One night at an Ohio home church, a lady asked for prayer for an impossible situation. As the result of an accident, her jaw was deteriorating; she’d grown fearful about her doctor’s report. As we prayed, we took authority over fear and commanded a creative miracle to take place. Later that night, we knew a miracle had happened when she tearfully told us her pain and fear about her prognosis were gone. However, her testimony got even better. The next week, she went to her doctor. Her jaw had shifted into its correct position, deterioration was reversed, and bone density had returned to normal. Understanding authority makes things happen in the heavenlies.
Each week our prayer list from around the world grows longer with more healing needs. Sunday morning services see great response to words of knowledge and general calls to come forward for physical, spiritual, and other requests. Many seekers are supernaturally healed, but sometimes healing doesn’t happen. A multitude of reasons may account for why some receive while others go away empty-handed. Basically, those ailing or praying don’t understand why healing occurs or doesn’t. You can be cognizant of your rights and authority in the Lord, but you also need to recognize your responsibilities. If you’re seeking a healing that doesn’t happen, maybe you should assess what’s blocking that healing.
A multitude of reasons may account for why some receive while others go away empty-handed.
What Did Jesus Do?
Jesus had been in the land of Genessaret, and many miracles had occurred as well as a confrontation with Jewish scribes and Pharisees (see Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). He left for Tyre and Sidon. Not wanting people to know He was there, He entered a house secretively (see Mark 7:24). His attempts to get alone, however, didn’t work. A Greek woman, a Syro-Phoenician, came in, fell at His feet (in Mark), and asked Him to cast a demon from her young (in Mark) daughter who was “severely demon possessed” (Matt. 15:22). Unlike other times when people asked Him to heal or deliver them, Jesus didn’t respond. She continued to ask, though (see Mark 7:26). He still ignored her, and disciples urged Him to send her away. This woman wasn’t deterred.
Mark says He finally acknowledged her. Before He answered, though, He said He was sent to lost Jews, not Gentiles (see Matt. 15:24). She again wasn’t discouraged. However, when her pleas didn’t get action, in desperation, she worshiped Him and said, “Lord, help me” (Matt. 15:25). His next words were negative, not acquiescing to a healing. He wouldn’t agree to heal her daughter because that would take the children’s bread and throw it to “little dogs” (Matt. 15:26). She answered that although what He said was true, dogs lying beneath the table could get crumbs that fell on the floor. That response touched Jesus. He expressed that her great faith had made her daughter whole. She was delivered that very hour (see Matt. 15:28). When the woman arrived home, her daughter was healed and lying in bed (see Mark 7:30).
Healing of the Gentiles
This story describes a major block to healing. Though Jesus often responded to desperation to heal and deliver, this time was different. Usually, He was willing; but for this one, He ignored the woman then gave her a reason for not healing her daughter. She was a Gentile and thus considered a dog. He’d referred to lowly animals earlier when teaching not to give treasures to “dogs” or to “cast your pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6), a Jewish allusion to Gentiles. She was a Greek, and healing wasn’t promised to sinners. Can you imagine your reaction if Jesus had called you a dog? Most would’ve given up or become insulted. Though she understood His analogy, she didn’t grow discouraged or respond negatively. Despite His reaction and words, she was still convinced of and focused on the Master’s abilities. She had a one-track mind, set on deliverance.
That connection between sin and sickness has been debated often and discussed. When you become saved, you receive salvation and healing. However, when you don’t accept Him as Lord, He’s not obligated to heal you. The psalmist said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66:18). In the New Testament, the blind man whom Jesus healed said, “God does not hear sinners” (John 9:31). Salvation and healing go hand in hand, so without salvation a piece is missing. I once read that “Asking for healing while refusing to be led by the Spirit [in salvation] is like asking a carpenter to repair the house while refusing to let him into the house.”1 Sadly, many want healing but not the Healer. However, that doesn’t mean unbelievers can never be healed.
Sadly, many want healing but not the Healer.
Naaman is an example of a Syrian rather than a Jew being healed after he obeyed the prophet’s word (see 2 Kings 5:9-14). The Roman centurion’s servant was healed by Jesus (see Luke 7:1-10). This healing of the Greek woman’s daughter also shows the unsaved can be healed. However, principles should be observed for that to occur. First, believe; then keep asking. Persistence breaks through that healing barrier, while giving up negates the blessing. Walls of sickness fall when you persevere. If you ask Him multiple times like this lady, He doesn’t forsake those who seek Him (see Ps. 9:10). Also, her reaction to His negative comments and His ignoring her speaks to me. She responded in humility, not entitlement or over-sensitivity when Jesus ignored her pleas or compared her to dogs. Emotional reactions aren’t what get His attention. Faith and perseverance touch the Lord, no matter who you are.
The Children’s Bread
Jesus’ alluding to the children’s bread as a healing block had meaning to the woman. Bread was considered sustenance, crucial and basic to life in ancient Israel and other cultures. It’s mentioned often for supernatural provision. Elijah was kept alive by meat and bread from ravens while Obadiah assured 100 prophets’ lives by hiding them in caves and feeding them bread (see 1 Kings 17:6; 18:4). When Jesus taught disciples to pray, He said to ask God to give “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). The enemy tempted Jesus with bread in the wilderness, and He’s the Bread of life (see Matt. 4:3; John 6:35). Like bread, healing is crucial to the body. Jesus said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (Matt. 15:26), but this woman countered by saying she’d settle for crumbs the dogs eat that fall from their master’s table. That use of master tells me she understood who was in control. The Greek word for crumbs is psichion, “a little bit or morsel.”2 She had such faith in the Master that she realized a morsel of healing from Jesus would be sufficient to deliver her daughter. A crumb from the Master brings great things.
I love His calling healing “the children’s bread” because other references to bread and children exist. Jesus explained that if a son asks his earthly father for bread, a fish, or an egg, even flawed human fathers won’t give that son a stone, serpent, or scorpion (see Luke 11:11-12). You love your children enough to provide their needs and desires; so you give good things, not bad. Knowing that, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). God is kinder and greater than human parents, so you can expect good things when you ask for bread, your healing. Luke quotes Jesus’ words and specifies one of those good things—Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13). Jesus came to earth to teach, heal, and deliver in Holy Spirit’s power. Through Holy Spirit, you’re assured of healing, not sickness, because that would be a stone instead of bread. Healing is God’s children’s bread, and His will is to heal them. He won’t give you anything else but that healing. Not a stone or serpent or scorpion.
Fear is an enormous block that impedes healing because it ties God’s hands. This Gentile woman believed in her being that Jesus was the Answer to her daughter’s needs, so she persisted until He healed her. She demonstrated an important principle: Great faith rather than fear touches Jesus (see Matt. 15:28). She wasn’t a Jew, but she knew He was the Lord. She called out like Bartimaeus did—“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David” (Matt. 15:22). At times, have you felt He was ignoring your pleas? When you think He isn’t listening, you may grow angry, fearful, or discouraged. However, many of Jesus’ stories show that faith and determination are linked together. What if this lady had given up instead of persisting or had operated in fear instead of faith?
In a different deliverance, Jesus addressed how fear makes you ineffective in healing. After the Transfiguration, He came down from the mountain, and a great multitude with healing needs awaited Him, including a difficult deliverance (see Matt. 17:14-21). One man approached with his epileptic, mute son. A demon caused intense manifestations, including bruising when it left him. The boy’s dad told Jesus that disciples had tried but couldn’t cast it out, so He told them the necessity of preparation. Another issue He mentioned was their “unbelief,” or fear that something is too big for God (Matt. 17:20). I understand their inability to exorcise the demon that displayed so powerfully. That could impact even the most spiritual. However, looking at symptoms, allowing fear to creep in, or being dumbfounded by manifestations are significant blocks to receiving or facilitating healing and deliverance. They’re all parts of fear. After Jesus rebuked disciples for not healing the boy, they brought him to Jesus, the spirit became evident, and He cast it out.
Many who seek healing come with gentler words that still speak fear: “I’m afraid, scared, stressed, concerned, upset….” Fear sounds better when you call it worry, but our former pastor used to say, “Worry is fear, and fear is sin” (see Rom. 14:23). Jesus said not to worry about necessities in your life—food, clothing, drinks—because your worry accomplishes nothing (see Matt. 6:27). As you minister to others or believe for your own healing, “God has not given [you] a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). As Peter strolled across the water toward Jesus, he proceeded fine while he looked at the Lord and not at the wind and waves (see Matt. 14:29-30). When he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the situation’s difficulty, fear slapped him in the face, and he sank. During one storm, Jesus asked disciples, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” He then rebuked the storm, not those who came to Him for an answer (Matt. 8:26). As you come, He welcomes your seeking Him then rebukes your life’s storms. However, approaching Him shouldn’t be because of fear. Whether you face powerful demons or boisterous waves, fear can’t be part of an overcoming scenario. Paul says not to be anxious about anything but to give requests to God who gives peace (see Phil. 4:6-7). Fear is a crippler and negates God’s plan.
Doubt and Unbelief
Doubt and unbelief are byproducts of fear and a deterrent to receiving or being used in healing. Unbelief blocks faith and consequently healing. Paul mentions “an evil heart of unbelief” (see Heb. 3:12). “Evil” is a strong word to describe something that many Christians exhibit regularly. He later identifies unbelief as the reason the children in the wilderness couldn’t enter the Promised Land (see Heb. 3:19). Unbelief hinders your entering your own promised land of healing. Before Jesus delivered the possessed young man, his father voiced his belief but also for Jesus to help his unbelief. That’s a wonderful thing to ask the Lord. Jeremiah reminds you nothing is too hard for God (see Jer. 32:17), but unbelief ties His hands.
That’s happened many times as people asked me for prayer. However, their words of unbelief and skeptical looks said doubt would impede healing. If you don’t guard against it, doubt tiptoes in and seeds are planted into your spirit—internet articles, symptoms, a doctor’s report, well-intended words. That’s why asking Jesus to help your unbelief is important if your faith feels shaky. Once the boy’s dad got beyond the doubt, Jesus could do His work. As He healed the young man, He rebuked the unclean spirit and commanded it to come out. The spirit cried out, sent him into convulsions, exited, and left him as dead. As Jesus took his hand and lifted him, the boy arose. Then Jesus gave him back to his dad (see Mark 9:25-27; Luke 9:42). Doesn’t that paint a picture of you with your heavenly Father? Jesus heals you and lays you in the Father’s arms of love and protection. The tighter you hold on to Him, the tighter He holds on to you.
When Jesus taught about mountain-moving faith, the first part of His instructions were to, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). What a simple, yet profound statement! He follows it by saying if a person speaks, doesn’t doubt in his heart, but believes, he’ll have his answer (see Mark 11:23). After they saw the withered fig tree, Jesus taught disciples that whatever they “ask[ed] in prayer, believing,” they’d receive if they didn’t doubt in their hearts (Matt. 21:21-22). The word He used for doubt is diakrino, “which connotes a conflict with oneself, in the sense of hesitating…wavering between hope and fear.”3 Instead of speaking to mountains to be gone, you erect mountains by fear and doubt coming from your heart through your mouth. I like that He mentions the heart as the place you should purge doubt. Your heart is the core of your being; if you want to be healed, doubt has no place there. Faith is in your spirit man, not your logical man. Despite what logic says, you should listen to faith and not let doubt drive results. Conflicts occur as fear and doubt sneak in, but doubt can’t be present for healing to take place. Asking petitions of God with doubt in your heart makes you unstable (see James 1:6). F.F. Bosworth says: “If the farmer, without any definite promise, can have faith in nature, why can’t the Christian have faith in the God of nature.”4 I want to add something—have faith in the nature of God. When you do, doubt can’t be there.
Another block to healing is placing limits on God. In Matthew’s version of the boy’s deliverance, Jesus told disciples that if their faith were as a grain of mustard seed, the impossible would happen. Then, in Mark He reiterated to the distraught father that, “If you can believe, all things are possible” (Mark 9:23). Belief is having faith for all things; unbelief limits that. In Jesus’ statement, believe is pisteuo, “to trust in, have faith in, be fully convinced of, acknowledge, rely on.”5 Being fully convinced of His ability allows you to know that all things include no exceptions for big needs. Jesus gave a qualification for receiving—you must believe healing will happen. Belief is total pisteuo on Jesus’ ability and that when He says “all things are possible,” nothing is excluded. That includes whatever seems far too massive to repair—a body riddled with cancer, a womb that can’t conceive, a son so badly possessed demons throw him in the fire. John says you don’t receive just a limited amount of/from Him. Because of Holy Spirit, you can get all you want of God (see John 3:34). You settle for too little when all things are accessible.
One Sunday morning after I had a word of knowledge, a mother stood in the prayer line for her daughter. She told those of us on the altar team about her daughter’s problems then asked us to pray that doctors would discover what was wrong. That request is typical of doubt about the Lord’s all things capabilities. I told her to set her sights higher on what Jesus Himself could do for her—the all things to which she’s entitled. Many settle for less than they have available as King’s children. Though Jesus often uses a surgeon’s hand in healing, the surgeon isn’t the healer, just an educated man. Jesus created you then paid for your healing, even for what doctors can’t diagnose. Can you wrap your mind around that promise? All things!
Many settle for less than they have available as children of the King.
Ready and Able
Another block to healing is not being prepared. As David was going to kill Goliath, King Saul offered his armor, but David refused because he hadn’t tested it (see 1 Sam. 17:39). Instead, he used rocks and a slingshot that had served him well in the past, so he was equipped for victory over the giant. When you minister, if you haven’t prepared, you arrive at your battle with no armor or with untested armor. Prayer, especially, makes you comfortable in the battle because God, not man, equips you. Jesus prepared often through prayer, so He was ministry-ready. His secluded time readied Him for healing needs. Once, for example, He rose before daylight and went to a solitary place to pray when Peter and others came looking for Him to tell Him some were seeking Him (see Mark 1:35-39). After Jesus healed the man’s possessed son, He told how lack of preparation can block healing. Disciples asked why they couldn’t cast the demon out, and Jesus explained that, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). Those who operate in gifts of healing and miracles must show up ready and able to effect healing and deliverance. If you know you’ll be going to a service where you may be called upon to pray for others, you should arrive ready.
Jesus’ inner circle learned about preparation in Gethsemane (see Matt. 26:36-46). Although He’d already told them what was to come, they didn’t have the full picture. He left to pray regarding His rapidly approaching ordeal. Three times He returned; disciples were sleeping and not praying, despite His telling them twice (see Luke 22:40, 46) to “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40). That admonition became reality. As a result of their lack of prayer, when events of the next few hours unfolded, they weren’t ready for what happened and thus entered into the temptation of which He’d spoken. The “disciples forsook Him and fled” while Peter denied Him (see Matt. 26:56, 70). Had they been prayer-ready, choices would have likely been different.
Being prayer-ready when I know I’m going to minister has served me well over the years, but sometimes the prayer need isn’t planned. One afternoon as I went into our local Walmart, an elderly minister was leaving, looking pale and thin. He told me he was suffering from a serious condition. When I said I’d pray, he settled on the end shelf of an empty checkout counter at the store’s entrance. His pain showed in his expression as he looked into my face. Many with disapproving glances walked by faster; but I still prayed with my hand on his head, gray from many years of prayer for others. As I finished, he stood up, moved around, stretched, laughed, and declared the pain was gone. That unplanned encounter touched that man who’d given a great portion of his life into God’s ministry. As an added bonus, not everyone scurried by. While he and I were still talking, two others asked for prayer. That wasn’t a time I’d anticipated needing to be prayer-ready, but how grateful I was that I had gone prayed-up.
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