One day in one of the villages there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus he fell down before him in prayer and said, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.” Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there his skin was smooth, the leprosy gone. Jesus instructed him, “Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed self to the priest, along with the offering ordered by Moses. Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.” But the man couldn’t keep it to himself, and the word got out. Soon a large crowd of people had gathered to listen and be healed of their ailments. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. (Luke 5:12-14 MSG)
I am struck this morning by what the man says to Jesus in this encounter. He does not appear to have any doubt that Jesus can heal him. It seems, however, that he wonders if Jesus wants to heal him. “If you want to, you can…”
For most of my life I have prayed prayers for healing with this same kind of wonder. They sound something like, “God, if it is your will, please heal ___________.” I even had a professor in seminary who strongly encouraged us to, “not write checks we can’t cash when we pray for healing.” While all this may sound well and good and theologically safe and sound, ultimately it means I have spent most of my life praying for healing for people with little to no expectation that God will actually do anything. For much of my life I have been much like the man in this story… confident that God can, but not certain that he wants to or will.
Over the last few years I have spent more time around people who pray for and believe in healing differently than what I have been taught or have known. One of the things I feel like I am learning from them is to pay attention to things like the way Jesus actually responds to the man. I have a tendency to skip to what Jesus does, and be wowed by the healing itself. What Jesus says, however, reveals something about the character of God and about his kingdom come and coming to this world. The man says, “If you want to…” and Jesus says in response, “I WANT TO!” Don’t miss that. Jesus is expressing the will of the Father… and the Father wants his kids (all of them) well. So I have been learning to pray differently. Gone are the prayers like, “If it is your will please heal ________.” They have forever been replaced by prayers such as, “Father, I know that it is your will that _____________ be healed and made whole. I know that in your kingdom there is no sickness, so I pray that your kingdom would be made known in this place of brokenness.” Interestingly, as I learn to pray this way, I have seen first hand more healing, both in my own life and in the life of others.
Don’t hear me say that this is some kind of magic incantation, or that I have an understanding of all the hows and whys or that I have the answers to all of the questions that surround a challenging topic like healing. But do hear that in this, God’s supernatural power to intervene and bring healing and wholeness has become much more natural for me. My faith in God and my expectations of what God can (and will) do has forever been changed. It’s not, “writing checks that I can’t cash.” It is simply learning more fully to trust in who God is, and in what God wants for us as God’s family.