What does it mean to pray for someone?
What are they really asking? If an unbeliever asks me to pray for healing for them, will God listen? Does God answer prayer even if we are out of whack with Him? Does someone who claims to be a believer, but ignores God’s righteous decrees, automatically get healing just because they ask? Or is persistent sickness or tragedy a sign of unconfessed sin? Should the believer concentrate on asking for healing, or asking for forgiveness? And is asking forgiveness just to get well, or restore a right relationship with God?
The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29, ESV)
Can a divorced believer ask for God to bless their divorce, or the results of divorce (like someone needing a job or day care or something like that)? Or will God only bless something in divorce for one of the people who isn’t at fault? And how do we determine fault?
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16, ESV)
Can a homosexual ask God to heal them of AIDS though they persist in the behavior? Can he ask for any kind of blessings or reprieve from judgment? Will God hear him if he needs a job? Or rain for his crops?
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12, ESV)
Moving on a little from obvious stuff like sexual immorality, how much evil can we get away with before God doesn’t answer, or stops answering, prayer? Is a little disobedience okay? Will the cosmic eraser of Jesus that the church preaches cover any iniquity, so let us sin that grace may abound? How much of His Law (or Word) can we ignore and still expect Him to answer our prayers?
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27–32, ESV)
What if He put things in His Law that have spiritual effects, such that we can’t see the connections but they are nonetheless connected? If we eat piles of bacon, for instance, is there a connection to illness? Maybe His Word and the physical and spiritual are more interconnected than we think? We know we can get sick from improperly prepared seafood, but just because there is no immediate affect from properly prepared seafood does that mean it doesn’t harm us?
You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. (Leviticus 20:25–26, ESV)
What are the spiritual effects of following His Laws? Is there a spiritual aspect to being sick? Does righteousness make us well? Is harm really random, or is it related to sin? Or is sin like mold on our souls, and the physical reaction is illness? Maybe it’s not just our own sin, either. Is there a spiritual corruption that emanates from other people’s sin and contaminates people around them too, such as is taught in God’s Laws of clean and unclean?
But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. (Leviticus 18:26–28, ESV)
Do we look to doctors first, or do we look to God first? Do we consult the database of His Word in every area of life, before we get sick? Are we taking preventative measures that are recommended by our Heavenly Physician before we consult and believe human doctors who don’t have a place in their worldview for God’s Word? Are we sick because we have a chemical imbalance, or because we have disobeyed?
It is possible to be afflicted by God for other reasons than our sin. The book of Job shows us that. Sometimes God afflicts to test us, and sometimes to build trust and obedience. But it is clear from His Word that sin is a big part of health (or lack of it) in many instances. And our heart is the one place where we have control. At the very least we should be aware of the possibility of sin and seek God’s cleansing by confessing and the washing of His Word before we pray for Him to remove the possible by-product of disobedience. It would behoove us to kneel on solid, clean ground every day in constant communion. It might go a long way toward not getting sick in the first place.