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Teaching Series - Spring 2009


Prayer, Healing and the Bible


Meeting on Wednesdays at 8.00pm 

January 14th             The Nature of God

January 28th             Signs of the coming Kingdom

February 4th             The Nature of Healing

February 11th           Being a Healing Community




Within the umbrella of the prayer life of our church fellowship we have already begun to look at broadening the ways in which we pray, maybe even the places and people we pray in and with and generally developing this area of our life together.  Growing in the image of God is a lifetime process and all aspects of our faith and walk with God will continue to change and develop as we become more and more like God – we are, if you like, eternal disciples, always learning from the Master Builder. Praying for healing is an important area of any churches’ prayer life and so for the next month we will be concentrating on that aspect of our prayer life here at St Barnabas.  


Purpose of time together

  1. establish a shared biblical understanding of healing.
  2. give each of us confidence to pray specifically and proactively.
  3. develop contexts for the exercise of the ministry of healing.
  4. identify gifts we, as a worshipping community, have in this area of ministry.
  5. apply what we have learnt practically.























January 14th - The Nature of God


Read James 5 v 13 –18

Christians are people who care – so it should be no surprise to us that when someone is sick, in sorrow or in need of any other kind, that our hearts long to be able to do something. So we cry out to God to bring healing, to comfort that person, to supply their needs.

Who is the God to whom we cry out?

The Nature of God

We have:-                 

  • a God who created us and has the power to re-create us

  • a God who loves us, who wants the best for each one of us, who seeks our highest good

  • a God of judgement – judges sin and wrong living

  • a God who sent his only Son to die for us, who rose again, ascended into heaven and intercedes there for us

  • a God who has given us his Holy Spirit, longs to guide us, and gives us gifts to minister and witness in his name


We have a God who created us and has the power to re-create us

A God who has love but not power is not one to whom we would turn with confidence in time of need.  The fact that God does have all power in heaven and on earth is the starting point for a right understanding of prayer.  We are appealing to someone who can help.

Read Isaiah 40 v 21-31, Jeremiah 32 v 17, 27

             a God who loves us, who wants the best for each one of us, who seeks our highest good          

A God who is powerful but not loving is also one in whom we would lack confidence. Someone who is all powerful but does not care is unlikely to do anything for us. A second pillar for a right understanding of prayer is that the all powerful God is our Loving Father who takes care of his children and will give us what is best for us.  We see the loving Father in action in the ministry of Jesus who healed the sick because he loved and had compassion, who healed because he was God not to prove that he was God.    


Read Luke 11 v 5-13 

 a God of judgement – judges sin and wrong living           

If God is all powerful and loving, why then is there so much suffering in the world? Because God has to say no to everything that is contrary to his purposes. We are created to live in close relationship with our creator and if we did so, there would be no sin, wrong living, sickness, disease or death. However, as the story in Genesis 3 reminds us, from the first human beings onwards all of us have turned away from God and live with the consequences of going our own way. If God is the source of all life and well being, turning away from him necessarily brings about illness and ultimately death. This is not to say that all illness is the direct result of sin but that illness exists as an expression of the fact that we live in a fallen world that is cut off from God.  See Romans 3 v 23, Romans 6 v 23. But that is not the end of the story,

because we also believe that we have ...

a God who sent his only Son to die for us, who rose again, ascended into heaven and intercedes there for

Jesus’ death and resurrection show God’s judgement, power and his love simultaneously. Without the resurrection the Good News is only good advice. The resurrection showed Jesus as the first fruits of a new creation; the morning light begins to dawn, the night has gone and the day of Glory has not yet appeared. Healings are the first lights of a new dawn shining in our world. See 1 Corinthians 15 v 23, 2 Corinthians 5 v 17.  


What is your view of life after death? Do you view it as something to be avoided for as long as possible or is it the main feature? – talk with one or two around you. 


We also have

a God who has given us his Holy Spirit, longs to guide us and gives us gifts to minister and witness in his name.   

After Jesus ascended to heaven God’s healing ministry on earth was continued by the disciples who healed as Jesus did, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If you compare the two parts of Luke’s account of the beginnings of Christianity - the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles - you find that exactly the same kind of activity Jesus did, is done on a bigger scale by the apostles after Pentecost. The blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised and demons are cast out. What is more, we cannot simply bracket off the experience of the Early Church and say that was for then but not for now. The disciples did what Jesus did because they had his Holy Spirit in them.  So do we!  The Spirit given at Pentecost was for everybody for all time. See Acts 2 v 17-21, 1 Corinthians 12 v 1-11.


The three main lists of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit can be found in:- 1 Corinthians 12 v 1-11, Romans 12 v 6-8 and Ephesians 4 v 11.

In groups Think how you would summarise in your own words, for a new Christian, what we have learnt tonight about the nature of God.

Pray together.   


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January 28th - Signs of the coming Kingdom


Read Mark 1 v 29-39

God’s ultimate purpose in our world is to unite everything to himself through Christ.

to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. Ephesians 1 v 10 

This purpose will be achieved at the end of time when Jesus returns and when this happens we and all creation will be made whole spiritually and physically.

See Romans 8 v18-24

  1. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
  2. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
  3. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
  4. that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
  5. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
  6. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
  7. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

Although this lies in the future we can begin to see signs of it already, because God’s rule over all creation “the kingdom of God ”, has begun to break into the world through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and his subsequent ministry in the church through the Holy Spirit.

In John 14 v 12 where Jesus has been explaining that his miracles demonstrate the presence of the Father in him and his ministry we read:-

"I tell you the truth anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father".

Jesus’ return to heaven was in fact the best thing that has happened for the church because being exalted to the Father’s right hand and to his throne, Jesus now exercises a world wide ministry which is not restricted by time and space as was his earthly ministry.


A sign of the kingdom breaking into our world - healing.

Because sickness and death are signs of a fallen world, healings are an important sign of the breaking in of the kingdom.  As Mark Stibbe has said: “they are something borrowed from tomorrow.”  When the kingdom is fully come everything and everyone will be healed - sickness and death will have gone for ever.  That is not yet true in our world but acts of healing are signs given to us by God as pointers toward his coming. Thus the healing of the blind is a pointer to the day when everyone will see properly both physically and spiritually and the raising of the dead, as in the raising of Lazarus, is the sign that those who believe in Jesus will be raised to life with God forever on the final day. These signs are the visual aids of the living out of God’s BIG story. Mark’s gospel starts with Jesus being baptised, then proclaiming the kingdom, gathering disciples to him and then a whole series of healings showing his authority, not only as a teacher about kingdom living but also as someone embodying the kingdom breaking in. 

Please read Mark‘s Gospel and note down the passages where healings take place

The question always raised however, is why some people are healed and not others. Even during Jesus’ earthly ministry not everyone in the Holy Land was healed by him. (See Mark 1 v 35-39) The same has been true throughout the history of the church. To understand why it is that some people are healed and not others, we have to start off with what we said about God last time we met. We said that God is all powerful and all loving and bearing those two points in mind we can dismiss two misleading approaches to the issue of why some are healed and not others:-

  1. The first misleading approach is to say that God lacks the power to heal everybody. But
  2. The second misleading approach is to think that God arbitrarily decides to heal some and not others. This approach sees God as something like the Lottery - if your number comes up you are in luck!!  However this arbitrary view of God is incompatible with God’s nature as love. God does not ever act arbitrarily, inflicting suffering in a meaningless fashion. If we set aside these two misleading accounts what are we left with?

Mark Stibbe in his book “Know your Spiritual Gifts” tells us that there are a number of reasons, some on our side and some on God’s, as to why God heals on some occasions and not others.


When God does not heal!

a)  Reasons from our side

            Lack of faith generally and lack of faith by those asking for and praying for healing

                        (See Mark 6 v 1-6 and Mark 9 v 14-29)

            Hidden sin of those asking for prayer and those praying
                  (See James 5 v 14-16 & Mark 11 v 25)

            Wrong theology e.g. medical care is a sign of unbelief
                  (See 2 Kings 20 Hezekiah and the poultice of figs!

b) Reasons from God’s side

      God’s sovereignty - God knows best - it may seem arbitrary to us, but He is God. God’s agenda for us or for the world in general may not coincide with ours. We may want something, in this case healing, that would not actually be in the best interests of ourselves or God’s overall plan for his world. In these cases God will say “no” or “not yet” to what we ask, precisely because he is responsible and loving.

      God has a different understanding of suffering and he may use it to help us grow.

                        (See “Know your Spiritual Gifts” Mark Stibbe p.88)

      “Yes, but not yet” He may will to heal but this may not be the time. God decides, not us -   He is the potter we merely clay. It is not our place to question the good and perfect will of God, even when we feel that this will is a “mystery”.



  • Background to healing is God’s will to heal all creation
  • This process of healing has begun but is not yet complete, the kingdom has come but not yet fully come.
  • Part of the tension of living between the “already” and the “not yet” is that we see healings but not everyone is healed and sometimes our prayers for healing appear to go unanswered. This is not because God is lacking in either power or love but because there are reasons either from us or from God which mean that healing will not take place at this time.
  • What all this means for us is that we must be hopeful but realistic. Hopeful because God can and does heal and has commanded us to heal. Realistic in that we need to acknowledge that lack of faith or hidden sin can block healing. We also need to accept that God may have good reasons for choosing to say – “no” or “not yet” to any request for healing.


In groups - talk about times when you have prayed for healing and it has happened and those times when it has not.  



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February 4th - The Nature of Healing


Working together in groups 

Please come up with a list of conditions people were healed from in the Bible and examples of ways of healing used in the scriptures

We see from even a quick look at the scriptures that people are healed from a wide range of conditions and that healings take place in a wide range of ways.




The nature of sickness

sickness of the spirit caused by sin and disobedience
sickness of the “inner person” - emotional hurts of the past, anxiety of mind in the present and for the future
sickness of the body - caused by disease, accident, wrong living (no days off or holidays)
sickness of body, mind and spirit caused by oppression and possession (care, discernment, maturity needed in this area)

The nature of healing 


body, mind and spirit, 
absence of oppression and possession by the demonic 

Healings can be:- 

achieved by the medical profession using surgery, drugs and psychiatric treatment 
achieved by correct nursing in hospital or home 


How does what we do in our everyday activities and work contribute to God’s work of healing in his world?



As Christians we can be involved in healing, not just in the obvious ways e.g. healing services or spending time listening and praying with someone, though these are of course important, but as we have seen there are many ways in which we can be used by God in
the healing process. 

In your groups share some examples of ways you have seen God at work in you and through you. These may be supernatural healings or healings in other ways.


Death - the final healing    

From the Bible passages below, what do we learn about a Christian attitude to death?

In your groups please read:-

Luke 23 v 42, 43  

Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

John 11 v 25-26 

Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?

 1 Corinthians 15 v 51-52

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

 Philippians 1 v 20-23  

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;


1 Thessalonians 4 v 13-18   

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.

Therefore encourage each other with these words.

I John 3 v 2 

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Revelation 21 v 1- 4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

I saw the Holy City , the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.


Quotation from:-  David Watson “Fear No Evil” Chapter 22 - What Happens at Death?  p167 (Hodder & Stoughton published 1984) 


If we think of all the best and most glorious moments in our lives, the perfection of what we experience always seems just beyond our reach. As with striking a succession of matches to light a dark room, those moments invariably seem to flicker and fade. Heaven will be like turning on the full light. The perfection will be there for us to enjoy, undefiled, unflickering and unfading. 'And the city had no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light. . .' (Revelation 21 v 23). Here is the summit of all our highest hopes and dreams.


In one sense, the Christian is not preparing for death. Essentially he is preparing for life, abundant life in all its fullness. The world, with its fleeting pleasures, is not the final reality, with heaven as a shadowy and suspect unknown. The best and purest joys on earth are only a shadow of the reality that God has prepared for us in Christ. Eternal life begins as soon as we receive Christ as our Saviour. We can start enjoying it now, in increasing measure, and should be preparing, not for death, but for the consummation of that perfect quality of life when we are completely in God's presence for ever. Quantity of life is not nearly so important as quality, even for “terminally ill” patients. By the way, I don't like that word 'terminal', which means the end of something. In reality, when the body of the Christian dies the really wonderful journey has only just begun.




[ Back to summary ]  




February 11th - Being a Healing Community


We know from the gospels that Jesus had a healing ministry, we know that his work of healing continued in the Early Church - the Holy Spirit was given to Jesus’ followers and in his power and in his name they continued to bring in the kingdom, not just through healing but also through their witness and teaching.

This ministry to the sick has continued down the ages in and through the Church. We ourselves are the sign and instrument of the kingdom of God actively present in his world.

Healing is not an additional extra to the church’s other activities - everything that the church does, is or should be healing in the sense that it is part of making people whole. By observation and obedience we can perceive God’s working through:-


  • Prayer - we open ourselves and others to God and acknowledge His Sovereignty

  • Confession -  we clear the barrier of sin between us and God

  • The sacraments of  Baptism and Holy Communion - we open our hands and lives to receive what God has in store for us

  • Laying on of hands - a physical sign of God’s compassion, love and concern and because we are physical human beings 
    (who need to touch and be touched) our love and concern for each other

  • Anointing - a special means of marking out an individual as an object of God’s particular care and concern (James 5 v 14, 1 Samuel16)

  • Human healing agencies such as the medical profession - mainstream and complementary


Historical Background

One of the distinctive things about the Early Church that attracted the attention of outsiders and helped make it’s evangelism successful was the fact that it was a community that took care of the sick and the dying.

In the ancient world people tended to care only for their own household, whereas Christians cared for everybody. When for example plague broke out, which it frequently did, Christians didn’t run away to somewhere more healthy but stayed behind and cared for members of their own community and for all who were in need. A later development along the same lines was the development of hospitals - a Christian invention through the monastics and particularly associated with Basil of Caesarea in the 4th Century.


The Healing Community

            THE CHURCH               THE BODY OF CHRIST

These two collective terms are used to describe a group of people each one of whom has had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and has been born again. Each one of whom has the indwelling Spirit as a guarantee that they belong to Christ. They are urged to meet together frequently for fellowship, worship, prayer, study and evangelism. (see Acts 2 v 42-47)

They are to be a recognisable group, distinct from the world in which they live.

Some of the characteristics exhibited by the Church are that we should be:-

  1. A community of love. John 13 v 34. The practical outworking of this is defined for us in 1 Corinthians 12, James and 1 John 4.

  2. A community of worship. “ the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

  3. A community of prayer. Acts 12 v 1-19.

  4. A community of faith and obedience. Philippians 4 v 4-9.

  5. A community of outreach. Matthew 28 v 19, 20 and Acts 1 v 8.

  6. A community of order and discipline. 1 Corinthians 14 v 26-33, 40.


Within such a community a person should feel so secure and wanted that, no matter what the problem, they will be relaxed and able to receive help. This can only come about as each individual seeks to give, rather than to receive.

Anyone coming in from the outside should be immediately aware of a loving, expectant, worshipful environment.  They should be able to encounter God, even if they are unable to find the right words to describe that meeting. Their reception at the hands of the church members should be exactly what they would expect from the hands of the Lord Jesus.

Compassion and impulse should not be allowed to sway us to suddenly lay hands on someone.  Prayer for someone should often be prefaced by prayer asking for God's guidance as to what to pray.

We live in an 'instant ' world but prayer the first time for someone, should not be the last time. Perseverance is often commended in Scripture. Luke 11 v 5-10.

Beware of the 'healer'. The person who has a 'method' that is imposed willy-nilly on all who draw near. To the Sovereign Lord Jesus we look expectantly - nowhere and no one else.


Healing - Is it problem solving or mystery encountering?

 But what is special about Christian healing?

Here we are helped by Bishop Morris Maddocks:


“Christian healing is, first and foremost, about Christ. It follows the pattern he set in his own ministry, and the commission he gave to his disciples, and the fact that it happens at all is the fruit of his work, both in the creation, and in the salvation of mankind. In both these mighty works, humankind has been created and recreated in the image of God – has been made whole. This is what distinguishes Christian healing from other types of healing. It is the whole work of Christ, in a person’s body, mind and spirit, designed to bring that person to that wholeness which is God’s will for us all."


Please read Psalm 31 v 9-12

  9   Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.

10   My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.

11   Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbours; I am a dread to my friends - those who see me on the street flee from me.

12   I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.


How do we minister healing and wholeness to someone in this, or similar situations, who does not get better?


Please read the following extract from A Time to Heal




‘George’ comes for the laying on of hands every week, transferring from his car to his wheelchair and then being pushed into church to receive ministry.

He has been doing this for 14 years and has missed few services.

He lives with depression, his own physical disability and his wife’s obsessional neurosis.

How should one pray for him? What is the expectation?

When should a longing for physical and emotional healing lead those who pray to hold George and his needs before God and

“making no special requests - neither asking nor beseeching

  but lifting him to God … desiring nothing but that our Lord

  may be glorified in all?"

Perhaps the breakthrough comes when George in his wheelchair becomes, for those ministering, the Christ figure in their midst.


How would you respond to ‘George’?


What sort of healing are we seeking when we pray for someone with a permanent disability, either physical or mental?


What next?



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