The woman in this story had been plagued for twelve years with an uncontrollable hemorrhage. Not only was this a humiliating and discouraging condition, but also her disease made her ceremonially unclean which meant she was to have no human contact, no friends to encourage her through her dark days and nobody to celebrate with her on a rare good one. This woman was in a desperate place. She tried every remedy and every doctor, while spending all her money on treatments, only to find that none of her doctors could do the job. And then in an act of complete personal poverty she turned to Jesus. She reached out in desperation, believing in Jesus’ goodness and His power to heal.
When we share an intimate relationship with God we learn that He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do. It is our relationship with God that inspires our confidence in him. When we approach God for healing we are trusting that He IS the answer to our great need. This woman’s incredible act of faith released a power into her life that she had never before experienced, and she was healed. The power for healing wasn’t in her faith; the power was in how her faith moved God’s heart.
We have to get beyond looking at prayer as a last ditch effort and see it from the perspective of God’s desire to respond to our need and act in our behalf for our greater good. Well-meaning people often say, “We’ve done everything else we can think to do. Now, all we can do is pray.” What a tremendously sad commentary. Many believers look at prayer as a last resort rather than as our first stop in combating illness and in coping with the issues that threaten to disrupt our lives. Through prayer we give God access to move and act in our lives in His way. We move toward God with great confidence, believing in his ability to bring healing and to restore us to wholeness.
Now, it needs to be said, that God most often today seems to be working healing through the medical profession. I think that’s the primary way that He is bringing about healing in our context. But even then, doctors don’t heal people, either. God frequently uses known medical treatments and procedures as agents of healing in our lives. Often the physical healing that results through medicine ignites a person’s spiritual life.
On the other hand, sometimes God uses miracles where we experience instantaneous, unexplainable healing. The Bible is swelling with stories of miraculous healing encounters. In some cases, God will empower certain individuals with the specific spiritual gift of healing. When we go for prayer to those with the gift of healing, or when we receive teaching from gifted teachers, or when we hear a prophetic word we must remember that the individual possessing that particular gift is only the vessel. When that gift is used in ministry, it is the Holy Spirit at work in and through them, rather than some power or ability which the individual possesses on their own.
So how do we respond? I think that there are two extremes that we can fall into when it comes to praying for people to be healed. One extreme is just not doing it because of lack of faith, or timidity, or theological construct that God isn’t doing this type of thing anymore. The other extreme is boldness masquerading as faith. “Let’s go clear out the hospital and then get some lunch!” There can be much damage if we are more interested in the power to heal than we are in the person who we would like to see healed!
You might say, “Well, of course, Jesus can do whatever He wants. And I’m even willing to grant that He can use pastors and people who have a gift for prayer and healing, but not me!” The reality is that if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit resides in you, and the same power that Jesus felt leaving Him to heal the woman in today’s Gospel exists in you. God is ready to heal a lot more than we are ready to pray. All we need to do when we encounter a friend with a problem is to get these five little words across our lips: “Can I pray for you?”
Maybe you are in a congregation that doesn’t “do” healing in the traditional Christian manner of laying hands on the sick and asking the Lord to make them whole. That’s how it was in one of my congregations. When we didn’t pray for anyone to be healed, guess what? No one was healed. But when we got bold enough to start doing it, we began praying for lots of people, on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday nights, and guess what happened? Some are healed. Most, at least 75% received some type of improvement. And yes, it’s true that some had no change at all. And while we wish everyone was healed, we know that it’s not our call. But again, the success rate was still much better than when we did nothing at all.
Finally, there may be someone reading this who is thinking that maybe God wants them to be sick and if He wants them to suffer, then it would be rude to try to get out from under His wonderful gift to them of pain, disease, suffering, and depression. Now, you DO realize that there is only goodness and life in God’s character, right? God is the author of life and wholeness–not the giver of sickness and death. That stuff comes from someone else is not God’s good and perfect will for you. So, then it’s O.K. to desire wholeness and healing, and God is eager to respond to our desire. What about you? Where do you need to experience God’s healing touch in your life? What do you need to receive from Jesus today? As we come here each week, what do we expect to take away? Transformation happens only when we open ourselves up to that person to person exchange with Jesus. God wants to heal our entire life by the presence and power of his healing grace and love.
Remember that God always makes the first move. Before you stretch out your hand to touch the hem of his robe, Jesus has already laid hold of you. He touches you in the water of Baptism, in the word of forgiveness spoken in the Absolution, in the Holy Eucharist. The Word and the Sacraments are where we may touch him and be healed of our sin and death. Here he speaks to us, creating faith, enlarging faith, feeding faith, praising and upholding faith: “Son, daughter, you are baptized. You are forgiven. Here is my body broken for you. Here is my blood shed for you. Go in peace. Be healed. Your faith has saved you.” The world refuses to believe this. Otherwise, it would be busting down the church's doors to get in on the gifts. Whether demons, the forces of nature, disease or death - everything obeys the voice of Jesus. Touch his garment. Trust his word. Do not fear. Only believe. Jesus will save you.
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Steve Stutz, M.Div., is a former mainline denominational pastor and certified Transformational Life Coach. As a spiritual director and coach, he specializes in helping busy people find their way through the challenges and obstacles that keep them from fulfilling their potential–in business, in relationships, spiritually and temporally! He works with individuals and congregations ecumenically and around the world. You can contact him via email at email@example.com