|Tiger Swallowtail in Yellow Springs, Ohio|
In the mid-1970s I was a pastor in Joliet, Illinois. I remember a beautiful, elderly Jesus-follower named Elsie. I can see her smile even now, many years later.
Elsie was in her 80s. She was thin and frail. One day I got word that Elsie was sick. I visited her in her home, and prayed for God to make her well. I always prayed this way for sick people. But to be honest I was not expecting much to happen. Yet it was good and felt good to lovingly pray for others, and they always seemed to appreciate it.
When I left Elsie's home that day I felt sad. She had some kind of virus that was taking her down. In her feeble condition I didn't know if she was going to make it. But she did, as I found out that evening when Elsie called.
Her voice was alive and vibrant. "John, after you prayed for me I began to get better. I think God has healed me. Thank you so much for your prayers!" Really?!
I was happy and stunned. We all loved Elsie so much. Whatever illness had a grip on her physical body was gone!
The idea that through prayer God heals is a biblical teaching. The first time we see the word "pray" in the Bible is in a healing context. In Genesis 20 the king of Gerar, Abimelek, takes Abraham's wife Sarah, since Abraham said Sarah was not his wife but his sister. God appears to Abimlelek in a dream, telling him to return Sarah to Abraham. "Abraham is a prophet," God said, "and he will pray for you and you will live."
We then read Genesis 20:17-18 - 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, 18 for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
The first biblical window into a life of prayer has to do with healing power. As for me, God's healing of Elsie encouraged me to pray for the sick. Since then I have seen this happen many times. While it's true that I have prayed for sick people and not seen the results I hoped for, those times when prayer has brought God's healing power have given me confidence when facing the humanly impossible.
As you pray today remember that where prayer focuses, power falls.
(For the best empirical study on Proximal Intercessory Prayer [laying on of hands while praying] as it relates to physical healing see University of Indiana professor Candy Brown's Testing Prayer: Science and Healing [Harvard University Press].)