone’s sin, or….. Perhaps such explanations are well-meaning, but I find them quite unsatisfying. But even more importantly, I find that they do not adequately reflect the reality of who God truly is and how he, therefore, acts toward us.

      We are not always given to know why God does what he does, but knowing who he is (as a union of love of three divine persons) reassures us that whatever he decides in any particular situation is always grounded in the love he has for humanity, for love is who he is. Another way to say that is, “God always does what God is.” There are times when I have to hold onto that truth when what I see in front of me challenges its veracity. How, I wonder, can it be loving for God to allow my loved one to die?
      In my experience, we don’t always (perhaps often don’t) know. Nevertheless, God invites us to trust him. How can we do that? Only because we have come to know God as being the loving being he is—to know deep down in our souls that God loved us all so much that he sent his Son to die for us all (John 3:16).

      Trusting God to be who he is (love). includes entrusting to him the decisions of life and death that we simply are not in a position to make. Extending that trust, I know, can be excrutiatingly difficult. And so we pray to God to help us share the faith Jesus has in the goodness of his Father. Sometimes, in my experience, it can take years for the answers we seek to come; for the pain of grief to subside. I pray for you my brother and for your friends. May God strengthen your faith and give you comfort and hope even when the full answers are not (yet) forthcoming.

      Regarding the topic of having hope in God’s promises, you may find helpful a Speaking of Life video from GCI President Joseph Tkach that is found at

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