FAITH, PRAYER, HEALING, WORDS
A. Introduction: For the past two weeks we’ve been dealing with some misunderstanding about faith and
prayer that are popular in many Christian circles today—specifically the idea that through prayer we can use
our faith and our words to change our circumstances. We have more to say in this lesson.
1. This topic came up because I’ve been teaching on the importance of learning to praise and thank God
continually—in the good times and in the bad times. Ps 34:1; Eph 5:20; I Thess 5:18; Heb 13:15; etc.
a. We praise God because it’s always appropriate to praise the Lord—to verbally acknowledge who
He is and what He does. And, no matter what is happening, there is always something to thank God
for in every situation—the good that He has done, is doing, and will do. Ps 107:8, 15, 21, 31
b. Continual praise and thanksgiving help us deal with life in this broken, sin damaged world, where
troubles, trials, frustrations, pain, and loss are unavoidable part of life. Praise and thanksgiving
help us keep our focus on God with us, as well as the life after this life. II Cor 4:17-18; James 1:2-4
2. Most of life’s difficult circumstances can’t be easily changed—if at all. Instead, we have to learn to
deal with them. Continual praise and thanksgiving to God helps us deal with them in a godly way.
a. These statements brought up the question: Can’t we use our faith and our words to change our
circumstances? Doesn’t the Bible say that we can move mountains and kill fig trees by telling them
to go. Doesn’t it say that we can have whatever we desire if we believe we have it before we see it?
b. These ideas are based on a passage found in Mark 11:22-24 that has been taken out of context,
misapplied, and turned into a technique we use to get what we want. It has become about us and
our faith (what we do) rather than about faith or trust in Almighty God (who He is).
c. We’re trying to clear up these misunderstanding. I realize that these last few lessons have been
challenging for many of you because they are contrary to a lot of popular teaching.
1. I’m hesitant to address some of these issues, not because I’m not convinced of what I say, but
because I don’t want to take anything away from people. If you’re moving mountains and
killing fig trees with your faith and words, I’m happy for you. Keep at it!
2. I also don’t want to confuse anyone. I realize that initially, addressing these inaccuracies can
raise more questions, since the idea that we can get what we want from God through our faith
and words has affected so many areas of our thinking.
3. There’s also a fear on the part of people that if we deviate from these ideas, we’ll be expressing
unbelief and we definitely won’t be able to move the mountain and get our miracle.
3. But, this interpretation of Mark 11:22-24 (we can use our faith and our words to change circumstances)
is not consistent with the Scriptures. And when it doesn’t work, many sincere Christians are left
confused, disillusioned, and angry. In the last two lessons we’ve made these points.
a. Everything in the Bible was written by someone to someone about something. To rightly interpret
any passage we must always consider who wrote or spoke, who they were speaking or writing to,
and how the original authors and hears would have understood the words.
b. Jesus spoke the words in Mark 11:22-24 to a specific group of men, His twelve apostles, for a
specific purpose. These men left all to follow Jesus. They were specially chosen by the Lord to
carry the message of His death and resurrection to the world after He returned to Heaven.
1. Jesus made this statement in the week leading up to His crucifixion. The Lord knew what was
ahead, and much of what He said was addressed to the apostles to help them accomplish what
He commissioned them to do once He left them. (Review the last two lessons if necessary.)
2. Many of Jesus’ statements to His apostles (including Mark 11:22-24) were assurances that He
would continue His work through them by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mark 11:22-24 is not
a statement to every Christian that we can get everything we want through prayer and faith.
4. In Mark 11 Jesus cursed a fig tree that had no fruit and the apostles commented on how quickly the tree
died. Jesus’ response to them was: Have faith in God (Mark 11:22, KJV).
a. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek word that is translated faith means
persuasion. It comes from a word that means to win over or persuade. Faith is trust, persuasion.
It is belief in the truthfulness, accuracy, and reality of any person or thing (Strong’s Concordance).
1. Faith is a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing. The main element in biblical faith
is its relation to the Invisible God. It’s faith in God (Vine’s Greek Dictionary).
2. This faith comes from hearing about God, who reveals Himself to us through His Word. We
hear about who He is and what He does, and it produces trust or confidence in Him. Rom 10:17
b. Christians are supposed to live by faith. We are instructed to order our lives according to our
persuasion of the reality of Almighty God, who is invisible.
1. II Cor 5:7—We live by trusting him without seeing him (J. B. Phillips); Through faith we are
ordering our manner of life, not by something seen (Wuest).
2. This is not a faith that changes circumstances. In one sense, we could say that it changes you
because if you truly believe who God is and what He says about Himself, then it will affect the
way you act and think. You’ll act in according with who He is and what He says.
5. The apostle Paul refers to another kind of faith called the gift of faith. It is found in I Cor 12:7-11, in a
list of nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are special ways in which the Holy Spirit manifests or
demonstrates Himself through believers to help them as they proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
a. I’m not going to do a detailed teaching on this, but some explanation is needed. Paul was writing to
correct abuses in the church in the city of Corinth. As he does so he gives us some information.
1. Paul wrote that these gifts are given as the Holy Spirit wills, for the common good. No one
“gets” one of these gifts, and from then on it belongs to him to use at will. I Cor 12:29-30
2. One of these gifts (manifestations or demonstrations) of the Holy Spirit is faith: special faith
(Weymouth); wonder-working faith (I Cor 12:9, Amp).
b. This is a supernatural faith that can change things or bring things to pass by the power of God. It’s
the faith of God. (The Greek in Mark 11:22 carries the idea, have the faith of God.)
1. You could not doubt if you wanted to. That’s how people through whom this gift has been
demonstrated in modern times describe it. A number of reputable Bible scholars believe
that this is the faith Jesus was referring to in Mark 11:22—special faith that enabled the apostles
to do signs and wonders.
2. This agrees with the accounts of the apostles’ activities Acts, where they performed signs and
wonders (Acts 5:12; Acts 14:3); special miracles (Acts 19:11); mighty signs and wonders (Rom
15:18-19); signs, wonders, miracles, gifts of the Holy Ghost (Heb 2:4); etc.
6. Jesus continued in Mark 11:23-24: If you say to this mountain go, and don’t doubt, but believe that
what you say will come to pass, you’ll have what you say. So, when you pray, believe that you receive
and you shall have. We see this in action in the apostles’ ministry after Jesus left this world.
a. In Acts 3:1-9 Peter and John encountered a lame man begging for alms at the Temple gate. Peter
said: I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give to you. The apostle took the man’s hand,
lifted him up, and immediately his feet and anklebones were healed.
1. Peter knew he had something to give (power from the Holy Ghost in Him) and, based on Jesus’
example and instruction, he believed that when he prayed, what he said would come to pass.
2. Jesus spent three years demonstrating this to the apostles. Jesus spoke to a fever and it left
(Luke 4:39). He told a man with a withered hand to stretch it out (Matt 12:13). He told a lame
man to get up and walk (Matt 9:6). He told deaf ears to be opened (Mark 7:32-34); etc.
b. For a lot of people today, this promise to the apostles Mark 11:22-24 has become a technique we try
to use to get our prayers answered and get what we want from God. We speak the right words.
We don’t say the wrong words. And we believe we have something before we see or feel it.
1. Following my last two lessons some of you had questions about healing and words: Am I
saying that we can’t pray for healing with expectation or that our words don’t matter? No.
2. I believe it’s always God’s will to heal, but the way we approach pray for healing is nothing
like what we see in the Bible. I also believe in the importance of our words and learning to
speak in line with God’s Word. But it has become a technique disconnected from trust in God.
B. Let’s begin to address these issues. If you’re familiar with the popular line of teaching that is based on Mark
11:23-24, then you know that it includes the idea of believing and saying that you’re healed before you see or
feel it. It also includes the idea that you shouldn’t say you’re sick because you are already healed.
1. We made the point last week that no one in the Bible believed that they were healed before they felt
better. When we read the New Testament descriptions of specific people Jesus healed, we find that
none of them believed or said that they were healed until they felt better. Mark 5:25-34; Mark 10:46-52
a. Some would respond to what I just this way: That that was only because Jesus hadn’t been to the
Cross yet, but we ARE healed because we were healed at the Cross when Jesus bore our sicknesses.
b. Let me ask you, why then does the epistle of James (written after Jesus was crucified) say that
Christians are supposed to pray for one another that we may be healed? Let’s read the passage.
1. James 5:14-16—Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and
have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer
offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well…pray for each other so that
you may be healed (NLT).
A. Three different times James says to pray for those among you who are sick—not pray for
those who think they’re sick but aren’t, or those who believe that they’re already healed but
still have lying symptoms, or those who are waiting for their healing to manifest.
B. Note the result of prayer according to James: They WILL be healed because the Lord will
raise them up. (Quick side note: Oil doesn’t heal. Anointing with oil is a symbol of
consecrating or committing someone to the Holy Spirit. Elders are people who know
what they are doing and can pray effectively. More on this in a moment and next week.)
2. James was Jesus’ half brother (born of the union between Mary and Joseph after Jesus’ birth).
He became a believer in Jesus after the resurrection and a leader in the church at Jerusalem. He
would have been aware of how believers prayed about healing after Jesus returned to Heaven.
2. Yes, but doesn’t the Bible say that with His stripes we WERE healed? And if we were healed, then
we are healed? This phrase is found in the New Testament (I Pet 2:24), but it’s been taken completely
out of context and put together with other verses also taken out of context, such as Mark 11:23-24.
a. Let’s get the context of I Pet 2:24. Remember, everything in the Bible was written by someone to
someone about something. Specific passages cannot mean something to us that they would not
have meant to the first readers. How would the first readers have heard I Pet 2:24?
b. No one who heard or read James’ epistle would have understood it the way we use it: I may have
symptoms in my body, but I’m not sick because by His stripes we were (I was) healed.
c. This epistle was addressed to Christians facing persecution for their faith in Christ. Peter wrote to
help them know how to respond to and endure suffering without wavering in their faith. He said:
1. I Pet 2:19-20—For God is pleased with you when, for the sake of your conscience, you
patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are
beaten for wrong doing. But if you suffer for doing right and are patient beneath the blows,
God is pleased with you (NLT).
2. I Pet 2:21-23—Peter reminded them that Jesus is our example of how to respond to unjust
suffering and persecution. Jesus never sinned. When insulted, He didn’t retaliate or threaten
to get even. He committed Himself to the Lord who judges righteously, and went to the Cross.
3. Then Peter wrote I Pet 2:24-25—He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin
and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but
have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (ESV).
a. Peter restated the purpose of Jesus’ death—to free us from the penalty and power of sin, restore us to
God, and make it possible for us to live righteously. No one in the audience would have heard this
as: Although I have a fever and am throwing up, I’m healed, because by His stripes I WAS healed.
b. Isaiah the prophet first used the phrase with His stripes we are healed in the great prophetic passage
recorded in Isaiah 53:5. Peter’s readers would have been familiar with this prophecy.
1. Isa 53:4-5—But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the
chastisement needful to obtain peace and well being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes
that wounded Him we are healed and made whole (Amp).
2. Isaiah’s point was that we, like sheep, have all turned to our own way, yet the Lord laid our sins
on Jesus, the suffering Servant. Jesus went willing to the Cross (suffered unjustly) so that men
and women can be restored to relationship with God.
A. Isaiah and Peter had much more in mind than just physical healing. Through His suffering
and death on the Cross, Jesus opened the way for us to be restored to our created purpose as
holy, righteous sons and daughters of God through faith in Him.
B. The same Cross that opened the way for us to be restored to righteousness (delivered from
the guilt and power of sin) opened the way for us to be restored physically by God’s power.
This includes healing and strength in this life and resurrection of the body at Jesus’ return.
4. If believing that you are healed while you’re sick and refusing to say that you’re sick is working for you,
then continue to pray as you have been. But it doesn’t work for most people, or we find out that their
healing was not supernatural—they went to the doctor and got it cut out, radiated out, or medicated out.
(I’m not opposed to doctors, medicine, or asking doctors to help. But that’s not supernatural healing.)
a. Believing you’re healed while you’re sick and refusing to say you’re sick is not the prayer pattern
we see in the New Testament. We see impartation of power through contact or laying on of hands.
b. When Jesus healed people He frequently touched them (Matt 8:3). When the apostles prayed for
people they also touched them (Acts 3:7; Acts 28:8). Before Jesus returned to Heaven He said
that these signs will follow those who believe. In my name, they will lay hands on the sick and they
shall recover (Mark 16:18).
c. Laying on of hands (for a variety of purposes) is a foundational Christian doctrine (Heb 6:1-2).
James’ epistle instructs the elders to anoint the sick with oil. This requires touch (James 5:14).
C. Conclusion: We have more to say next week about prayer, faith, words, and healing. But consider these
points as we close. Those who sought healing in the New Testament weren’t trying to work a technique to
get their healing. They went to Jesus, a Person, God Incarnate, for help.
1. When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, Epaphroditus (a man from the church at Philippi) visited him.
While in Rome, Epaphroditus became dangerously ill, but he was healed. Phil 2:25-30
a. Note how Paul described the healing: He surely was ill; in fact he almost died. But God had
mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have such unbearable sorrow (v27, NLT).
b. Notice, Paul said nothing about Epaphroditus having symptoms, but he believed God and got his
manifestation. Notice also that Paul called this healing a mercy.
c. The Greek word translated mercy means to have mercy or compassion. It assumes need on the part
of the one who receives it and resources on the part of him who shows it (Vine’s Dictionary).
2. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just trying to get back to what the Bible says. I do believe that the
lack of healing is due in part to the fact that there are so many non-biblical ideas about faith, prayer, and
healing. Until we honestly address these issues, I don’t believe we’re going to see much divine healing.