Exploring Prayer With
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Chapter 38 — Praying for the Sick
James 5:13-16, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Is praying for the sick for this age? This is the question that has been asked again and again concerning God's healing of the sick. Some take our text passage and point to James 1:1b, "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." Then they say the book of James was written to those twelve tribes, so they say that the promises of James 5:13-16 are not for this age. Those who do so should examine Romans 1:7a, "To all that be in Rome." Does this mean that Romans is not for us? Of course not! Though the letter was written to those in Rome, the message of Romans is as real and valid today as it was the day it was penned by the Apostle. Those who would relegate the promises of James 5:13-16 only to the twelve tribes should read I Corinthians 1:2a, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth." He might continue reading the early verses of each of the epistles. II Corinthians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia." Galatians 1:2, "And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia." Ephesians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:1, "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." Colossians 1:2, "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." I Thessalonians 1:1, "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Are all of these promises and epistles written just for the people to whom they are addressed? Of course not. Neither is the epistle of James! In fact, a careful reading of the epistle of James would find the mansion of our Lord's return. Read James 5:3-9, "Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door." Certainly our Lord did not return in the days of the writing of the book of James. I think he is telling us that the promises are for the entire church age and to all the people of God. Now I am not saying that there is no dispensational teaching in James. I AM saying that God is just as interested in healing one of His children who is a Gentile as He is in healing one of His children who is a Jew.
Perhaps some rules worth noting would be as follows:
1. Salvation is always the same.
2. God's desire to help His people is always the same. His compassion is always the same.
3. Right and wrong are always the same.
In considering healing the sick it must be mentioned that it is not always God's will to heal the sick. Paul spoke of a dear friend, Trophimus, who was ill. II Timothy 4:20, "Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick." Speaking of Epaphroditus, Paul said in Philippians 2:27,30, "For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me."
II Corinthians 12:1-10, " It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
Here we find the Apostle himself was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh. He had some physical malady. On three occasions he sought the Lord for healing, and God did not see fit to heal him. Instead of healing him, He promised grace that would be sufficient. Some of the dearest Christians in the world and some of the sweetest of God's saints suffer affliction. This is not because of their sin. It is because they have been chosen for the ministry of suffering. In any discussion of God's healing the sick, it must be carefully noted that it is not always God's will to do so.
Sometimes God uses medicine with which to heal the sick. Colossians 4:14, "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you." I Timothy 5:23, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." Isaiah 38:1-5, "In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years." Isaiah 38:21, "For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover." II Kings 20:7, "And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered." These are a few of the passages in the Bible that remind us that God uses doctors and medicine.
Even Luke, Paul's companion on much of his missionary travels, was a physician. No doubt God gave Luke to Paul, not only as a Spirit-filled companion in travel, not only as a fellow servant of God, but as a guardian of his health. I thank God for those godly physicians to whom I minister week after week. Some of the dearest, most faithful soul-winning Christians in our church are doctors.
Just recently after the Sunday morning service a dear father brought his infant son by the office. He asked if I would anoint him with oil and pray for him. Of course, I did. He told me that he had taken him to one of the doctors who is a member of our church and that the doctor had suggested he come to the Preacher for prayer and anointing first. This is not unusual, for these godly men realize that sometimes God chooses to use the prayers of His man, and sometimes He wishes to supplement that with dedicated Spirit-filled physicians.
Now the question comes: How may we be healed, and what is the procedure that should be followed in the seeking of healing for our bodies?
1. Realize that Satan is the author of sickness. Job 2:4-7, "And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown." It was Satan who afflicted Job. Luke 13:16, "And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" Notice it was Satan who had caused this illness. II Corinthians 12:7, "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." It was a messenger of Satan that buffeted the Apostle Paul. I Corinthians 5:5, "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Satan is the destroyer of the flesh. Sometimes God allows Satan to afflict us, but it is Satan himself who is the author of sickness.
2. Confess your sins. Sickness is often caused by sin. Such was the case of Miriam in Numbers 12:10, "And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous." It was sin that caused the illness of Uzziah in II Chronicles 26:19, "Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar." It was sin that caused Gehazi's sickness in II Kings 5:27, "The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow." Jeroboam was afflicted by sin. I Kings 13:4, "And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him." Herod was made ill by sin. Acts 12:23, "And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost." The sin of unworthily sitting at the Lord's table and taking of His supper causes illness. I Corinthians 11:30-32, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." Also note John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." After a person has realized that Satan is the author of sickness, then he should confess every sin of which he is aware in his life.
3. Pray for yourself. James 5:13, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms." Remember that king Asa was not healed because he sought not the Lord but the physicians. His sin was not that he sought the help of the physicians; his sin was that he sought only the help of his physicians. After realizing that Satan is the author of sickness and after confessing our sins, we should come to God and pray for ourselves.
4. Be anointed by the man of God. James 5:14, "Is any sick among you? 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." Now I have never had a healing campaign nor a prayer line, but I do keep a little bottle of olive oil in my office. It is used every week as God's people who are ill come by the office and ask me to pray and anoint them with oil. Now this does not make me a fanatic; it simply reveals that I believe the Word of God. I put a little oil on my fingertip and place my finger upon the forehead of the one who is ill and pray a prayer in the name of Jesus that He will heal them. Both the person who is ill and I agree that we are going to love the Lord, whatever He does, and that we realize that sometimes God wants us to suffer for His name, but since He will often heal the sick in answer to the prayer and anointing of God's man, it is something that the child of God ought to seek when he is ill.
5. Be sure that you are right in your heart with others. James 5:16a, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another." Many people could have been healed but were not because of bitterness, hatred, malice, envy, jealousy and other sins harbored in the heart.
6. Pray for others and ask them to pray for you. Contact all of God's people in whom you have confidence and whose prayers you respect, and ask them to join you in prayer for your recovery.
7. If necessary, and if you feel led, use the doctor and medicine. God often uses them as agents for the healing of His children.
A few years ago 11 ladies in our church who had been told by the physicians that they could never bear children got together and came to me. We confessed our sins, I anointed each with oil and prayed for God to open their wombs and/or give life to the seed of their husbands. Within two years those 11 ladies gave birth to 12 babies. Each lady had one except one, and she had twins. praise the Lord!
A few paragraphs ago I made mention of a man coming by the office asking me to anoint his infant son who had a hole in his heart. I told of that little infant boy who was brought to my office for prayer and anointing who was immediately healed. The very next week the doctor declared him as well. How pitiful it is that as soon as one of God's men begins to believe God, he is then branded as some kind of a nut, off-brand or fanatic, when the truth is, there is a loving Father Who wants us to be well and has made provisions for our healing in most cases.
A few months ago a dear lady stood in our services to tell how that she had a tumor of the brain and that she had come by the office for prayer and anointing and God had marvelously healed her. Her doctors attested to the fact that she definitely had had a tumor and that it definitely had been removed without surgery.
I am thinking of that little lady in our church who was to have open heart surgery. She met the conditions as outlined in this chapter (which I teach my people), and the open heart surgery was avoided because of God's mercy and healing.
During Pastor's School of 1982 many of our people lined up on the platform to testify of God's healing powers in their lives.
Just a few days ago I was preaching in Raleigh, North Carolina. A couple came by after the service to talk with me. They showed me a precious little baby and said, "Here he is."
I said, "What do you mean?"
They said, "The doctors all said it was impossible for us to have children. Two years ago when you were here you anointed us with oil and prayed for God to give us a baby. Here he is. praise the Lord!"
I am not talking about a wild spectacular kind of an exhibitionism. I am talking about a quiet faith and trust in God that says, "There is a God in Heaven, and He loves me, and in most cases He wants me to be well, though it may be that He would want me to suffer for His name and that my illness may be a ministry. It also may be that He wants to use me to the praise of His glory by healing my body."
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