Myth-Busting Divine Healing - 10 Shifts
Written by Doug Balzer
In the past 6 years I have had the privilege of being present to well over 1000 experiences of divine healing, some complete healing and others partial. Most of these were within “the church” and some outside the church with people who did not yet know Jesus. Likely more than 95% of these healings were realized not under my hands but under the hands of God’s people who had rarely, if ever, seen God heal people. Yet these folks had chosen to make the necessary shifts away from myths and misbeliefs and towards God's truth regarding God’s heart to see people healed and restored. This blog is devoted to busting the common myths I have observed surrounding the subject and would commend the intercessors and leadership teams of every church to consider these.
Myth #1: We Can’t Do What Jesus Did
Jesus said the opposite in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” EVERYONE who believes. That includes the old, the young, the women, the men, the brave and the initially timid. Everyone gets to play. So what works did Jesus do? Many things. He lived a holy and compassionate life, he demonstrated kindness and generosity, he was an anointed teacher and prophet. However, the most common descriptor of his ministry was that of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, healing the sick and casting out demons (setting captives free).
Jesus trained his 12 disciples to heal and they did. He commissioned the 72 to heal and they did. When he commissioned the church-being-birthed in Matthew 28, his hearers understood that the authority he talked about was a direct reference to the authority he demonstrated in these very things. The church of the apostles and the church of the following 200 years was primarily characterized, by several non-Christian historians, as people who had authority over dark spirits and authority to heal. We can do what Jesus did, in fact he commands us to do what he did: to make disciples that make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, frequently expressed by the proclamation of the gospel, the healing of the sick and the setting free of people captive to darkness.
Myth #2: We Don’t Have the Same Empowerment as Jesus
We do have Jesus’ empowerment for both life and ministry. He is our forerunner in every way. Jesus did not live a perfect, empowered life because he was God (he was fully God and fully man when he walked earth, and always will be). He did all that he did as a Holy Spirit-anointed human being, setting aside his divine privileges.
Jesus told his fearful disciples in John 20:21, “’As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” We are sent in the same way Jesus was sent and with the same empowerment. What was the extent of Jesus’ empowerment? He was sent by his Father “without limit” (Jn 3:34) to the extent of Holy Spirit’s resources. Why should we not take Jesus’ word on this? The bottom line: we have the identical and limitless empowerment as Jesus. We may not yet know how to operate in his empowerment, we may not yet be walking in the filling of his Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and we may not yet know how to release his empowerment upon others, but all of those are developmental opportunities rather than permanent barriers. The world has yet to see YOU operating in a greater measure of Jesus’ empowerment, blessing the world around you in his name.
Myth #3: Healing Ability Comes Fully Developed
Like all ministry expressions in the Kingdom, none of them come “fully baked” but rather need to be developed. Jesus' disciples had gained some proficiency in proclaiming the gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons by likely imitating him. Then, on one occasion the disciples were unable to bring freedom to a demonized boy. After Jesus set him free, they asked why they were unable to do so. “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (John 9:29). In other words, Jesus is saying that there is more space for you to develop; there is still more I need to teach you.
Too many people become too quickly discouraged when it comes to praying for people’s healing because they have struck out. Those who are fruitful in preaching, hospitality, mercy, teaching, and so on all started with little more than a glimmer of hope and then they learned to function in Jesus’ empowerment. They developed their Holy Spirit-anointed capacity over time. The same is true for these expressions of the Kingdom. First we crawl, then we learn to walk and then we learn to run. I am no longer fearful of outcomes when I pray for people’s healing; each occasion is an opportunity to listen to Jesus’ voice and join him in what he is already doing. And I am continually learning from the Master how he wishes to express his life through me and others. Your decision is whether or not you are willing the let the Master train you in what he has already commanded you to do and to do so in his empowerment.
Myth #4: Always Pray, “If it’s God’s Will…”
Jesus never used this term when he healed people and nor should we. In one sense, the macro sense, it is God’s will that all of creation will be healed. On this side of the grave, however, we see this still being realized, which is the advance of the Kingdom of God. I am convinced that many people use this caveat when praying for healing out of fear that 1) what if it doesn’t happen and 2) what does it say about “me” if healing doesn’t occur? That I don’t have enough faith? Jesus never intended us to wrestle with the question of whether healing is God’s will or not. He viewed the advance of the Kingdom of God through a different lens.
Did Jesus heal everyone in first-century Palestine? No. Did he heal everyone the Father directed him to? Yes. He only did what he saw his Father doing and he only said what he heard his Father saying. In his Spirit-anointed humanity and out of a place of intimacy and listening to his Father’s voice, Jesus demonstrated the coming Kingdom to many, most tangibly through their broken bodies being healed. Repeatedly Jesus commanded his followers (and still does) to proclaim the gospel, heal the sick and free the captives. We never wonder if it is God’s will to preach the gospel. We should not wrestle with the same for healing.
Myth #5: We Need to Beg God to Heal People
For years my prayers for healing sounded more like I was begging God, trying to get his attention, attempting to convince him that healing this person would be a good idea. I never once saw someone get healed in this manner and, more tragically, my prayers made me appear more compassionate than God himself. Ouch! Jesus didn’t give us specific prayers to pray but rather his healing presence to release upon people. Peter healed a lame man in Acts 3:6 not by begging God but by releasing the healing presence of Jesus. “Silver or gold I do not have but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Because Peter possessed the Spirit of Jesus, he also possessed the healing power of Jesus and this was meant to be given away to others. In the words of the Canadian Blood Service, It’s in You to Give.
I no longer attempt to beg God to heal people. But I do give away his healing presence. I do, in Jesus’ name, release his healing presence upon the brokenness in people bodies and minds. It is also interesting to note that in the accounts of healing in the Gospel’s and Acts, healing prayer is typically in the form of spoken declaration and command rather than petition (asking). “Be healed.” “Rise and walk.” These are prayers of releasing the Kingdom of God (which we possess, in Christ). As Christ followers, we have far more to give away than we know. Check out this 2 minute video of healing prayer of releasing and command, rather than begging.
Myth #6: Follow a Specific Method
Healing prayer is not about a certain method or ritual. Jesus’ healings were unique to each person and this personalized approach was part of God demonstrating his personal love to each person. Can you imagine if we were to follow Jesus’ methodology from how he healed a blind man using his saliva and dirt to make mud? If there was any method for Jesus it was the method of walking intimately with his Father and serving others from this place. Jesus lived a life of prayer and humility, being completely content to do the will of his Father, nothing more and nothing less. When we pray for the healing of others, we have the same privilege to listen to the same Spirit to see what the same God is up to. Sometimes, as we pray for healing, pain needs to be rebuked. Sometimes restoration needs to be released. Sometimes the person needs to be reminded of God’s love for them. Sometimes the person needs to be encouraged to renounce falsehoods; lies of condemnation or unworthiness that they have come to believe.
Too many people approach healing prayer feeling a great pressure to perform or generate something. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once realized, participating in healing prayer is a light and completely free experience. In and of ourselves we bring absolutely nothing to the table. And yet in Christ, who dwells in us and reveals to us the Father’s heart, we too can do what we see the Father doing and say what we hear the Father saying. Out of this place of intimacy and our obedient response we get to see his Kingdom advance before us in the lives of others. There is no pressure or stress in this. His yoke is easy and his burden is light…and oh yes, those who remain connected to the vine will bear much fruit.
Myth #7: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Give Up!
For years I prayed for people. I would pray once for people. And if nothing ever happened (and it never did) I would give up, thinking that it wasn’t God’s will. Yet Jesus didn’t operate this way. Certainly, many of his healings occurred immediately but in Mark 8 we see a story of Jesus needing to release healing more than once. After making mud with his saliva and some dirt the blind man’s sight was only partially healed. Jesus then checked in with him, “Do you see anything?” The man had received partial healing that was not complete in round 1. He needed round 2.
One of the greatest areas of breakthrough in my ministry, and hundreds of others I have seen, is this matter of persisting in prayer. Frequently there is some sort of blockage that can often be discerned by asking, “Holy Spirit, is there anything that might be blocking what you wish to do in this person’s life today.” Then listen. Have the person you are praying for listen (if they are a believer). There may be nothing. But there may be some forgiveness that needs to be extended, a lie that needs to be renounced, the truth of the love of God for them that needs to be embraced, etc. It is my observation that most healings for believers are not just for their bodies but also for their sanctification, their deeper soul issues. God desires to not only bless people’s bodies, but their entire being. When praying for people for healing, watch for this larger and deeper dynamic.
When praying for people it can be useful to check in with them every couple of minutes. Some questions can be helpful. “How are you doing?” “Do you sense anything going on in your body or soul?” “If the pain (or effect of the illness) is ranked a 10 when we started to pray, and we are going for a zero, what number are you now at?” Any increased pain during prayer for healing almost always betrays demonic involvement. Some 40% of Jesus’ healings involved some form of deliverance so don’t be surprised by this. Many of the healings I have witnessed involved praying 2x, 4x, 10x! Whatever you do, don’t give up until one of two things happens. One, the healing effect is realized. Yet there are times when you may not see this (not everyone I pray for is healed). Also, some prayer for healing is impossible to know of its effect in the moment. Some medical conditions require further testing for confirmation. Therefore, the second reason to stop praying is when those ministering have a sense that they have fully cooperated with all the Spirit of Jesus wanted in that moment. Just don’t give up too soon!
Myth #8: Needed: Anointing Oil and Elders
Many churches seem to frame their view of ‘praying for the sick’ exclusively from James 5:13-16, which includes both church elders and anointing oil in its instruction. Certainly, there is much to be derived from James 5 however it specifically describes circumstances where sick people approach church leadership for healing prayer. In that context and as a general practice, church elders should use anointing oil. People who are ill and injured should have the freedom to initiate healing prayer, which is in itself, an act of faith. This is what James is getting at.
However, this depiction is not intended to be a model for expressions of healing for the larger church as it advances the Kingdom of God through proclamation, healing and deliverance, both inside and outside the church. Here our primary modelling ought to come from the life of Jesus and his disciples. There is no record of Jesus using healing oil. As stated earlier, Jesus customized his approach to each person as he listened to the promptings of his Father.
All believers in Christ, young and old, women and men, should feel the freedom to fully participate in advancing Christ’s Kingdom to the people around them, both inside the church and outside, without the need to have a church elder or healing oil present. There are likely many people in your current sphere of relationships where, as prompted by Holy Spirit, you are being invited by Jesus to release his healing presence upon their life. Don’t let the absence of a bottle of anointing oil get in the way of what Jesus may be assigning you to.
Myth #9: No Healing? Condemn the Person
I am so strongly repulsed when I hear stories of Christians condemning others when healing does not occur. After my infant daughter’s death, I had someone tell me that her death was my fault, that she had died because of sin in my own life. The Holy Spirit does bring conviction where necessary but only to bring a person to repentance and not towards condemnation.
It is my suspicion that those who are given to condemning people when healing is not realized are more deeply wrestling with their own insecurities and misplaced belief that they can heal people. And when it doesn’t happen, they resort to blaming. The truth is, they can’t heal people. We can’t either. Only Jesus can heal. Our part is extending his presence, giving his blessing away to others. As I stated above, not everyone I pray for receives healing. When healing is not realized our aim should be to reflect the heart of that person’s Heavenly Father. He loves them. They matter to him. They are precious to him. Instead of condemning, or even getting stuck in the ditch of trying to “explain why God didn’t heal,” simply bless them. Out loud. In Jesus’ name. Assure them of God’s love.
Myth #10: Healing – Only for the Church
In his book, Anointed for Business, Ed Silvoso notes that of the 40 observable miracles in the Book of Acts, 39 of them occurred outside religious environments. This statistic ought to wake the church up and look outside our windows. Certainly the heart of God is toward the sick in the church; James 5 is evidence of that. And yet, disproportionately, the heart of our Shepherd is towards those who have not yet tasted and seen that God is good. In a world where scepticism surrounding Christianity is high, the front door to faith for many may not be a cognitive, gospel-oriented message or argument, but a divine encounter with God’s love, experienced in their body or soul.
Jesus did not heal every person in 1st Century Palestine and therefore we should also not take on the burden of the entire planet. Yet I have learned that Jesus is highly desirous to show his love to people via healing who might otherwise not even have a random thought towards him. When Jesus gives me a quiet prompting to pray for healing of a not-yet-believer or to simply release God’s peace upon them, I have learned to not hesitate. There is more grace in these situations than in any other environment I have encountered! Whereas the healing of the believer is significantly for the person’s sanctification, healing for not-yet-believers is significantly for their salvation.
I dare you. I double-dog dare you to ask Jesus to give you a personalized, right-sized assignment of releasing his transforming presence to someone who is not yet part of his Kingdom. Then wait and listen for his promptings and respond obediently. It may happen in the next moment or in the next week. But it will happen! The divine demonstration of the gospel, proceeding the proclamation of the gospel, may well be one of the greatest opportunities for the church to realize in the post-Christendom West.
For a deeper dive on this subject matter check out Doug’s book, The Empowerment Pivot: How God is Redefining Our View of Normal.