Christians can and should pray for healing. James 5:14 says: “Is anyone among you sick? 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”. We believe in a God who heals. He is called “the LORD, your healer” (Ex 15:26). He sent his servants Elijah & Elisha with a healing ministry in the Old Testament, and he sent his Son the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles to exercise a healing ministry in the New Testament.
But we need to see healing for what it is: it’s a camper, who owns a luxurious mansion, getting his leaky tent patched up. Of course, patching up a leaky tent is a good thing. Patching up a leaky tent is something to be very thankful for. But living in a patched-up, leaky tent is not very exciting compared to living in a splendid mansion. Paul compares our present body to a tent and our resurrected body to a “house…eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1).
So, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus was getting his tent patched up, for 20, 30, 40 more years (John 11:44). But what Jesus has really come to give Lazarus (and all believers with him) is an everlasting house – “the resurrection of life” (John 5:29). Lazarus was never meant to confuse more camping with his move into a mansion.
Bodily healing in this life is like road-side assistance from the breakdown man. Your car’s stopped on the side of the road and the breakdown-man temporarily fixes the issue and gets you back on the road. But you know the real problem is still there and needs properly fixing at the garage!
I’m all for praying for God to heal our mortal bodies, but what we really ought to be longing for is not a bit more mortality, but immortality!
It’s worth asking yourself: how excited do I get about healing? When I’m talking about God, is healing the main thing I think he does? Are most of my prayer requests for healing? That’s normally a sign that there’s some serious misunderstanding going on. It’s a sign the camper has forgotten he’s a home-owner. To borrow from C. S. Lewis: the trouble with prayers for healing is not that our ambitions are too large, but too small.
Friends, the Christian hope is not that God will extend your mortality by a decade; it is that “what is mortal… [will] be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor 5:4). By all means, let’s pray for our temporary, leaky tent to get patched up and thank God every time he does. But let’s long even more for the eternal mansion he has given us through Jesus Christ, and get much more excited about that!