Are We Promised Physical Healing?
Read James 5:15-16a (ESV)
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
What is the connection between confession of sin and prayers for healing?
I have seen some disturbing footage online from faith healers. They bring people up on stage, promise that the Lord will heal them, often using Scripture like these verses from James, and then make a big production of curing them. If a healing fails, the faith healer usually puts the blame on the sick person and their loved ones for their lack of faith. Sometimes they even blame those who are sick of having an unconfessed sin that is resulting in the sickness as discipline and preventing healing from taking place.
So the question is this: does the Bible promise us physical healing? Is that what James was getting at in today’s verses when he said that the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick”? What is the connection between confessing our sins and then being healed?
Throughout the Bible, we see examples of people who were physically healed as a result of their prayers. Jesus Himself made a connection between faith and healing. For example, in Matthew 9:20-22, Jesus healed a woman who had been bleeding for years. She believed that if she just touched His clothes, she would be healed. Jesus’ response to her was: “Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well” (v. 22).
However, there are also instances in the Bible in which faithful followers of Jesus did not experience healing and continued to suffer from various ailments even after prayer. The apostles had been given the power to heal. And yet, in 2 Corinthians, we read that Paul himself suffered from what he called “a thorn in the flesh.” He asked God three times to take it away but God did not. Instead, the Lord promised that He would give Paul grace sufficient enough to endure it (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
The truth is, we know from examples in Scripture and from our own life experiences that sometimes God heals and sometimes He does not. The bottom line is that God is sovereign over healing. He heals as He sees fit according to His will.
The other question is whether or not sickness is always the result of sin. Well, of course, we know that sickness entered the world because of sin. But that doesn’t mean that everyone in need of healing is being disciplined because of unconfessed sin. In fact, most of us endure sickness simply because we live in a fallen world. We should be careful suggesting to someone who is suffering that it is because of their personal sin (read the book of Job for more on that).
Still, sin can and sometimes does lead to illness. In John 5, Jesus told a man to get up and walk and he was healed. In verse 14, Jesus said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” In this case, the man’s suffering may have been discipline for sinful behavior. The issue for us is that we don’t always know the cause of suffering and to suggest that someone is being punished for sin when we have no evidence of that can add insult to injury.
Are we promised physical healing this side of heaven? No. Is all sickness and physical suffering the result of God disciplining us for our personal sins? No. So what can we take away from James’ words here? Remember, James’ purpose for writing this letter was to show the early Jewish converts to Christianity how to live wisely now that they are followers of Christ. In light of that, we should consider it wise to do what James suggests.
We know that God is capable of healing! But we don’t always know God’s will. So, when we or someone we love is sick, we should pray in faith, asking for healing, but ultimately submitting ourselves to God’s will trusting that He is sovereign. During times of suffering, it is also wise to examine our hearts, ask God to reveal our sins to us, and confess all of our sins to God and to one another. In fact, it is never healthy to ignore our sins but it is always wise to confess and repent regularly whether we are sick or not. If in fact, our sickness is being used by God to discipline us, after we confess and repent, God is faithful to forgive us.
Lord, today I bring to You my own health concerns and the concerns of others I know and love. I know that You are able to heal us but I submit to Your will. I trust that You know what is best for us and that Your purposes are for our good. I also confess that I have sinned against You in many ways. Thank You for being faithful to forgive. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
If you found value in this post, please share your comments, questions, and prayers with us!
Discipleship Tip: Sharing is discipleship. Invite a friend to join you each day for a morning coffee and conversation about God. Click the sharing button below to get the conversation started.