Prayer and HealingWant to ruffle some feathers? Just call a press conference and thank God publicly for your healing. That’s what happened when both Nina Pham and Dr. Kent Brantly expressed gratitude to God and acknowledged the power of prayer for their recent recovery from the Ebola virus.

Apparently some people are upset, even downright hostile because the credit wasn’t given solely to their medical teams, even though they both thanked the doctors and nurses involved in their care. (Click on their names for the videos).

Now I’m no theologian, but I can see misconceptions about the whole subject of prayer and healing (or the lack thereof) scattered across social media like a virus itself. Here are just a couple:

Misconception #1 – Christians believe that all healing is due to prayer alone.

While there are some that hang on to this potentially dangerous theology, there’s nothing in the bible that supports it. In fact, there are many places in the Bible that illustrate using resources and people in healing:

  • Jesus healed the blind man with mud directly to his eyes. (John 9:6-7 )
  • Naaman, who suffered with leprosy, was healed after washing himself 7 times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5).
  • Paul tells Timothy to “drink a little wine” to help his stomach (1 Timothy 5:23)
  • Luke himself was a physician (Colossians 4:14)

Now here’s an important point: While He doesn’t do so as often, I believe that God can and does still heal miraculously, without the help of modern medicine. We’ve all heard of miracle recoveries…now I’m not talking about the out of control, faith healers on TV, but rather the cases that show lasting medical evidence that we see from time to time. Tumors have been known to disappear with no explanation. People who aren’t expected to live six months have been known to live for years, defying the odds.

Even so, God usually chooses to work through man and through natural means in healing. In fact, more often than not, this is God’s way of working His will in general. He gives ordinary (or very gifted) men and women the privilege to be the means of His work.

  • He doesn’t command angels to fly down and sing His praise; He gives musicians and singers the talent to create beautiful music to His glory.
  • He created the weather but decrees the farmer to till the harvest
  • He doesn’t shout from heaven for all to believe, but commissions His own to share the gospel.

And He gives doctors and nurses the special medical skill and wisdom to understand illness and bring patients to health.

Misconception #2 – All healing comes from science and medicine alone.

In a recent Facebook comment, someone said, “I was in a motorcycle accident, and not once did I pray, but here I am, completely healed”. My response to this is that there is such a thing as common grace, which is the overriding and unbiased grace of God poured out on everyone, whether they are righteous or not. Jesus expressed this when He said that God causes “his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45) and that God “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). The very fact that He does heal at all is cause for praise to Him. The very fact that we have one more day to draw breath is due to His grace. We don’t start with a sense of entitlement and strength, we start first with an understanding that He isn’t obligated to help or heal us, but in His love, He does choose to heal many.

You know, I look around me and I’m amazed at the ingenuity of man. Really, what we’ve been able to do in the areas of science and technology is staggering. It’s so easy to take the credit when we forget that we are the created, not the Creator. God has already created the depths of what we can discover. With as much as we’ve done, we cannot add one iota to a life that is fading–we find that our abilities alone will always have a limit.

Conclusion – God heals as he sees fit

I don’t believe that God and modern medicine are incompatible. God heals as He sees fit. He is sovereign for the outcome. In other words, we do all we know to do medically but God knows the outcome of each illness.


There is a comfort in knowing that life and death aren’t ultimately in our hands. Can you imagine the burden upon us if it was? Caregivers have such a burden upon them as it is, with so many decisions to make for the patient. If you cared for a loved one that passed away, the second-guessing can be overwhelming. This subject came up at a Bible Study I attended this last week. That’s when all kinds of questions came up:

“Should I have tried harder?”

“Should I have pursued another type of treatment?”

“Was there something I could have done differently to extend his/her life?”

Knowing that God is sovereign in healing releases us from any of this anxiety. His word clearly states that there’s an assigned time for each person to die. (Hebrews 9:27). This means that if someone is meant to recover, then God will bring about the circumstances of that healing, whatever that may be. This is in spite of any well-meaning, yet limited wisdom we may have. By the same token, if someone’s time on Earth is up, no human effort can stop that either. We don’t have to beat ourselves up for our shortcomings. We can pray continually and care for them to the best of our ability but we can also take comfort in knowing that life and death aren’t ultimately in our hands. Yet another reason to thank God.

Brantly quote


Why do you think that some people criticize prayer in healing?

Do you believe God uses man to accomplish His purpose? If so, where’s the balance?

8 thoughts on “WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

  1. I didn’t hear or read of any significant criticism of Nina Pham for thanking God, and I frankly doubt it matters. A few pissants grumbling doesn’t count for much. Thanking God for winning an Oscar or a football game is cliche for all the right reasons, as these are unimportant in a cosmic sense, but recovering from a life-threatening disease is the kind of event both the religious and non-religious can easily celebrate. It’s a wonderful thing no matter what you do or don’t believe.

    I’m a health care worker (imaging tech), and I have worked in hospice care, ICUs and dementia care as a medical assistant. The only objection I’ve ever had regarding prayer is if someone decides unwisely to skip medical treatment in favor of prayer alone. I’m a believer, but as you say, God has worked to help healers develop skill and treatments since time began. It’s hubris to demand that God heal you miraculously, when there are already people in your path completely dedicated to helping you get well or at least feel better. I understand there are often hard risk vs benefit choices to make in the last phases of a terminal case. Providers must obey the patient’s (or their family’s) wishes wherever possible. Patients have the freedom to make ignorant choices. It’s protected by law in most instances.

    I have seen too many senseless deaths and too much avoidable suffering, terminal patients being refused pain medication by their families, and superstitious resistance to minimally invasive treatments (like vaccines) leading to infants being hospitalized. What I pray most regularly for is that I’ll never have to cradle another person out of their mind in agony from injuries and disease, when the process of natural death could have been accommodated with medication. There’s nothing noble or redemptive about suffering that much. Jesus already paid that debt.

    • Thank you, Mike, for your comment. I’ve personally been perplexed and shocked by the negative comments made (several unprintable), concerning thanking God for healing. I mentioned it because I guess I’m a bit surprised not only that they have cropped up at all, but have done so in every initial announcement of these patients’ recoveries (cited in links) and a lot in my social media. I appreciate reading your comment and insight coming from someone with a medical perspective. Science, medicine, and professionals like you are the means that God uses to heal. I agree – trusting God doesn’t mean we don’t go to a doctor (or get vaccines) any more than keeping our homes unlocked means we trust we won’t be robbed. Refusing treatment altogether is an entirely different scenario than trusting God to give wisdom to determine the treatment plan. We can often take or refuse medication based on it’s effectiveness vs. side effects. The first scenario completely ignores the resources God has given; the second one uses the means available while acknowledging His sovereignty.

  2. Loved reading this – I’ve just finished (5 mins ago!) writing about Job and the issue of suffering…it kinda relates to what you’re saying. I think that every story is different, as God deals with us all as individuals. Some people may be called to believe for divine healing, others through medicine. There’s probably not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Great question though!


    • Hello Paula,
      I certainly believe that God can bring divine healing, but not because we test Him or our faith with a refusal to take medicine He has provided. Granted, there are situations when someone may not have a choice if the medication is only making him worse. Whatever the case, He heals in His compassion for us, and in His sovereignty.

      I just read your post on Job. There are so many lessons packed in that book! Thanks for your comment!

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