The prayer of faith shall heal the sick, the Lord shall raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. James 5:15
God is moving through ‘signs and wonders’ in many regions of the world. Believers who exercise the authority that Christ has delegated to them often see healing and deliverance open some hearts to the Gospel and shut others. Even experienced practitioners in healing ministries admit there is much they do not understand about God’s will. May the following guidelines help you incorporate healing and deliverance effectively into your ministry!
1. Practice all of Jesus’ words
Let us apply the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples when He gave them authority over sickness, disease, and evil spirits (Matt. 10:1; Luke. 9:1). He then sent them out to proclaim the Good News, heal the sick and cast out demons (Matt. 10:8; Luke. 9:2). After Jesus’ ascension, his followers continued healing. The New Testament does not teach, as some Westerners claim, that Jesus later withdrew this authority from his followers. We too, may exercise this authority given by Jesus, just as his original apostles did (Matt. 18:18-20; John 14:10-13; 15:7-10; Eph. 1:15-23; 2:20-21; 3:14-21; 1 Cor. 12:7-10; Jam. 5:13-20).
Non-Western Christian workers easily embrace this approach. When I asked church planters in South Asia how they trained new workers, they said they train younger workers in healing and deliverance as a normal practice. Over two-thirds of the house churches in their network were started following a demonstration of Christ’s power over sickness or unclean spirits. They do not regard this as unusual.
2. Apply Christ’s authority boldly
According to the Gospels and Acts, rather than begging the Father to make the sick whole, Christ and his followers spoke directly and authoritatively to the sick, to their condition, or to whatever spirits may have been involved. Christ did not say this is the only approach to take, but it is the one recorded consistently in the Gospels and the Acts. This is also the approach of some with whom I have worked with in South Asia and East Africa. There I saw little petitionary prayer being made; rather Christian workers usually exercised the authority that Christ delegated, as his early followers did, and regularly see the sick healed and the oppressed delivered. When I myself started dealing with sickness and the demonic this way, I, too, began to see more folk healed.
Ministry with authority may require one to pray at length or speak repeatedly a word of command. In South Asia, a woman was brought to me for prayer. She could only see light and dark shadows. I spent a minute commanding the cause of the blindness to leave, in Jesus’ name, and for her sight to become sharp and clear. I then asked what she could see, and she said there was some improvement. I repeated this command twice more, until she reported that she could read the lettering on a poster from 50 feet away. This reminded me of Christ praying twice for a certain blind man (Mk. 8:23-25). Since the New Testament does not specify which approach to take, I suggest you study all pertinent New Testament passages, and let the Holy Spirit point out the approach you should take.
3. Persevere and work in a team
The early disciples were trainees who did not always get the desired results, as recorded in Luke 9:37-43. Many today see little or no results when they start ministering to the sick and oppressed. These have to keep on trying, without growing discouraged, believing that they will see results if they persevere. It can be very helpful to talk about this with those who do get good results dealing with disease or the demonic. Prayer offered for the sick by a group can prove highly effective, if time and circumstances allow. Also, keep an eye open for opportunities to work alongside someone who has an authentic healing ministry, or to include such people in your ministry team. Combining healing with ministries of the Word can be unusually powerful.
4. Look for those whom you can serve
You will see more needy folk set free, if you look for more opportunities to serve them in other ways. When others learn that your community service team also practices healing ministry, then you will get opportunities for Christ to show that his healing power which is the same yesterday, today and forever. Many workers with whom I have talked in South Asia go through neighborhoods and villages looking for a ‘house of peace’, by telling local folk that they pray to God to bless people, which includes offering prayer for the sick or demonized in the name of Jesus. Quite often, they are welcomed into homes and discover a house of peace in which they are able to start a church.
5. Deal with the whole person
While God heals whom and when He wills, certain factors are often seen in the lives of those who suffer from disease or the demonic. When these factors are dealt with, relief can come quickly. If time and circumstances allow, deal with the possible presence of these issues. Such factors include failing to forgive, bitterness, anger, resentment, known sin or disobedience, past involvement in the occult, false religion, and other unhealthy spiritual practices. Help the sick or oppressed to repent of their sins, to forgive and release others, or to put away evil practices. Doing so can lead to healing right on the spot.
6. Live with the unknown
No one will deny that much mystery surrounds healing. Some afflictions may be caused by spiritual warfare or other unknown factors, such as a person’s lifestyle choices. Disregard for fellow believers in the early Christian community once resulted in a good deal of sickness, even death (1 Cor. 11:30). When you minister to the sick, you will sometimes deal with believers who have a sincere faith yet are not healed. Even Paul, miracle worker that he was, once had to leave behind a sick co-worker, Trophimus, while he went on.
It is often unclear why some believers have great success in administering healing, while other equally committed believers have only modest results. It is easy to feel embarrassed (for oneself or for God) when a sick person is not healed. In those cases, it is good to remember that the love and care you show the sick can itself have a big impact on those present. Nevertheless, we believers trust that ‘it is to the glory of God to conceal a matter’ (Proverbs 25.2), so we keep the faith, trusting in the goodness and grace of God, even in the face of on-going physical suffering.
7. Honor Christ and bless households
Some sick folk, after being healed, may fail to follow through with faith and obedience to Christ. Whether healing happens or not, your objective should always be to lead entire households to become lovingly obedient disciples of Jesus. Healing, signs and wonders should only point to the Healer and Savior, the Risen and Ascended Lord of Heaven and Earth.
Healing is one of many ministries that open hearts and lives to the Good news. “Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” Acts 10.38. Even if you cannot duplicate Jesus’ results, you can still broaden your ministry’s scope and see much blessing as you put his words into practice, following his example.