Proximity Healing

As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Mark 6:54-56

A guy in my church came down for prayer after our service was over on Sunday. He wanted prayer for his foot that had been bothering him for some time. When we prayed, he immediately started to feel heat all over his body to the point where he started sweating. The Presence of God was on him in an intensified way. As I continued to pray for his foot, the pain left. The prayer time took no more than 5 minutes. Jesus healed his foot right there.

But why ask someone else for prayer? Why go to someone who has seen people physically healed before and ask them to pray for your physical ailment? Can’t we just pray on our own? Doesn’t God just heal whomever He wants whenever He wants? Why would the book of James recommend that we go to particular people for prayer?

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; the Lord will raise them up. 

James 5:14-15

In the time of Jesus, people traveled long distances carrying their loved one on a mat just to get them near Jesus. Proximity mattered. They wanted Jesus to touch them or for them to touch the edge of Jesus’s cloak. Either way, power seemed to be coming from Jesus that was bringing physical healing to people. Jesus was a touchpoint, a conduit, of God’s power. So they traveled to get near Jesus wherever He was. The Gospel of Luke says it this way:

…a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke 6:17-19

But couldn’t God just heal all those people in their own homes? Couldn’t God just heal them in their own synagogues? If God really wanted them to be healed, couldn’t God just answer their prayers for healing right where they were? Why would God have them travel to Jesus to get healed?

The answer is, “Yes.” God could have healed each of these people right in their own homes and in their own synagogues. He could have sovereignly healed them right where they were. But He didn’t. Just like He could have healed my friend in my church who came forward for prayer. God could have answered His prayer for healing right in his own bedroom. But God didn’t. God chose, instead, to use me as a touchpoint of His grace, a conduit of His power, in order to heal. This is something that is a regular pattern for God.

When God flows through us, through the Holy Spirit, to bring healing to someone else, we are functioning like a spring of water. Sovereign healings are like rain. Someone in ancient times could wait and say, “If God really wanted me to have water, He would send rain.” And there is some truth in that. But understanding the ways of God is really important. Another way God provides water is having people travel to a spring, or to a well, to collect water. People shouldn’t just wait on rain; they must travel to that spring if they want water.

Waiting on rain isn’t always always an act of faith. Often it is an act of misunderstanding the different ways that God provides water for us. The same is true of healing. Waiting for a sovereign healing is sometimes an act of faith. But often, it is simply a misunderstanding of the different ways that God provides healing for us. Sometimes we must travel to a source of healing, a place or person where God is regularly pouring out His healing through the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 28).

So we should always pray for our own healing and ask God to bring healing. But sometimes we must go to the wellsprings of healing. This means seeking prayer from those within our church who operate in gifts of healing. It also might mean traveling to people and ministries who specialize in gifts of healing and miracles.

In Jesus’s day, people could have stubbornly stayed home and reasoned with themselves, “If God wanted to heal me, He would do it wherever He wanted and whenever He wanted.” But this is a misapplication of the truth of God’s sovereignty. Those who traveled to Jesus got healed. Those who saw the power of God pouring out of Jesus, and understood that proximity mattered, picked up their friend on a mat and did whatever they could to get them in front of Jesus. They understood that sometimes God sends rain to us and other times we must go to the wellspring for water.

We need to be ready in faith to travel, to go to where God is pouring out His healing power. We need to be able to identify healthy springs and go to them. We need to have enough wisdom to discern the difference between the charlatans and the real servants of God. Going to someone who has gifts of healing still does not guarantee our healing, but it acknowledges one of the primary ways God brings His healing into this world.

Words of Knowledge for Healing

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Mark 10:46-52

Sometimes on a Sunday morning before church, I’ll ask God if He wants me to focus on praying for anything in particular in the church service that morning. Sometimes I don’t hear anything. Sometimes I sense that He wants me to invite people to give their lives to Jesus or pray for people dealing with emotional needs. Other times I will hear a particular physical ailment to pray for.

I want to be obedient to do whatever it is He asked me to do. People tend to be fine with me praying for salvation or for emotional healing. Yet, when I pray for physical healing, that can sometimes cause some discomfort in the room.

The reason I pray for healing like this is multifaceted. I’ll admit that I don’t always hear the Lord correctly. My gifts have a lot of room to grow, and I am still a work in progress. But here is why I try:

1) The Lord has given me spiritual gifts that I want to faithfully steward. This requires their use. I want others to discover their gifts and put them to good use as well.

2) I want to take risks of obedience that don’t always make rational sense. I want to model obedience over rationalism and skepticism.

3) I believe it is loving to pray for healing. Those who desperately desire to be physically healed tend to love healing prayer. Those who live with the privilege of a healthy body sometimes don’t.

4) The Sunday morning worship service is my workplace. Praying this way is me stepping out in faith at work. I want people in our church to do the same. I want them to sit at their work desk, ask the Holy Spirit who and what they should pray for that day, and then obey…even if it doesn’t make sense…even if it is a little awkward.

5) I want to see people get miraculously healed in our midst. I’ve seen it happen a lot at our church. I want to continue to see it happen more and more. The only way for it to continue is for us to continue to step out in faith and ask for it.

6) I want to normalize the supernatural side of the Kingdom of God. I believe this is what following Jesus was always meant to be. This is what Christianity looks like in the rest of the world. The church in the West is lagging behind. Healings, signs & wonders, casting out demons, words of knowledge, prophesy, prophetic dreams, encounters with the Holy Spirit…I want all of it to become “normal Christianity” for my whole church just as it has become normal Christianity for me and some others. This is what following Jesus looked like in the Gospels and the book of Acts. This is what normal Christianity currently looks like in the Southern Hemisphere of the world and in the East.

A “word of knowledge” is a supernatural download of information from the Lord to our mind from the Holy Spirit. It’s often about another person. It is one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Many followers of Jesus have gotten little bits of information about people from the Spirit and didn’t know that’s what was happening. Maybe they didn’t know it was the Holy Spirit or that it was a gift meant for the church. A word of knowledge for healing is a supernatural download of information about someone else’s physical illness as an indicator that God wants to heal it.

I was asked by a friend if standing up and giving a word of knowledge and then praying for healing was ever in the Bible. It’s a question that is rooted in legitimate skepticism about the charismatic tradition and the abuses of televangelists in the past.

There are a few things that came to mind when this question was asked. First, you can’t read more than two paragraphs of the Gospels without Jesus healing someone, performing a miracle, or casting out a demon. Healing was a regular, daily part of Jesus ministry and the ministry of the disciples.

Secondly, one must believe that Jesus used supernatural gifts of the Spirit to do His supernatural ministry in order to find an example of Jesus using “words of knowledge.” Some Christians believe Jesus just used His divinity to do all of His miracles. But if one holds this view, then we could never expect to find any example of Jesus using any of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.

I do believe Jesus used the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in order to set an example to His disciples and to us. If He simply used His divinity, we could never follow His example (something we’re asked to do repeatedly). And I do believe that, in many of these scenarios of healing, Jesus used what we would call a “word of knowledge” to determine the source and identity of the illness. We see this specifically with the crippled woman in the synagogue in Luke 13:10-17 and the demonized boy after the Transfiguration in Mark 9:14-29. In both cases Jesus supernaturally diagnoses the source of the physical ailment and the solution. These were words of knowledge for healing (maybe with a little “discerning the spirits” mixed in, another gift listed in 1 Corinthians 12).

I also believe there were lots of instances with Jesus that resemble what we do when we give words of knowledge for healing in a church service. For instance, when the demon in the man at the synagogue in Capernaum starting yelling at Jesus, He immediately cast the demon out of the man in front of the whole congregation (Mark 1:21-34; Luke 4:31-37). We likely wouldn’t be that bold in our church. We’d likely drag the person off to the prayer room and do deliverance there. In other words, in so many ways, we are much more tame with the supernatural than Jesus ever was.

We know that Jesus dropped a bunch of words of knowledge on the woman at the well, and these words of knowledge actually exposed her sin (John 4:1-42). We would rightly hesitate to be so bold as that! Yet Jesus didn’t hesitate at all. The woman’s own testimony was, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did!” Again, we are much more tame with the supernatural than Jesus ever was.

But the scenario that most resembles doing words of knowledge for healing in a church service is the interaction between Jesus, the disciples, and blind Bartimaeus. Here is the sequence from Mark 10:

  1. Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus for healing.
  2. Jesus sent a message to Bartimaeus through His disciples indicating that Jesus wanted to heal him.
  3. The disciples delivered the personal message to Bartimaeus in the midst of a large crowd of people.
  4. Bartimaeus identifies his need for healing, his desire for healing, and his faith for Jesus healing him.
  5. Jesus heals Bartimaeus through the conduit of Bartimaeus’s own faith.

That same chain of events is what happens when a person gives a word of knowledge for healing in a church service. Jesus is sending a message through a disciple that indicates what Jesus wants to do. That person/disciple must be obedient and say what they heard. The person needing healing then responds in faith, acknowledging their need and believing that Jesus wants to heal them in that moment. Their faith becomes a possible conduit through which Jesus heals them.

I’ve personally seen this happen a number of times in a number of different worship services. And once you’ve seen it once, you believe it can happen again and again. But it requires obedience and faith, both on the part of the “disciple delivering Jesus’s message” and on the part of the “Bartimaeus” in the room.

Even after all of these biblical examples, I understand the skepticism that still may exist. There have been abuses with this kind of healing ministry in the past in certain streams of the church. It makes sense that people would be wary of the improper use of words of knowledge for healing. Someone may read all of the above and respond with something like, “Yeah, but we aren’t Jesus. His ministry was different.” I get it. But to this objection I would offer Jesus’ own words.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 

John 14:12

I am fine with the critique that argues that there are better ways to pray for healing in a church service than doing words of knowledge for healing. Maybe so. If so, let’s discover what those are. But I believe not praying for healing is just not an option for churches moving forward. The churches around the world that are growing are the ones who are fully embracing the gifts of the Spirit. Our post-Christian culture is resembling the rest of the world more and more. And so, I believe we must resemble the faithful global church more and more.

Consider the possibility that you have already been getting words of knowledge and just didn’t know what they were. Maybe you don’t use that terminology, or maybe you didn’t know it was a gift of the Spirit. Yet, many of you reading this right now have experienced the Lord give you a small nugget of information about someone through the Holy Spirit that you couldn’t have possibly known otherwise. Consider how God may want to use that gift in your life to love others. Could seeing others get healed be a part of that?

One Thing I Do Know

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

John 9:24-25

Jesus spit on the ground, made mud, and put in on the blind man’s eyes. Then Jesus told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man went and washed and came home seeing. People were astonished. The man’s neighbors couldn’t believe it. His own parents couldn’t believe it. But the Pharisees had the hardest time believing it.

The man told the Pharisees his testimony about Jesus but they were sure Jesus was not from God. So they asked the parents to confirm the story. Still in unbelief, they asked the man to explain his healing again.

What I love about the man’s second response is that he confesses his own lack of theological acumen. He is not a scribe. He is not a scholar. He can’t break down Torah law like a professor. All he knows is his testimony. He was blind and now he can see. And this is the heart of every follower of Jesus.

This is also why I love praying for people and leaning into the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. You can find me most Wednesday mornings praying for someone in an extended prayer session of two to three hours. My prayer partner and I do a lot of listening to the Holy Spirit during these prayer sessions. We try to follow His lead. We engage in the gifts of discerning the spirits, healing, prophecy, impartation and the like. We see the power of God move as we pray. It is truly an amazing and humbling experience.

But the best part is yet to come. The best part is the testimony emails that we get a few days later. When the Presence of God comes in power, people are changed. People are set free from demonic oppression. People are healed in their soul. People are healed in their bodies. People reconnect with the love of the Father and are forever changed.

If you want to read some of these awesome testimonies, we’ve collected some of them here. We received a recent testimony from a person we prayed for. They had felt anger and bitterness in their chest for a long time. This person wrote to tell us that on their drive home from work two days after our prayer session they realized that feeling was gone. God had lifted it off their chest and it wasn’t there anymore. Instead, the Lord had filled them with peace. Upon realizing this, the person broke down and wept tears of joy for the first time in their life. They described this experience as “wild.”

This is why we do what we do. This is why gifts of the Spirit are so vital to the Church and shouldn’t be abandoned just because we’ve seen them used poorly in the past. They are tools that were given to the Church to bring life-change.

What people often need is not a theological explanation of Jesus. They need an encounter with Him. They need to feel His Presence and be changed by it. They may walk away not having all their theology worked out, but their testimony will be the same as the blind man who was healed. “Whether Jesus is _________ or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was hurting and broken but now I‘m healed!

Residential and Occasional Gifts

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

There is some confusion in the church about the gifts of the Spirit and how they operate. One point of misunderstanding revolves around gifts of the Spirit like healing and miracles. The comment usually goes like this, “If someone has the gift of healing, why don’t they just walk around and go into hospitals and just heal everyone.” The logic is that if they have the gift, they should be able to use it whenever and wherever they want. People often think of “gifts” as no more than supercharged abilities that we can control at will.

But this shows a lack of understanding of how many of the gifts of the Spirit work. All spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit are not always fully controlled by the will of the person who has them. It is true that some gifts are “residential” in nature in that they are always able to be accessed and used by the person who has that gift. Examples of a residential gift would be the gift of mercy, gift of hospitality, or gift of teaching. In nearly every setting, a person is able to access this gift and use it for the glory of God. The gift seems to “reside” in the person in a way that doesn’t depend on a special request of God. The person is a kind of reservoir for the gift.

Other gifts are “non-residential” and are sometimes called “occasional” gifts by theologians. By occasional they don’t mean temporary or rare. They mean that these gifts show up in particular occasions and can’t be fully controlled by the person who has this gift. Examples of “occasional” gifts are gifts of healing, gifts of miracles, gift of prophecy, etc. Those who have operated in these “occasional” gifts usually have to request that the Lord move through them in that way for that particular situation. The gift is there, but it is not released automatically. It must be released by God through the person. Rather than a reservoir, the person is simply a conduit of the gift.

We could say that a person with one of the non-residential gifts has to wait on the Lord and has to invite the Lord to use them as a conduit in that moment. When we say they “have” the gift of healing or miracles or prophecy we don’t mean they own the gift and control it at will. We mean that we have seen the Lord regularly use them as a conduit of that gift. And as a person grows in a non-residential gift, they are used more and more often to be a conduit. It happens more regularly.

With a residential gift, a person can use it all the time. Growing in that kind of gift doesn’t mean that it happens more regularly but that, when it is used, it is used more powerfully. Meaning, the effect of the gift when it is used grows in impact.

We could use modern technology as an analogy. Having a residential gift is like having the song on your hard drive. Having a non-residential gift is like having to pull it down from the cloud. Either way, you have access to it, but it’s a different kind of access.

Knowing this distinction about the different gifts is important so that we can learn to cooperate with the Spirit in the operation of the gifts given to us. Different gifts require a different kind of cooperation. When we know this, we can wield these gifts for the sake of the Kingdom of God and for the glory of the name Jesus.

Invitation: There is More

Throughout our journey with Jesus, He will set up forks in the road with a sign posted that says, “There is more!” We will have to decide to turn down the road to “more” or not. “There is more” is not an accusation but an invitation. When Jesus says, “There is more,” He’s not saying, “You are less.” Unfortunately, this is what some people hear. No, this is an invitation to experience a new province of His Kingdom that we haven’t seen before.

In seminary, I came upon a “There is More” fork in the road with a smaller sign underneath that read, “Life Together.” It was an invitation into deep community with two brothers in Christ. I could have walked away, but I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

After 6 years of pastoral ministry, I came upon a “There is More” fork in the road with a smaller sign underneath that read, “Social Justice: Human trafficking.” It was invitation to help start an organization that would help reach children who were burning in God’s heart–children who were being trafficked. I could have walked away, but I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

After 10 years of pastoral ministry, I came upon a “There is More” fork in the road with a smaller sign underneath that read, “Supernatural Kingdom.” It was an invitation to receive and engage in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. I could have walked away, but I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

One of the cries of God’s heart is, “There is More!” There is more to His Kingdom. There is more of His Kingdom that we haven’t seen yet. Are you willing to embrace the “more?” Are you willing to say, “Yes?” Are you willing to pursue God for the “more” that He has for you? In the end, the “more” isn’t just about us. It is about those who will be impacted through us because we said “yes” to the “more.”