Al Mohler and Bryan Chapell share their response to a common question they’ve heard throughout their decades in ministry about why God answers certain prayers for healing in this life, but not all. Chapell argues that God always answers prayers for healing, he simply may not answer in the timing that we may be asking.
Chapell references James 5:13-16, which talks about the prayer of faith healing the sick. Chapell highlights how James starts the chapter with a foundation of encouragement for the Christian to be patient in suffering. Chapell goes on to say that God will always heal, and though the healing may not come in this life, he will always heal the Christian perfectly when we are with him in eternity.
Mohler suggests that it is always right to pray for healing. He then says that the entire biblical worldview is that we will be ultimately healed in eternity. Mohler refers to the hymn O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing by Charles Wesley, which says, “And leap, ye lame, for joy,” pointing to the truth that one day, every tear will be wiped away. Mohler closes by reminding us that God is not absent from sickness and suffering. He suggests that if we believe in God, we believe he has been sovereign over everything.
Chapell talks about how his own body has struggled with sickness and asks, “Who has sinned?” Mohler responds with what Jesus says in John 9:3 about the blind man who is healed that it was neither mother or father who sinned, but that the works of God may be shown. The point Jesus is making is that every moment of the blind man’s life has been meaningful because God had a perfect plan.
Chapell ends by saying that when God rescues, that brings God glory. And when there is faith through a time of no earthly rescue but confidence in the eternal rescue, that gives God glory, too.
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Today’s episode was produced by Heather Calvillo and Steven Morales.
Albert Mohler: Bryan, we’ve both been in ministry for decades and there are some recurring questions. One of the questions that comes to us, it seems just over and over again, is “Why does God answer certain prayers for healing, but not all of them?”
Bryan Chapell: We’ll feel the pastoral weight of that because we know people who really ask the question. I mean, that’s not just theological reflection. Now, Al, again, we’ve been in ministry a while, so sometimes it helps me to answer maybe provocatively, so people to understand what I’m saying. And I would say God actually always answers prayers for healing. Always, without exception, God answers prayer for healing. He simply may not answer in the timing that we may be asking, right? So, if we follow that James 5 passage that everybody turns to, “The prayer of faith will save a sick person and God will raise them up.” And I absolutely believe that. But the save word is sozo, which is a salvation term. And the raise up is the resurrection term.
And, of course, before James even gets into that portion of the chapter, he is saying, “I want you to be patient in suffering.” Right? So, he has already kind of laid the groundwork, which, just to say, the suffering is not going to be a snap of your fingers or just the right prayer and suddenly… he’s actually said, “God will save you.” But there’s a resurrection terminology. Why do I believe God will always heal? Because for those who love Jesus, they will be with them, with no more tears, no more sadness, no more darkness, no more disease, no pain. That it may not be in this life. God may heal in this life imperfectly, but He will always heal the Christian perfectly when we are with Him.
Albert Mohler: That’s right. And, you know, our horizon, which should be according to the Bible, very eschatological. It’s not, especially with acute suffering, whether we are experiencing that ourselves or we’re seeing that in others. And then we also know it’s always right to pray. It’s exactly the right thing to do. It’s the right thing for the church to do. And it’s the right thing for brothers and sisters in Christ to do. It’s the right thing even for us to do about ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with praying that God would heal me. And as you say, the entire biblical worldview is that, by the power of the gospel and the promise of Christ, we will be healed. And such that we will be perfect. You know, it’s not politically correct anymore, but I love all the verses of Charles Wesley’s beautiful hymn “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”
Bryan Chapell: All 33?
Albert Mohler: Well, I like all of them, but I don’t get this thing all of them, but, “Leap, ye lame, for joy.” You know, it’s just one of those reminders of the fact that one day that will be so, every eye will be dry and every tear will be wiped away. But until then we have to back up for a moment and understand that God is not absent from our sickness and God is not absent from our suffering. So it’s not as if we’re living a secular life and we just need a supernatural God to intervene. If we actually believe in God, we believe he has been sovereign over all of this.
Bryan Chapell: Right. So, Al, you and I, real people, a lot of years in ministry, sometimes our bodies have struggled, sometimes our families’ bodies have struggled. So, who sinned, us or our parents?
Albert Mohler: Well, Jesus said “neither” as you see in John 9, where Jesus responds to the disciples who asked that question, and it’s a human question, isn’t it? It’s kind of a tactile Christian question. We can feel it. We will reach out and touch. Why was this man born blind? And Jesus says amazingly that it was so that in him, the glory of God may be demonstrated. The works of God may be shown and Jesus healed him at that point.
But the point Jesus made was every moment of that man’s life until now has been meaningful because it’s been a part of God’s perfect plan, and that’s an astounding claim. You know, Bryan, I think for many people, that may be far more theologically astounding than saying in the beginning, God created the heavens in the earth, because it gets right down to the fact that if God is sovereign, then everything is actually a part of His greater glory. So, I have been sick, I have been at the point of death, and the Lord has rescued me. At times I was unconscious and could not pray for myself and others prayed for me. And that gives me a renewed sense that God has a purpose in that for me, which points to the earthly future. But I also have to know theologically and biblically, my soul has to be secure in the fact that God’s purposes are going to be made perfect in me, even if my earthly horizon is brief.
Bryan Chapell: Which takes us back to the timing understanding, doesn’t it? That God will answer the prayer for healing. Now, it may be in this life, it may be in the life to come, which is all the same to him. You know, He’s operating on the full plane of our existence.
And when I understand that, what you just said so beautifully, “This was so that the glory of God might be revealed in him.” That when God rescues, that gives God glory. And when there is faith through a time of no earthly rescue, but confidence… that gives God glory, too. And sometimes in this world, God will call His saints to be patient in suffering because that’s revealing something more than material reasons for their faith, and that brings God glory, too. And as hard as it is to say, when we have children who suffer, when we have friends who suffer, to believe that God is working beyond this moment for a greater glory, which is ultimately for our eternal good, it gives me great confidence, great joy, even through the difficulties, my God is working for His glory and my eternal good and those that my life touches. And that I really deeply say to God, thank you for telling me about a man born blind whom God was yet using for glory.
Albert Mohler: Amen.