Updated: May 31
What is divine healing?
The term “healing” means to “restore, make whole.” God’s will for physical healing is restoring the body to wholeness.
Why does God heal?
So that men may believe in Jesus Christ (John 20:30-31).
For God’s delight in seeing His children healthy (Matt. 4:23-24).
For God’s glory and to display His Kingdom (Lk. 9:1-2).
His love and compassion toward His children (Matt. 14:14).
Is it God’s will (desire) for people to live in perfect health?
Yes, it is God’s will (we will be referring to God’s will throughout this article as His desire and not His decree or what He chooses actually to do or ordain) for His people (i.e., Christians) to ultimately and eternally walk and live in perfect health! Of course, this is seen clearly in the fact that every believer in Jesus Christ will one day be healed of every sickness and disease and walk in perfect health in heaven. Sickness and death came upon the earth due to the fall of Adam and Eve when they chose to sin and rebel against God. However, when a believer in Jesus Christ enters into the new heaven and earth, he or she will receive a renewed body free from any disease or affliction (Rom. 8:23). The curse from the fall of Adam and Eve and all of its effects will be erased for all of eternity!
It is also God’s will (in the sense of desire, not necessarily decree) to heal people on this earth (in body, soul, and spirit), including both the believer in Jesus Christ and the non-believer, as is apparent in several Scripture verses such as Matthew 4:23-24, Matthew 8:2-3, Mark 16:17-18, and John 9:2-3. It is a great mistake to think that a person (especially a Christian) cannot know what the will of the Lord is in regard to healing, for God has made it clear in His Word! We must know God’s attitude toward both sickness and healing for this will give us the faith we need in praying for healing! Biblically it is God’s will (desire) for everyone, especially His obedient and believing children of God, to walk in perfect health, and we must pray in faith according to His will (Mark 16:17-18; James 5:14-17)! God desires His obedient and believing children (i.e., Christians) to walk in perfect health (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), not only when they get to heaven but also now on this earth. God hates sickness and disease, for it is part of the curse of sin and its effects upon this world! God desires whole healing for the entire person, including the soul, spirit, and body! We make a grave error and mistake when we make a false and unbiblical dichotomy between God only desiring to heal the soul and spirit but not the body too. God wills to heal the body, soul, and spirit! It is God’s nature in both the Old and New Testament to heal the sick of their diseases, as is evident in Exodus 15:26 when God declares Himself to be the healer (see also Psalm 103:3). In the New Testament, Jesus healed people throughout His ministry and every person He prayed for and commanded healing over (no exceptions) was healed! Jesus Christ also provided physical healing in the atonement when He died upon the cross for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 8:16-17). Thus, Jesus did not only die on the cross for people to be saved and therefore receive spiritual healing, but also to be physically healed as well! Sickness is never seen as a blessing in the Bible, nor is healing ever seen to be a curse! In fact, sickness is always seen in a negative light as evil caused by sin and satan that we as Christians are to come against and pray for and command healing from! We must understand that suffering and sickness are two completely different things in the Bible so that we do not get confused (of course, sickness will produce suffering, but it is a different kind of suffering than what one would receive from being persecuted for Jesus)!
Two different Greek words are used in the New Testament for suffering and sickness, and our responses biblically should be different to both of them. We must and should expect suffering and persecution as Christians, for Jesus also endured this and declared that His followers would too, and our response should be praise unto God in the midst of the storm and also asking God what He is trying to teach us through it (Matthew 5:11-12; Acts 5:41; 2 Timothy 3:12; James 1:2-8; 1 Peter 4:1-2,13; Hebrews 2:10; Philippians 3:10). Thus suffering is often a tool by God to mature us in our faith and is a positive thing (not the suffering in and of itself, but what we learn through it, and of course none of us enjoy going through it)! Sickness, on the other hand, biblically is to be seen as negative and part of the curse of sin, and is something believers in Jesus are to pray against and believe God for healing and deliverance from (James 5:14-16)! Nowhere in the Bible are obedient children of God told to expect sickness or disease as part of their calling in life (some might bring up Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Cor. 12:7-10 as an example against this thinking, but it cannot be proven that this thorn was a sickness for the Scriptures are silent on the issue and a straightforward reading of the passage reveals that the thorn was a demon and probably unrelated to sickness, but instead was referring to the persecution that Paul was experiencing as a result of following Jesus – see, 2 Cor. 11:21-33). Sickness and disease have nothing to do with suffering for the faith (with the exception of bodily and mental conditions and sickness that may arise out of torture, confinement, persecution, and deprivation because of our role as Christians). Although Jesus suffered, there was no mention in the Bible of Jesus ever being sick! Jesus came into this world and died upon the cross not only to heal us spiritually and save us from our sins but also to heal us physically and save us from diseases (the word for salvation in Greek not only refers to saving one from sin but also from the consequences of sin including sickness and disease).
So we can conclude that it is God’s desire for people to walk in perfect health (soul, spirit, and body) on this earth and not only one day in heaven. However, we must be careful and cautious that we allow room for God’s sovereignty (His reign and governing rule over the universe) and divine mystery. There are times when God chooses not to heal a person of sickness and allow him, and even His obedient and believing children to become and remain sick for whatever sovereign and higher reason and purpose in the larger scheme of His plan (but it must be noted that God is never glorified when His obedient children are sick, nor does He ever make His obedient children sick unless they are in rebellion against Him, in which case He would be disciplining and judging them to lead them to repentance and restoration – 1 Corinthians 11:28-32; see below). Most, if not all of us, have experienced some degree of sickness and disease, even if it was only a cold or a flu. This is normal because we live in a sinful and cursed world due to Adam and Eve’s disobedience and rebellion against God. As a result of sin on this earth, there are bacteria, viruses, germs, etc., that can cause even the most righteous person to become sick. This was the case with Job and the man born blind in John 9:2-3, but it must also be noted that God eventually healed both of them. As in the case of Job, God, in His sovereign design, may permit a faithful and righteous servant to suffer ill fortune for a season but, in due time, bring total healing (the theme of Job is that inexplicable things do happen to the righteous at times). Everyone will experience death, and several great men of God in the Bible were sick at times, including Elisha, Trophimus, Epaphroditus, Timothy, and probably Paul (Psalm 90:10; 2 Kings 13:14; 2 Timothy 4:20; Philippians 2:27; 1 Timothy 5:23; and Galatians 4:13). There have also been several men and women of God throughout church history who have experienced early deaths and sicknesses, not to mention all the premature deaths of infants and children (David Brainerd is one such example – it is hard to determine if God just allowed this for some sovereign reason or if it was something David Brainerd failed to do or not to do). God can work all things together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose – including people’s sicknesses (Romans 8:28, not that the sickness is good, but He can even work sickness together for a good purpose). We must be careful, however, when praying for a person who is sick that we are slow to give a reason for why they are sick and continue to remain that way even after we have prayed for them. It can be either due to that person’s sin/disobedience (specific sin), natural causes (general sin), lack of faith in the person praying for healing and/or the person receiving the healing, fallen state of man, demonic attack, the healing can be a process and take time, or there can be a larger scheme in the plan of God (a divine mystery). Just because an obedient and believing Christian is sick, however, does not mean it is God’s will (desire) for them to be sick, as is true in the case of a Christian struggling with sin. Just as it is clearly not God’s will for a Christian to be in sin or struggle with sin, so it is not God’s will for a Christian to be sick (although often a Christian does struggle with sin and get sick)! Nowhere in the Bible does it promise that a Christian will never get sick (nor struggle with sin), but that when he or she does get sick due to living in a sinful and cursed world, it is God’s will for him to be restored and healed. Just because great men of God in the Bible were sick does not mean it is God’s will for people to be sick, just as great men of God in the Bible sinned, and surely it was not God’s will for them to sin (Noah, Moses, David, and Peter are just a few examples of men sinning against God). Just as it is not God’s will for anyone to perish or go to hell (2 Peter 3:9), so it is not God’s will for obedient and believing Christians to live in sickness! Yet the reality is, that just as there are people going to hell and who struggle with sin, there are people who are sick. This is the curse of sin in this world! Some conditions must be met in people to receive healing from God the healer, just as there are conditions for people to receive their salvation (faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sin) and freedom from their sin (repentance, hating their sin, confession, running from temptation, taking thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ, making wise choices, etc.). But there are times when God, in His sovereignty, allows a person to be sick for some sovereign and mysterious reason and does not heal him, although He hates to see him sick and always desires (or wills) his healing. In that case, the person must continue to persevere in praying the prayer of faith for his healing, standing on the Word of God that it is God’s will to see him healthy and not give up until he is restored to health (James 5:14-16). There is no guarantee that a person will be healed immediately, for at times, healing can be a process (notice with King Hezekiah that it was three days before he was strong enough to go up to the house of the Lord – 2 Kings 20:1-6; see also Luke 17:14; John 4:50-52). We must continue to have faith and seek God for healing! Ultimately, God knows the future, and we must continually surrender to His sovereignty. The kingdom of God is “already, but not yet,” meaning Jesus Christ has already defeated the powers of sin, sickness, and death upon the cross, and thus the kingdom of God is already here on this earth in one sense. Yet in another sense, we are not yet completely free from sin, sickness, and death and therefore wait for Christ’s return when He finally sets up the kingdom of God upon the earth (and thus enjoy the new heavens and earth for all of eternity). Therefore, when God heals us on this earth, it is the “already” aspect of the Kingdom of God advancing upon the earth (Luke 10:9), and as a result, we are to rejoice and give God all the praise!
Why do people become sick?
Due to living in a fallen and sinful world (general sin), we are prone to disease (Gal. 4:13; 1 Tim. 5:23; Phil. 2:26-27; 2 Tim. 4:20).
Specific sin (There can be sin in our life, sin against us – such as generational sins and curses, or our reaction to sin done to us). There is always a wage to sin and a cost and consequence. Our sinful choices sometimes lead to disease in our lives (Mk. 2:5; Jn. 5:14-15; Romans 6:23; James 5:15-16).
God's divine judgement. If people persist in sin, defiance, and rebellion against a holy God without repentance, God can inflict them with sickness to lead them to repentance or even death (Numbers 12, 16; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 11:27-34; Revelation 2:20-23). Often sickness and death for Israel resulted from the covenant curse and God's judgment and discipline (Leviticus 26; Deut. 28:15-68; 30; 32:39; Nu. 25:8-9, 18; 31:16; Ps. 32:3-4, etc.)
Demons/Satan (Matt. 8:16-17; Matt. 4:24, Luke 9:37-43; Acts 10:38). Sometimes the devil or demons attack us with a spirit of infirmity or sickness due to opening doors or a place to the enemy because of living in sin without repentance or sin committed toward us. At other times, God's sovereignty allows the devil or demons to attack us for the greater good, such as spiritual growth, or for a larger scheme in the plan of God that might be a mystery to us (such as in the case of Job).
Not having a healthy and nutritious diet and lifestyle of living (foolish choices in regards to what one eats and drinks or does not eat or drink – 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Prov. 23:20-21). A lack of sleep, rest, exercise, and not handling stress well could also be a reason for sickness and disease.
A curse (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).
How should we pray for people to be healed?
A sign of the kingdom advancing is God using His people to heal one another of sickness (Luke 10:9). Therefore, we must pray in fervent faith for the sick, believing and expecting that God desires (or wills) to heal them (Luke 9:1-2; James 5:14-16). We are to speak a definite, straightforward declaration of what should be. We do not weaken our faith with ifs, and, or buts, but we speak with boldness and take authority over the sickness just as Jesus’ disciples did (see Matthew 10:1). Some at this point would argue that this authority was only for Jesus’ disciples but not for all believers today. If one believes that line of reasoning, he would also have to logically conclude that the great commission described in Matthew 28:18-20 was only for the disciples, too, and not the church. But obviously, we know this is not the case, for God calls all believers in Jesus to witness to others and to go into all the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Furthermore, we are to hate the sickness and what it is doing to a person(s), come against it in Jesus’ name, and declare God’s will for that person to live in perfect health and claim it by faith (1 John 5:14-15). We might not know the immediate plan of the Lord at present (although at times God reveals His plan to people as they pray supernaturally and prophetically), but we must believe and expect the best and leave the results to God (whether or not He decrees healing and thus heals the person). Whether or not the person gets healed immediately is God’s business, but we must do our part and continue to pray with faith and authority!
When we pray, we must fervently and boldly, yet humbly, stand in Christ’s authority and command healing in Jesus’ name, much like Peter in Acts 3:6 and 9:32-35 (the book of Acts is not meant to be only a historical book, but also a manual and blueprint for the church today in the 21st century – see our article on the church’s vision). Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He commanded lepers to “be clean,” He touched blind eyes, saying, “Be opened,” and to deaf ears, He said the same, “Be opened,” and to demons, He commanded, “Come out.” Jesus also gave this same authority and power to Christians (Lk. 9:1-2,6; 10:19; Eph. 1:18-23). We want to have the mind of Christ as we pray and boldly speak forth His truth (1 Cor. 2:10-16). God wants us to take His authority and command His power! We have to aggressively take the authority God has already given to us to see God bring the healing into manifestation (our authority and prayer of faith does not make a person healed, for only God heals, but it often does move the hand of God to bring about the healing – faith in God brings about powerful results). There are times when God might even reveal to us the reason for one’s sickness, and we must be obedient and display the “root” issue and command healing! There are times, however, when we might discern the voice of God wrongly, and it is crucial for God’s glory that we humble ourselves and admit our mistakes.
We must pray in faith and expectation, standing on God’s promise that it is His will that we walk in perfect health, but at the same time, leave the results up to Him (for He is the healer, and it is His business whether or not He heals a person immediately or not). Sometimes one is healed instantly; at other times, it can take praying for the person a couple of times (Lk. 17:14), and at other times one is not healed until heaven for whatever sovereign reason (Rev. 21:1-4). We, therefore, must extend love and compassion at all times.
We must also listen before praying for healing over a person. We must be sensitive to the Spirit to discern if there is a spiritual “root” or reason for the person’s sickness (we must have the mind of Jesus Christ – 1 Cor. 2:16, James 5:14-15).
In a church service, it is biblical to call the elders (or spiritual leaders) forward to anoint the sick with oil and to pray in faith for healing (this is not just any prayer, but the “prayer of faith”). Although James recommends this, all believers have the authority to pray for healing (see James 5:16; some also have the spiritual gift of healing in which God uses them more than others to heal the sick – 1 Cor. 12:9).
We must be moved with compassion and love for the people we pray for (Matt. 14:14; 20:34).
What part does medicine play in healing?
God can use medicine to heal, just as He can use prayer to heal. Due to us living in America, we have been blessed with doctors, hospitals, and medicine. Although not all medicine is suitable for people due to its side effects, God sometimes uses medicine to bring about healing. In fact, Paul recommended that Timothy use a little wine for his stomach, and oil was sometimes used as medicine in the Bible (Is. 1:6; 1 Tim. 5:23; Mk. 6:13).
Although we should be open to using medicine and use it at times, we must also seek God for healing. When we first get sick, our immediate response should not be to run to the doctors or the hospital, but rather pray to God to heal us and for us to take authority over the sickness by the prayer of faith! If we are still sick and in pain, we should proceed further in wisdom to get medical help.
Where does faith play into healing?
Faith is crucial and often necessary for healing, for God responds to the prayer of faith (James 5:13-17)! We must realize 100% that according to the Word of God, it is God’s will for us to walk in perfect health, soul, spirit, and body (Matthew 8:16-17)! We must look to God, the healer who heals the sick for His glory and our good! It declares in 1 Peter 2:24 that “…for by His wounds we WERE healed.” This is in the past tense in Greek, saying that Jesus Christ had already done everything necessary when He died on the cross and rose again to purchase all our healing (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically)! Therefore, we can declare it is God’s will (desire) that we live healthy lives and claim it absolutely by faith until we are healed of our diseases (for it is ours to claim as obedient children of God)! If we are genuinely saved and thus have God the healer living inside us, then we already have the source of our healing residing in us. Still, we must do our part and appropriate experientially what is already ours through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Now we must not deny the reality of our sickness and go around telling people we are healed when in reality we are not yet healed (faith is not presumption, nor is it closing our eyes to reality). We must declare that in the present, we are sick, but by faith, we declare boldly that it is God’s will that we are healthy and that we will pray the prayer of faith and not stop until we get the healing that is rightfully ours through our Lord Jesus Christ on this earth or the new heavens and earth to come (see Romans 4:18-22)! God will often not heal due to the lack of faith from either the one praying or the one being prayed for, due to God wanting us to corporate with Him (just as it is God’s will or desire for revival to come, but we must first do our part and prepare for it and seek God’s face). We must partner with God and do our part which is faith, and then God will do His part by His grace. The words “if, then” are all over the Bible, which is the beautiful thing about a relationship. If we will do our part, then God will do His part. But He often waits for us to make the first move (much like a chess game). We must not waver or doubt, but expect and believe for complete healing, for God uses prayer and faith to move His hand and change circumstances and people (1 Jn. 5:14-15; Matt. 7:7-8; 17:20-21; James 1:5-8)! At times God might also call us to fast for the sick so that they will be made well (Is. 58:3-9; Mk. 9:29). However, there are times when we, or others who we are praying for, do not receive healing for whatever mysterious reason, although we must continue to do our part and pray in faith expecting healing and standing on God’s Word that He desires us to be healthy. There are other times that God will heal despite our lack of faith (Matt. 8:10; 9:1-2; 22; 28-31; 15:28; Mk. 5:34; 9:23; 10:52; Lk. 9:41; Acts 3:4; 10:4; Gal. 3:5).
We must be careful of what some would call “the health and wealth gospel,” which declares that receiving God’s healing is as simple as having enough faith (although sometimes it is) and that God always decrees our healing. If we do not get our healing, something must be wrong with us (although sometimes this is true). These people also proclaim that it is always God’s will (in both decree and desire) that everyone is rich on this earth (although sometimes it is God’s will for people to be rich). This is way too oversimplistic and extreme and does not consider what the whole of Scripture has to say about healing and wealth but looks at isolated Scripture verses (often taken out of context). It is not always as simplistic (this is an oversimplification at its worst) as just believing (although, sometimes, faith in Jesus is all you truly need)! Sometimes, as discussed above, sin is involved that needs to be repented or a change in one’s diet, etc. Sometimes people must wash their hands more, take better care of their temple of the Holy Spirit, and live with more wisdom! Some twist scripture and misinterpret the Bible to devise a simple faith formula. They believe that their words always speak forth reality. It can become a tool to manipulate God's power and arrogantly demand God to heal if one is not careful. Although we have the authority through Jesus to command and claim to heal because healing is God’s will or desire (see 1 John 5:14-15), God does not have to do what we command just because we say so! God is all-wise and all-powerful and sovereign, and He will work with our faith, but in the end, He has final authority (not man). Besides being theologically incorrect, the problem with this view is that it hurts, can even destroy lives, and is cruel. The conclusion of this theology is twofold: if one is not healed right away, then it is the person’s fault (lack of faith/sin), or it is God’s fault (He is made to be a liar). We must be careful not to twist scripture and misinterpret the Bible by emphasizing some Scripture verses and ignoring others. We must look at Scripture in the light of the whole of Scripture and its proper context. And although what we speak is extremely important when it comes to faith (coupled with a belief in our hearts – see Romans 10:10), our tongues cannot manipulate the power of God. We should believe and thus expect God to heal but leave the results up to Him. One must be sensitive in dealing with people. If one is not cured, one must be careful not to blame it on his or her sin or lack of faith (although that can sometimes be true) or accuse God of being a liar and not caring about people (which is a lie, for he surely does love and care for us).
What should my response be when I am sick?
I must believe it is God’s will for me to walk in perfect health, claim it by faith, and continue to pray for healing and not give up (Matt. 7:7-8)!
I must be open to receiving the comfort of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ peace by surrendering all my cares to the Lord.
I must realize that it hurts God to see me in sickness and pain due to His compassion and love toward me and that He always desires to heal me.
I must search my heart to ensure there is no wicked way within me and no sin I must repent of and renounce.
I must ask myself if I have a healthy diet and then discipline my body with exercise and nutrition.
I must pray for others who are sick.
 Michael L. Brown, Israel’s Divine Healer (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 19. This refers to not only physical healing but also emotional, mental, and spiritual healing as well. However, this paper only deals with physical healing.  We must be careful of claiming that all sickness is connected to a specific sin. Although this might sometimes be the case, it is not always the case. Sickness is often a result of our fallen world and has nothing to do with a person’s specific sin.  In the case of Job, God did not send the sickness upon Job, but Satan did. God only allowed it to happen and turned everything around in Job’s life for the good – to strengthen and mature Job.  The emphasis in James 5:14-16 is on the prayer of faith, not on the anointing of oil for healing. The oil is important, however, for it symbolizes setting one apart or anointing one for God to heal.  We must be careful of putting too much emphasis on formulas for healing. Although what we say is very important, what God looks at and what impresses Him is our hearts. Faith begins in the heart of a person.  All Bible verses are taken from the NASB 1995 updated version translation of the Bible. For further reading on divine healing, an excellent book is “Authority to Heal” by Ken Blue and “Israel’s Divine Healer” by Michael L. Brown.