We need to be careful and thoughtful about how we pray, and this includes when we are praying about the sicknesses and illnesses of ourselves and others. What so very often happens is that our prayers are formed with a mindset derived from the world around us rather from than the Word of God. We live in a world which is craving for “nice” lives full of lots of “nice” things. Everybody wants a decent about of money, little or no ill health and plenty of pleasures, and our prayers so very often reflect this way of worldly thinking. In view of this inclination, how should we pray and specifically how should we pray about ill health? In answering this question, we assert straight away that we go to the word of God for our guidance so that we can pray in a godly way.
There are three principles which should guide our praying and these should always be reflected in how we pray about sickness.
1)The Glory of God One of the most profound prayers in Scripture is found in John 12:28a. Here our Lord Jesus speaks to His Father and says Father, glorify your name!’ The fact that He, the most important person who ever lived, prayed this as He approached the most important event in the history of the world, His death, indicates the immensity of this prayer. In John 12:23-26 our LORD declares how he is facing the hour of His death. He thereby gives teaching for his followers flowing from that. In the light of his impending death and the trouble of soul He is experiencing we read these words in John 12:27 Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Of course the “worldly” prayer would be to pray to be delivered from suffering and death. However, our Lord operates according to a more elevated principle and that principle is always to desire that which is according to the will of God. The resulting prayer then is simply, but very profoundly Father, glorify your name!’ (John 12:28a). The response of the Father to hearing such a prayer shows His delight in hearing it. We read Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ (John 12:28b).
We can be sure that when a prayer is prayed from the heart which longs for God to be glorified, then such a prayer is delightfully received by our Father and acted upon by Him. We may not be sure how He will act to glorify His Name, but we know He will act. When someone is sick then, the first thing that should come to our minds as we turn to God in prayer is to seek that God would glorify His Name. His will being done as He glorifies His Name is more important than anything else. We need to be aware that the way the LORD works to glorify His Name is according to His agenda. He may work to honour His Name through continuing or even intensifying the illness. He may give healing or relief. That is His choice.
2) Spiritual growth The final words from Peter in the scriptures are that his readers would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever! (2 Pet. 3:18). Spiritual growth is the key longing that Peter has and that is connected in with the desire that our Lord God who is Jesus would be glorified. In reading Paul’s prayers, this similar longing comes through. If you look at the prayers for the different groups of believers he writes to, such as those in Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:9-14 and Ephesians 3:14-21. Paul’s focus in all these prayers is upon the believers coming to know God and grow in faith and good works. It is as if He says: “I don’t care what you have to go through I just long that you would be growing stronger in the Lord”. So this is our second motivation for our prayers when someone is sick. It is that through this experience they might grow to know God more.
David Powlison puts it like this ‘Is God interested in healing any particular illness? Sometimes, sometimes not. But is He always interested in making us wise, holy, trusting, and loving, even in the context of our pain, disability, and dying? Yes, yes again, and amen’. This principle should again govern our prayers. God is more interested in our sanctification than our health. Our Father loves us too much to leave us to drift along in spiritual indifference and impotence. He will use all means to accomplish this purpose including sickness.
3) Care Prayer is a reflection of care. If you do not care about someone or a situation. then you will not pray. On the other hand when you pray for someone you want the best for them. That means you want the best for them in total and that includes their bodily well-being. John, writing to his dear friend Gaius says Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, just as you are progressing spiritually (3 John 2). Furthermore if you read I Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4 you will see both Elijah and Elisha pray passionately for two widows’ sons to be healed. The Lord graciously granted restoration in both cases. We need to remember when we pray that we are praying to “Our Father”. We are speaking to the best Father who is the most caring being in the universe and He wants the best for His children. So as we care for people we are led to pray, and we pray to the ONE who perfectly cares.
So we conclude by asking the question when you next hear of an illness or suffering how will you respond in prayer? Will you immediately pray “Lord make them better”? Or will you stop and ponder upon the fact that the LORD has a bigger agenda than ours? So here is a prayer to pray when we hear that a brother in the church has cancer. Oh Loving Father, You know how much brother x means to us and we long for his releasing from this terrible disease. However, we submit to your will and pray that you will glorify your Name through this affliction that has come upon our brother, and use it to do good for him that he would grow in You and be stronger in Your grace as a result. Amen
Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of April 2015