Who Needs to Have Faith for Healing?
Who needs to have faith for healing? Is it the minister? Is it the sick person? Is it some combination of the two?
I recently received a great question from a reader:
I have heard you say that if someone is prayed for and they do not get healed, that you don’t blame the person being prayed for — that they lacked the faith to be healed. How would you explain the women with the issue of blood? Jesus told her that it was her faith that made her well — especially since Jesus didn’t pray for her.
More importantly, Jesus tried praying for those in Nazareth, but He could only heal a few with minor illnesses because they lacked faith in Him. Doesn’t there have to be faith on the part of the one being prayed for so that healing can take place?
It’s a great question, and it’s important that we understand this well if healing ministry is going to become truly “normal” in the Church.
Who needs to have faith for healing?
To start things out, let’s settle why I don’t put any pressure on the sick person to have faith. It’s simple: Jesus never did.
There’s only one case in the entire Bible where someone tried to minister healing in Jesus’ name but without results. That was the epileptic boy. (See Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-29, and Luke 9:37-43.)
While Jesus was up on a mountain with Peter, James, and John, a man came to the other nine disciples with his son. The boy had been suffering seizures — but not just any ordinary seizures. These seizures would try to throw the boy into water or fire to drown or burn him. The man knew there was an evil spirit behind it, and he begged the disciples to cast it out.
But they couldn’t.
Jesus, Peter, James, and John came down off the mountain and found the disciples and the religious onlookers arguing with one another. (See Mark 9:14.) Whenever we have a lack of results, religious people raise accusatory questions, and we like to produce arguments. I don’t know what the disciples’ arguments were, but I do know what our arguments tend to be nowadays. We might say something like:
- “Maybe the little boy didn’t have enough faith.”
- “Maybe the boy’s father didn’t have enough faith.”
- “Maybe the boy or his father has hidden sin in their life.”
- “Maybe it just isn’t God’s timing to heal the boy.”
- “Maybe God wants to use this sickness to build character in the boy.”
- “Maybe God has a higher purpose, and this sickness is to bring Him glory.”
- “Maybe it’s all you unbelieving onlookers creating an atmosphere of unbelief and stopping the miracle.”
This last point is reminiscent of Jesus in His hometown. Jesus even identified the “atmosphere of unbelief” when He arrived on the scene and learned what was going on. After the boy’s father explained the problem and begged Jesus to do something if He was at all capable, Jesus lamented, “You unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to Me.” (See Matthew 17:17.)
Jesus identified that He was in an atmosphere of unbelief — an unbelieving and perverse generation. And then He identified that it wasn’t stronger than what He carried. “Bring the boy here to Me.”
Jesus cast out the demon, and the boy was free.
Matthew 17:19-20 – Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (NIV)
Did you catch that? Jesus didn’t use any of the excuses we like to use when people aren’t healed. He didn’t even say something like, “The Father wanted to use Me to do it,” or, “It just wasn’t God’s timing until I showed up.” No. He placed the responsibility squarely on the disciples as ministers and indicated that it should have worked for them the same way it worked for Him.
I’ll be honest with you: I don’t like that answer. Not everyone to whom I minister is healed. I’ve had people die on me. It’s not easy knowing what’s possible yet seeing people continue to suffer — especially when you know it’s God’s will to heal them. The easiest thing to do would be to turn to that bulleted list above and use any excuse I can think of to place the responsibility on anyone else. But if I assume it’s someone else’s shortcoming and that I’m doing everything right, then I’ll never change. Wisely, the disciples recognized that Jesus was able to do what they couldn’t, and they asked Him how to be more like Him. (That’s the key to growing in healing ministry.)
Jesus never placed the weight of responsibility on the sick person. In fact, if the sick person needed to be any part of the equation other than simply coming to Jesus to receive, then Jesus could not have had 100% results. You can’t tell me that the thousands of people Jesus healed all had “perfect faith” for their own healing and somehow it’s rare today. That wouldn’t be sensible.
“Your Faith has Healed You.”
Now we arrive at the more specific question being asked: What about the woman with the issue of blood and all the other people to whom Jesus said some variation of, “Your faith has healed you”?
To interpret the Bible effectively, we have to step out of our present-day shoes and walk with the people in the original text. See, we know the end of the Book. We know John 1:1, which tells us that Jesus was and is God. But the people who lived at the same time as Jesus didn’t know that. At best, they thought He was the Messiah, but they didn’t know He was God. Some thought He was a prophet. Most just called Him “Rabbi” or “Teacher.”
So whenever Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you,” He wasn’t talking about their perfect faith in God. If it was the person’s perfect faith in God that healed them, then they could have been healed without coming to Jesus because they didn’t know that Jesus was God. As far as they knew, Jesus was just some guy who God often uses to minister healing. In other words, Jesus was identifying their faith in Him as a healing minister to deliver what God wanted.
In fact, this was the problem in Jesus’ hometown. (See Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6; and Luke 4:14-30.) The text doesn’t blame an atmosphere of unbelief. That’s an assumption that modern day preachers have imposed on the text. On the contrary, it was their lack of faith in Jesus as a healing minister. They reasoned among themselves, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” (See Mark 6:3.) In other words, the people looked at Jesus’ earthly identity and said, “This is no Messiah! This guy put a roof on my barn a few years ago! What does He have to offer from God?”
The text doesn’t blame the problem on an “atmosphere of unbelief” that somehow rendered Jesus powerless. Rather, it identifies a lack of faith. Mark 6:6 says, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Similarly, Matthew 13:58 says, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” Again, we’re not talking about whether or not they had faith in God. We’re talking about whether or not they put any faith in Him as a minister to deliver what God wanted.
(If you’d like to look a little deeper into the issue of Jesus’ hometown, I’ll refer you to another article titled “Why Couldn’t Jesus Heal in His Hometown?“)
How to Have Faith for Healing
Throughout the New Testament, the only person responsible to have faith for someone’s healing is the minister. The only faith a sick person needs to have is faith enough in the ministers to go to them and let them minister.
James 5:14-15a — Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well… (NIV)
Whose prayer? The elders.
Whose faith? The elders.
All the sick person needs to do is go to them and let them minister.
(There’s more I’d like to say about this particular verse, but it would be off-topic. If you have some questions about who “elders” are or why this is the only place in the New Testament that prescribes “praying” for the sick, check out my video message “Effortless Healing.”)
The key to having faith for healing is realizing that you can touch Jesus through other believers. First Corinthians 6:15 declares, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” That means this whole thing about the Church being the “body of Christ” is more than a metaphor. If you touch a Christian, you’re touching Jesus.
The trouble the Corinthian church had, though, is that they missed this reality. Paul spent the bulk of his letter trying to convince them that they were all valuable members of Christ’s body. In fact, notice what Paul told them about why so many people among them were suffering and dying from sickness:
1 Corinthians 11:29-31 — For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [died]. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. (NIV)
The Corinthians were divided. When they ate meals as a Church, the rich had their own private suppers, and the poor people ate the scraps. They weren’t discerning the Body of Christ. They weren’t recognizing the value of each other — that in Christ, they were all one Body, each part having equal value. If we believers would realize that Jesus Himself sits next to us every single week in church, we might reach out and touch the hem of His garment. We might ask each other for ministry more often. In other words, we might put faith in each other as ministers to deliver what God wants. And the result would be that there would be fewer people among us who are sick and dying. Healing would become much more common.
(You can read more about this concept in my article “How to be Healed by Jesus.”)
Can You Minister to Yourself?
At this point, usually someone asks me if it’s possible to minister healing to yourself. Absolutely. There are plenty of testimonies of people doing it (in fact, I’ve done it a few times myself), and there’s nothing in the Bible that forbids it.
However, there’s also nothing in the Bible that prescribes it. And that’s great news. That means if you try to minister healing to yourself and don’t see results, then you don’t have to feel bad because it was never your responsibility in the first place. The only Biblical prescription for a sick Christian is to go to other believers for ministry.
We are encouraged to have faith in each other to deliver the healing God wants for us.
“What if you don’t know any Christians who believe in healing?” No problem. If you discern the Body of Christ and reach out to those believers in faith, a healing is still possible. Don’t give up. Jesus deserves to receive everything for which He paid, and your miracle may even awaken those believers to the truth of what God wants to do more frequently through them.
You Can Relax.
Don’t let anyone tell you that the reason you weren’t healed when they laid hands on you is because you didn’t have enough faith. If you went to them for ministry, then you had all the faith that is Scripturally expected of you.
Jesus raised the dead. Dead people don’t have to figure out how to receive. Dead people don’t need to have faith. Dead people just have to sit still and let someone else minister, and they’re generally pretty good at that.
And if you’re a person ministering healing to others, you can relax too. There is a difference between taking responsibility for a lack of healing and carrying the burden of it. The burden — the emotional weight of people not being healed — belongs to Jesus. (See 1 Peter 5:7.) It is possible to release the burden to the Lord and still go to Him in prayer to ask, “If You were here ministering, that would have worked. Instead they got me. What am I missing that You would have done differently?”
It’s also good to know that the responsibility is not solely upon your shoulders. If you try to minister healing in Jesus’ name without results, you don’t have to feel bad. You’re not that person’s last hope. They can be healed 10 seconds later by any other Christian. And if no one is able to deliver the healing that’s needed, then it wasn’t your personal problem anyway. In that case, the issue is that we all as the body of Christ are still being conformed into His image and likeness. We are still maturing into “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (See Ephesians 4:13.)
Who needs to have faith for healing? Well, it depends on what kind of faith we’re talking about. The sick person needs to have enough faith in one of God’s agents (really any Christian) to let them minister (they don’t even have to be sure that it will happen — all they need is to let the person minister). And the minister (again, any Christian) is the one who needs to put faith in God. As Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (See John 15:5.)
Healing ministry is not as complicated as we like to make it. Simply trust Jesus to do the work, and healing will happen.
July 19, 2018 @ 8:32 am
Good insight, Art. I remember pondering this question some time ago and after time and reading the scriptures, what came to me was that “SOMEBODY just had to have to faith”, whether the person being ministered to, another believer present ministering, or even someone halfway around the world who God called on to pray for some unknown reason. Faith is the tool that will accomplish the work (of connecting with God), no matter who’s hand it’s in.
August 9, 2018 @ 10:08 am
Your message is rocking my world. I have not seen healing taught/presented like this . . . ever!
Question > I just read the passage in Acts 14:8-18 where Paul & Barnabus healed the man without strength in his feet. Verse 9 & 10 ‘Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked.’ I guess you can figure out my question LOL Paul observed the man to determine his faith. Why would this be noted if it were not important?
Your ministry and testimony is so inspiring and encouraging. God bless you & keep you & your family!
August 26, 2018 @ 12:17 pm
Great question! Whatever conclusions we draw need to be consistent with what we see in the life and ministry of Jesus. So lets talk briefly about the framework first:
Jesus had 100% results whenever someone came to Him, called out to Him, reached out and touched Him, or had someone else come on their behalf. It wouldn’t make sense to suggest that every single person in Jerusalem and all the surrounding villages (where He had 100% results) had perfect faith in God, except for Nazareth. This is why I make the case that it was their lack of faith in Jesus as a healing minister (specifically, the Messiah) that would have caused them to not even go to Him for healing.
Biblically, the responsibility for faith always falls to the minister (that’s what this article basically covers), but technically anyone involved can have faith for the healing.
So in this particular verse, arguably one of two things is happening: Either (1) Paul saw that the man had faith in him as a minister to deliver a miracle from God (in other words “faith to be healed by Paul” — something that could arguably be “seen” on a person’s face), or (2) Paul saw with his spirit, discerning that the man trusted the message so completely that he could be healed without anyone but the man himself needing to have faith (something that is unquestionably possible, though admittedly less likely).
The reason I say it’s less likely is that the text appears to be implying that Paul was physically observing the man and seeing faith. I’ve seen this many times in my travels as people look at me with expressions of intense trust that I can deliver what God has for them.
That said, it’s also possible that the outward expression of trust in Paul was directly linked to an inward trust in God as well, so it could have also been some combination of the two.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m offering options because my real answer is “I don’t know.” There simply isn’t enough information in the text to draw a definitive conclusion. Since there are possibilities that support the framework I’m presenting, that means this verse isn’t necessarily problematic. But I wouldn’t use this passage to prove a point, one way or another. What I do know is that any assumptions we might make about this passage need to be consistent with the example set throughout Jesus’ life and ministry. And as we have seen in the article, He seems to identify people’s faith in Him as a representative of the Father.
June 25, 2019 @ 4:38 pm
You wrote, “Throughout the New Testament, the only person responsible to have faith for someone’s healing is the minister.” I could not agree more, and yet this idea is almost heresy in many circles. I’ve only recently started praying for healing with any serious intent, which is something I am ashamed of. Anyway, I have made the same observation as you, but I think you are the ONLY other person I have come across who says the same. Thank you!
I have been making my notes in a blog, but I have not quite made it to Matthew 17:14-21. When I do, I will make reference to this page.