Strange as it may seem, there is today a marked tendency in church circles where faith and power and mighty achievements are the watchword of the hour to attempt to hurdle the law of God’s will. We are told that where there is sufficient faith, the sick must be healed. In fact, faith is equated with healing. If healing does not take place, it is because faith has not been strong enough.
What makes this idea so plausible, the fact that Scriptural ground can be found to support it: James 5:15, “The prayer of faith shall save the sick.” Nothing could be more true. I have a friend and brother in Christ who was healed of leprosy. Christians of Venezuela know that it is a fact. The marks of the dread disease, though it is as certainly wiped out as in those whom Jesus touched when He walked among men, are still apparent, as palpable as the fact that this dear one is now free from leprosy. It is known far and wide that Jesus the Lord wrought the miracle. These things happen. The Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. In His great love and mercy He still responds to the prayer of faith and as of old works wondrous things giving, as the prophet said He would, “beauty for ashes, the garment of praise for heaviness.”
But to argue from this fact to which a host of Christians bear witness the world over, that Christ the Lord must heal where there is sufficient faith, is to violate on of the foremost principles of Biblical interpretation. To build a system of doctrine on an isolated text is to concur with the greatest of errors. Truth out of relation with other truths which condition it becomes error. Truth given a proportion which in lieu of other truths it does not merit, leads to fanaticism. To argue from James 5:15 that the Lord must always heal in answer to the prayer of faith is to pass over a host of other texts which taken into account give a balanced teaching on prayer.
Faith, when it takes a higher position than God’s sovereign will, becomes a dangerous entity. Faith, when it rules to one side the purposes of Almighty God, is as much a renegade as the lawlessness and self-will of a criminal. This is no longer faith, but pride masquerading. Faith that sets itself up as a dictator to whom God must bow has more in common with the devils who also believe and tremble, than the Christian who says, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
We have the Saviour’s own example: He said that the Son could do nothing of Himself, but only what He saw the Father doing, which he also did likewise. In the supreme crisis of His life, He said: “Not my will, but thine, be done.” He was obedient unto death, the death of the Cross.
The case of Paul the Apostle throws great light upon this question. He was a sick man and if ever a believer deserved to be healed, it was he. He says he prayed thrice and we can be sure with much fervor. But the answer was “No”, though veiled in tender terms as one would expect. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” It wrought a might transformation in Paul. He said he would, as a result, glory in his weaknesses that the power of Christ might rest upon him. It seems that, in the sublime economy of God, this man, a chosen vessel to bear the Name of His Saviour before kings, must through infirmities of the flesh – a strange malady which he himself called a messenger of Satan to buffet him – be kept altogether broken and helpless
in order that the great purposes designed in heaven to be realized through him, might be fulfilled. Only as he depended moment by moment upon Christ His Lord could these purposes be consummated. Any self-sufficiency which physical strength and abounding vitality were almost certain to bring, would be fatal. He must have in himself the answer of death. (See II Cor. 1:8-10). He must be one who, crucified together with Christ, would say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
We have a sound Scriptural basis for this in I John 5:14,15, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” It is when we ask according to His will that He hears us. Once we have His ear and what we ask is in line with His purposes, then we know we have the petitions we desired of Him. An absolute certitude comes to us, even before the answer is given, that it will be given.
When we fail to take into account the sovereign will of God, something akin to what happened to Dr. Goodell might befall us. I heard him tell the story some thirty years ago to a group of preachers met together to honor this distinguished pastor. He said that he received a wire from an Anglican bishop requesting him to pray for his son who was sick unto death. He said he gave himself earnestly unto prayer for the son of his ministerial colleague. Some days later another wire came urging yet more earnest prayer
for the boy who was so ill. The request was acted upon with great fervor and resolution. Some years later, Dr. Goodell said he met his friend, the bishop, who happened into the city. “Do you recall,” inquired the bishop, “my telegrams requesting prayer for my sick boy?” to which the pastor replied that he did. “Well,” was the answer, “I fear I did wrong in insisting. It would have been better had the Lord taken my boy at the time. He is grown now, and, oh, what sorrow is mine to see him walking in sin and wickedness.” Dr. Goodell closed by saying to the assembly of preachers: “As we pray, it is better to leave the matter with God. He knows what is best.”
Now there is firm ground in our praying, and there is ground that is uncertain. I mean to say that there are matters in which we do not need to say, “Thy will be done.” We know what God’s will is. We know that it is His will that all men should repent of their sins and come to a saving knowledge of Christ. When we pray for the salvation of loved ones, we may and should hold on until the answer comes. Like Jacob we may say: “I will not let go except thou [give me my petition].” Scripture affirms that with God nothing is too hard and also that it is not His will that any should be lost. On the other hand, there is ground where we do not know God’s will. In the matter of healing, for example, we need to proceed with care. We should and may pray for the sick. And in the main, we know from the Scriptures that the Lord wants His people to be mirrors of health both physically and otherwise. We also know that Christian living means health. But we know that we do not yet have our resurrection bodies and that this mortal frame is destined for death and burial. The Lord often rather than heal the body calls His own home. Or for high and holy ends of spiritual nature He may permit illness as in the case of Paul.
The story of Eddie Rickenbacker and his companions on their rubber rafts for some twenty-two days out on the Pacific Ocean at the mercy of sun and cold and wind and waves, beautifully illustrates the matter of prayer according to the will of God. It will be remembered that one of the men had a Testament which the group asked him to read to them when they saw the comfort he derived from its perusal. The World awakened faith and the men began to call on the Lord in their desperate need. The answers came thick
and fast. Rain to quench their all-consuming thirst, a bird from the sky to feed their famished bodies, in fact everything they asked for was given. All except on thing that they might be seen and rescued. This was denied them. They could not understand. Why was it that there Heavenly Father gather them everything they asked for save this the chief desire of their hearts?
Finally one of the men suggested that it must be that was not God’s will that they be sighted. They were in a good school – the school of prayer. They had never before taken into account God’s Word or called upon His Name in prayer. Surely the Lord desired for them more training in this wonderful school. Surely, when His purposes were fulfilled and they had had more training in the school of prayer, He would see to it that they would be sighted. And so it was. On the twenty-second a plane that passed overhead sighted them, and they rescued. “If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us.
(The above material was taken from “Prayer’s Deeper Secrets.”)
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