Bible Answer

Are faith healers for real?

I'm confused by what I've seen at so-called healing services. People come forward, men pray over them, they fall to the ground and twist around in a trance, and then they claim to be healed. Is this the biblical way God brings healing?

Throughout the centuries of the church, believers experiencing illness and injury have sought supernatural healing from the Lord. In the Bible, we see the Lord healing individuals in the Gospel, the Apostles healing people in the book of Acts, and the writers of the New Testament epistles speaking of healing in the church. Since healing is clearly a part of the Christian experience, does the Bible prescribe a certain manner for acquiring God's healing?

The only prescription given in scripture is found in James 5:

James 5:13  Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 
James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 
James 5:15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins,  they will be forgiven him. 
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 

In Chapter 5, James was teaching the necessity for believers to the seek the Lord for what we desire. In James' day, the church was seeking for gain in the wrong ways, and earlier in this chapter James admonished the church for creating strife rather than seeking the Lord in prayer. So James' purpose in chapter 5 is to correct the church's attitude and instruct it to go to the Lord for its needs.

In the case of suffering, James says we must pray for a solution. When a prayer is offered "in faith," then that person can expect the Lord to restore the one who is sick. To pray "in faith" means to be led by the Holy Spirit into the prayer based in confidence that the Lord is preparing to accomplish the healing. In other words, praying in faith means praying with a supernatural understanding that the Lord has already determined to accomplish the healing. 

When we pray in faith, we do not create the outcome by means of our prayers. Rather, we are announcing the Lord's intentions before He acts, based on insight give to us by the Holy Spirit. This is the manner of prayer that leads to healing, James says. Apart from this instruction, the Bible gives no other recipe for healing. 

Beyond elders, the Lord may equip a member of the body with the gift to healing supernaturally. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul lists "healing" as one of the spiritual gifts available in the body, therefore we must acknowledge that healing is a spiritual gift available within the body. If someone has the gift to heal, then that person may be used by the Spirit to accomplish healing from time to time, however this does not mean the person has "magic" powers to heal on demand. 

The gift of healing operates no differently than any other spiritual gift in that the believer remains 100% dependent on the will and power of the Holy Spirit. Just as a believer with a gift to teach can't know all things in scripture perfectly, neither can someone with the gift to heal succeed in healing 100% of the time. Every spiritual gift operates dependent upon the will of God, so that only if the Lord wills to heal will a healing take place. 

Certainly, the Lord is capable and often inclined to provide bodily healing, but there is no assurance in scripture that the Lord will always heal our bodies upon request. On the contrary, sooner or later our body must die and return to dust, unless we live until the resurrection day, but sooner or later our body will be replaced (thankfully!). Therefore, we cannot say that God always heals, otherwise no one would ever die! Instead, we must acknowledge that the Lord may heal us when He desires, but sooner or later He won't.

Unfortunately, there are many false teachers and deceivers within the Church seeking to fleece the Lord's flock by teaching falsely that the Lord always heals us when we ask Him. Some of these evil men call themselves "faith healers" claiming to have the power to heal by means of the Spirit, but only for those who have "faith." Usually, these conmen set up shop in charismatic environments, where fervour and emotion replace sound doctrine and good judgment, leading many needy believers to be fooled into expecting miraculous healing on demand.

We strongly advise believers to be wary of such displays. Instead, seek godly intercession with mature, devoted elders or other members of the body with a heart to serve God in quiet humility and chaste reverence. Never agree to donate money as a quid pro quo for healing, and be content with your circumstances should the Lord decline to heal your body. Remember, all believers must shed this old body one way or another so that we may inherit the new, eternal body we are promised. 

For a more thorough treatment on this subject, we recommend you listen to our Sovereignty of God series (especially Lessons 3-4) and our teaching in 1 Corinthians (Lessons 12A – 14D)..