Many years ago, when I was a young deacon, I learned a lot from one older lady who has now gone on to be with the Lord. What I learned from her usually came in the context of Wednesday night prayer meetings. Her dedication to corporate prayer time, inspired me, motivated me, shamed me, encouraged me. Her prayers taught me a few things about approaching the Creator of the universe, calling Him Father, expecting Him to answer, trusting His answer to be right and best one hundred percent of the time. One of her oft repeated lines, which I vividly remember, centered on Isaiah 53:5, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.”NASU This dear elderly saint of God would regularly pray for physical healing for her friends. I thought about this a lot back then and I have quite a bit since then as well. We are commanded in Scripture to pray for the sick but I do not think Isaiah 53:5 applies.
There is a branch of Christianity that teaches that God wants us to be completely healthy and wealthy here and now in this earthly life. This teaching continues on with the assumption that if a Christian is not completely healthy and wealthy there must be something wrong with the Christian, specifically his faith. I admit there seems to be an understanding in the Old Testament Scriptures that points to a promise of earthly blessing conditional to our obedience to God’s commands. However, the entirety of the very lengthy book of Job is a weighty counterbalance to that idea. It seems to me that the point of Isaiah 53 is that the total package of Christ’s suffering (physical, emotional, spiritual) serves to pay the penalty for my sin. Having the penalty for my sin paid, results in a spiritual healing now and a physical healing in the next life. God can and does supernaturally heal individuals of physical ailments here on earth. I strongly suspect that when He does, there is another greater purpose. The healing is simply a component to advancing His kingdom.
Exodus 23:25-26 is another passage that the “prosperity” teachers use (or misuse) “But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.”NASU This is a pretty strong promise. I notice that God did many things during the early days of the New Testament church that He hasn’t really duplicated since. I am not saying that He cannot or He will not. He just hasn’t done them as a regular thing. The same is true for the time of His delivery of His people from Egypt, preparing them for entering the Promised Land, and actually entering into the Promised Land. It seems to me that this particular promise was needed to encourage the Israelites to enter the Promised Land. It also seems that this promise was needed to ensure the successful settling of the Promised Land. Methinks the promise is for them specifically at that time and place.
About the same time that I was learning about prayer from the elderly saint mentioned earlier, a deeply religious couple in our small community got a diagnosis of terminal cancer for the wife. I knew them but we were not close. She and her husband, refused to “receive” this diagnosis. They proclaimed a strong faith that God would physically heal her. For several days after her death, the husband put off burial, continuing with a strong belief that God would physically raise her from the dead. He did not. The facts are these: Everyone dies. No one is truly healed physically here on earth. Postponement is the best that we can hope for. Healing is reserved for eternity. Still we need to pray for the sick because God told us to.