Summary: In our discipleship we are called and encouraged to go and to do what Jesus did. This talk helps us to go and pray for healing as Jesus did.
If Jesus gets to pray for a person twice how many goes do we get? If it took Jesus two attempts to heal to heal a blind man how many attempts do we get?
I believe that every incident and event, every parable and sermon illustration in the gospels – and today we’ve heard from Mark’s Gospel – every paragraph is included for a purpose. That purpose may not always be clear but I believe that this incident has a very clear purpose. Most of the time Jesus prays for someone for healing and they get healed; but on this occasion Jesus prays and there is an improvement, and he then prays again and there is full healing. The first time he places his hands upon the blind man and asks, “Do you see anything?” (8:23) to which the man replies, “I see people; they look like trees walking around” (8:24). Once more Jesus places his hands on the man’s eyes and his eyes were opened, his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly (8:25).
Before we go any further we must remember that there are no formulas for prayer, no slot-machine methods in prayer for healing, and no pat answers. As we study the scriptures I believe that is clear. On the one hand there are four examples of faithful Christian believers who were fighting long-term sickness or adversity of some kind. They were St Paul: “To keep me from becoming conceited …there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12:7); Timothy. Paul wrote to him saying, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23); Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30) and Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20). For whatever reason healing was not universal even in the very early church; but on the other hand Jesus heals everyone he prays for, for healing – and sends out his disciples in teams of two telling them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2 and Luke 10:9). He also says we will do greater things (John 14:12).
On the face of it this is a dilemma. It is one of the reasons why many churches and Christian communities have given up praying for healing because if we pray for someone and there appears to be no change, or if we pray and the person deteriorates and die it can be disheartening. To this I would say that for the time being until Jesus returns as he promised he would, death is very much part of life, and death is the way that God releases some people from bondage and sickness.
However, and this is a massive however and a wake-up call to the command of Jesus; I believe we must recover the ministry of healing in the British church. Friends, as we’ve been practising prayer for healing at the end of our services we’ve seen some lovely healings. Thank you Lord! That’s wonderful, and He is sovereign; but what we cannot do and what we must not do is keep it within these four walls. Why? Because Jesus said, “Go and heal (Luke 10: 3 & 9).
This was a major part of Jesus’ agenda, his mission, his sending-out instructions and vision for the church; and this is not something for wacky TV evangelists. This is meant to be basic ministry for you and me as we go and do the things that Jesus did, and as we go and do the things that he sent out his disciples to do.
I’ve had my view of the Christian healing ministry challenged, rocked and shaken as I’ve spent time at conferences, leaders’ events and training with Robby Dawkins who is a Pastor at the Aurora Vineyard Church in Illinois. On Tuesday I spent the day with 200 other leaders from the New Wine network with Robby at All Saints’ Woodford Wells where Paul Harcourt is the Vicar. Robby taught and demonstrated, and he demonstrated and he taught; and I came away saying, “Lord, here I am. Send me!” In this last year my approach to healing prayer has changed, and as I read through Robby’s book entitled Do What Jesus Did there are more changes to come.
In today’s Bible reading there is no record of long flowery prayers for healing and there are two principles to take on board. One is that ‘some people brought [the] man and begged Jesus to touch him’ (8:22); and the principle is that of touch. Perhaps in the past I’ve just had too much British reserve because just as a child needs the touch of a parent, and a husband and a wife need the touch of one another, touch is important in healing prayer. Not essential but important. Jesus occasionally healed from a distance but mostly he used touch. On this occasion using spittle on the man’s eyes he touched him, and it is the touch that is most important because this runs through his ministry, whereas using spit was only occasional. Why use spit? This was because spit was symbolic of healing. At other times Jesus often took people by the hand (1:31, 5:41 & 9:27), or reached out to touch (1:41), put his fingers upon ears (7:33), or used his hands to bless (10:16); and on one occasion a woman touched his robe in faith (5:27).