Our friends and fellow church members often request prayer for physical injuries or illnesses. Useful perspectives on wellness and illness are sometimes under stressed in our church communities in light of diverse and ongoing physical needs. Within the church these conditions are often communicated as a need for divine healing. Outside the church community such requests are more ofter characterized as a need for medical intervention. Such requests really deal with the same methodological process, we propose. What is the difference between divine healing and medical intervention?
A recent entry in the Our Daily Bread Ministries devotional booklet entitled “The Great Healer” from May 19, 2015 brought several dimensions of God’s works into focus. The Our Daily Bread article described (1) God as designer of an orderly universe, and (2) God as creator and designer of our bodies. The article also highlighted physical healing, in keeping with its title: (1) God created us with the ability to heal, (2) God created our bodies to function, and (3) Scientists devise therapies to help restore or cure us.
Are doctors healers, then? In the sense of healing events recorded in the Bible, no, they are not. However, in broadened meanings of the term healing, God is the healer: “…for I am the Lord, your healer.” (Exodus 15:26). Article author Julie Ackerman Link states, ”So, I am grateful for science and doctors, but my praise and thanksgiving go to God who designed an orderly universe and who created us with minds that can discover how it works. I believe, therefore, that all healing is divine because no healing takes place apart from God.”
In the sense that every facet of our experience and every moment of our existence is sustained by God, we agree with Ackerman’s assertion that “all healing is divine.” Acts 17:28 states, “In him we live and move and have our being.” This passage expresses a profound truth. The universe is sustained by the power of the Creator. The living things in our tiny corner of this universe and the physical constants governing all forces and energy in each living thing, are preserved and sustained moment to moment by the will and power of God.
Healing “miracles” are usually the result of medical knowledge. God enables humanity to learn of multiple secondary causes governing the operation of individual body organs and the integrated functioning of the whole body. In the beginning, God created man’s physical body a functioning unit. Thereafter, man’s body has functioned on the basis of secondary causes. We illustrate the point with one of many intelligently designed creations of man, the automobile initially known as a “horseless carriage.” After the initial act of unit assembly, the owners are enabled to operate their vehicles at will. They do not have to re-create it each time it is used. Today we have features like cruise control and even muse over the future reality of self-driving cars. The automobile’s creator designed the physical unit to possess intrinsic functional capability. This function is known as secondary causation. It is a given that the owner must observe appropriate operational practices and proper maintenance.
Doctors and surgeons respond to diseases or injuries to the body resulting from infections, chemical imbalances, aging, and other factors. The body continually battles pathogens, works to regulate internal bodily conditions, and reacts with incredible cascades of responses to injury, not to mention constant battles with the effects of aging. These responses were designed into living things by the Creator. Ackerman gives praise and thanksgiving to God, “…who designed an orderly universe and who created us with minds that can discover how it works.” Our bodies function effectively with many “secondary causes”—ability to fight off germs, maintain stability of bodily responses, and repair damage. Doctors are acutely aware of the secondary responses inherent in our body’s function. Medical personnel function as healers, but not as workers of miracles. We do not deny rare supernatural instances where healing may occur beyond the ability of the normal, functioning body.
We do not minimize the effectiveness of prayer regularly offered to our heavenly Father for our bodily medical problems. Scripture instructs us to “Pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17). Bible authors have given us literary and medical commentary on our lifespan, its temporary nature, and its sometimes unpleasant condition. The trajectory of bodily health during our lifetime is inexorably downhill. God has given us the ability to gain strength. wisdom, and endurance from the power of prayer.