You may have noticed that we’ve been praying for our sick. That’s nothing new. We always pray for the sick. Every bulletin and email update has a prayer list. We mention the sick at every service. They are in our personal prayers at home. A prayer for the sick is both a compassionate appeal and recognition of God’s power to intervene on behalf of those in need. We need to pray for the sick.
When I pray for the sick in the hospital, I often ask God to be with the doctors and nurses who are caring for the patient. I do this because I believe that God providentially uses health professionals and modern medicine to heal. The age of the miraculous has passed (1 Cor. 13:8-10), but God is still very active in the world. Today he acts through the natural laws he established when he created the world.
This understanding corresponds with a number of examples found in the Scriptures. In 2 Kings 20, King Hezekiah falls mortally ill and learns from Isaiah that he would not survive his ailment. However, he prays to the Lord, and Isaiah returns with the news that Hezekiah has been granted fifteen more years of life. What happens next is interesting: Isaiah calls for a “cake of figs” and tells the servants to lay it on the boil that had afflicted Hezekiah “that he may recover.” Evidently, part of God’s healing involved medicine, in this cake a fig poultice.
Another case is found in James 5. James writes, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (vv. 14-15). It is not certain what James meant by “anointing him with oil,” but it is very possible that we are looking at another reference to ancient medicine being applied alongside prayer for the healing of the sick.
Some religious groups discourage their adherents from visiting doctors or using medicine, thinking that modern medicine is contrary to faith in God. This is far from true. In truth, God created medicine and the doctors who administer it. Ultimately, all healing is divine, whether it comes from the hospital or through the body’s natural defense mechanisms.
Pray for the sick. God is listening. And if it is his will, he will use every means to restore health to our loved ones.