As we've journeyed through the miracles of Jesus in our current sermon series, we've received several lessons for our Christian living. But one of the things we haven't addressed yet is what these miracles teach us about prayer, especially prayer for friends and relatives—and even ourselves—in times of sickness.
Given the vast range of Christian approaches to sickness and prayer, I thought it would be good for us to notice a couple of things that jump out from two of the miracles we've seen these past few Sundays. I think it will help us in our own prayers for the people we care about who are suffering with illnesses, handicaps, and impediments.
If You Are Willing
To start, a few of Sundays ago we saw Jesus' healing and cleansing of a man with leprosy (Luke 5:12-15). Of note was the leper's supplicating cry, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (Luke 5:12, emphasis mine). Do you hear the humility in the man's petition? If you are willing. As much as he wished to be healed and cleansed, he didn't demand it; he didn't impose his will over the Lord's. Instead, he submitted to the Lord's will.
What a great lesson for our own prayers! To begin, the man's humble request reminds us to approach the Lord with all humility (1 Peter 5:5). Furthermore, it reminds us to submit to the Lord's will, and even to pray for the Lord's will. "This is the confidence we have in approaching God," writes the Apostle John, "that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). The truth is, we don't always know what God's will is in matters of illness. God might will to heal some individuals from their sicknesses or disabilities in this life, but God might also will for them to live out their days with those sicknesses or disabilities until the day of their ultimate healing, when he calls them to their heavenly home. Which is why Jesus encouraged us to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10, emphasis mine). Jesus even exemplified this for us moments prior to being betrayed, arrested, and crucified for us: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42, emphasis mine).
This doesn't mean we shouldn't bring our petitions to the Lord. On the contrary, he encourages us to approach him with all our needs, including the needs of our friends and loved ones. But this does encourage us to pray for his will to be done and to be okay with his will, even when it doesn't align with our personal desires. If it were up to me, my Dad would still be alive on this earth, enjoying his family and enjoying his grandchildren. But that wasn't God's will, and I'm okay with that, ultimately because I trust that God's will is good and perfect (Romans 12:2). I may not fully understand it, but I trust his plans are better than my own.
As we bring our petitions to the Lord, I hope we're encouraged to pray like Jesus: "Lord, if you are willing... yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
Just Say the Word
Second, this Sunday we saw Jesus' healing of a centurion's servant (Luke 7:1-10). Of note was the Roman officer's recognition: "But say the word, and my servant will be healed" (Luke 7:7, emphasis mine). What a beautiful display of humble trust in the Lod's authoritative Word over creation!
And what an encouragement for our own prayers! We don't need to rely on richly worded prayers before the Lord or rebuking rhetoric against someone's sickness. Sometimes, we hear the prayers of others and think, "Gosh, if only I could pray like that!" But the truth is the humblest of prayers also reach God's ears.
This was certainly evident in the centurion's petition. "Just say the word," he said to Jesus, as he humbly relied on the Lord's authority to heal his beloved servant. He understood his own authority didn't matter, nor his worthiness, nor the worthiness of his words. All that mattered was the listening ears of the one Person with divine authority over sickness and death. Because, if the Lord willing, all he has to do is make an utterance, and creation obeys him. Just as the ocean waters listen to the limits commanded by God (Proverbs 8:29), so does illness leave a person's body at the command of the Lord.
I hope we're encouraged not just to pray for God's will to be done, but also to pray in reliance on God's authoritative Word rather than our own words. Thankfully, we don't need to make rebukes in our own strength. We also don't need to make claims in the name of our Lord, especially when we don't know if it's the Lord's will to heal someone. By God's amazing grace, all we need to do is come before the Lord with humble hearts: "Lord, if you are willing, all you have to do is utter it and it will be done. Yet, not my will, but yours be done."
May God's Spirit help us pray more and more in these ways as he helps us recognize our own lowliness and God's greatness.