Is it always God's will to heal?

I recently have had some health issues. I heard a teaching the other day that encouraged me to find a scripture on healing, “claim” it, and if I had enough faith...God had to heal me...is this correct?

In a word, “No.” And I should add that this “name it and claim it” business is a very pernicious doctrine, and it’s based on some very questionable assumptions.

In the first place, these false teachers take passages of Scripture that speak about faith and prayer and they absolutize them. For example, they take Jesus’ words in Mark 11:23-24, in which he says,

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours…

These teachers take a passage like this and say, “See if you’re sick, and you pray in faith for healing—and praying in faith means that you believe you have received what you are asking for (not that you will receive it, but that you have received it)—if you pray in faith, you will be healed.”

These teachers will often take a passage like this and fail to qualify it with other passages of Scripture, some of which set forth various conditions to answered prayer, one of which is that we ask according to God’s will.

Now here, these teachers will say that it is always God’s will to heal. They have no Scriptural justification for sayings this, of course, but it doesn’t stop them from saying it. And why do they say it? Because they assume (falsely) that good health is a supreme good. Now, don’t get me wrong. We all want good health, and we all pursue good health, and we do well to pray for good health. But is it an ultimate good, such that everything else must be subordinate to it? Is it not possible that sickness might serve some other and even higher purpose?

The truth is, God is far more interested in our sanctification than in our comfort. And he sometimes uses trials of various sorts, including illness, as a means of sanctifying us—causing us to grow in grace—bringing us closer to himself and into a relationship of greater dependence upon him.

Not only so, but think about this: what if God wishes to use my patient endurance of affliction, perhaps an illness, as a means of leading others to Christ? Should I grumble and complain? How many of God’s choicest saints have demonstrated a patient and joyful spirit in the midst of their afflictions which has led unbelievers to inquire about their faith!

By all means, when we are ill, especially with some serious condition, we ought to pray and ask the Lord to heal us, as we ought to pray for loved ones when they are ill. But we should always say, “Lord, if it be Thy will.” Now, these teachers often say that if we say this—if we add to the end of our prayers, “If it be Thy will”—that this demonstrates a lack of faith. Believe it or not, this is what many of these false teachers say! I have never understood how they can say this. It seems to me that this is the most faith-filled prayer we could ever possibly pray. When we say “If it by Thy will” when we are asking something from God in prayer, we are saying, “Lord, I don’t know everything like you do. I don’t always know what’s in my best interest, or what will best serve your grand purpose. But I trust you. I trust your goodness and I trust your wisdom. I would like to be healed. I would like to be free from this illness. But Lord, you know best. So do whatever seems good to you.”

The Lord sometimes heals—sometimes through medical means and sometimes through a miracle. And we are always grateful through whatever means he is pleased to work. But if our conditions worsens rather than improves, we simply continue to entrust ourselves to him as our faithful God and Father. And we know that we have a new body waiting for us at the resurrection when Christ comes again. In that sense, yes, it is God’s will that all his people be healed. But for the time being we live in a fallen world, with a fallen body that is subject to sin, sickness, and death.

If you are sick, by all means pray for healing. And call for the elders of the church to pray for you. If God chooses to heal you, rejoice! If not, trust that he will give you the grace to endure.

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