Often after an infirm believer is prayed over, he will proclaim that he is healed “by faith” even though the symptoms persist. Let us examine this practice in light of Scripture.
Mark 11:12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”(Matthew 21.19 adds, “Immediately the fig tree withered away.”) And His disciples heard it….
20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” 22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
The practice of claiming one’s healing is based upon verse 24, which teaches that if we believe we receive those things for which we pray, we will have them. Let’s look at the context of this verse.
Jesus had spoken words to a fig tree, essentially commanding it to die. It immediately obeys his command and withers away. The next morning as they pass by the tree again, Peter is reminded and queries Jesus about the miracle. In reply Jesus explains to Peter that he did the miracle through mountain-moving faith. When he spoke to the tree, he had absolutely no doubt that the fig tree would obey him. He had received all authority from His Father, and thus he fully believed that the command he gave the tree had to be obeyed. This is the context of verse 24. Jesus is explaining the key to speaking forth in power: it is through the exercise of mountain-moving faith. On another occasion Jesus also taught this kind of faith. The disciples were asked to cast out a demon from a boy with epilepsy, and the demon would not obey them. When they asked Jesus the reason for their failure, he said it was because they lacked sufficient mountain-moving faith.
Matthew 17:14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.16 “So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.”18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
It is clear from Jesus’ words that if the disciples possessed mountain-moving faith, they could cast out demons and heal the sick; they could minister in signs and wonders. The purpose of mountain-moving faith is for us disciples of Christ to glorify God through healing the sick, casting out demons, and ministering in miraculous signs for the sake of winning souls. This is the primary context of the teaching on mountain-moving faith. It is in this context that we consider verse 24: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Undoubtedly this verse can be taken somewhat generally to include the many things that we may want to ask God for, including physical healing. And undoubtedly people have experienced actual physical healing from God after having claimed their healing by faith. But nevertheless it is important to look at the context to determine the primary application of this verse. The context appears to be not so much about us passively receiving something from the Lord (e.g., physical healing) as it is about our aggressively speaking to a mountain, to a tree, to a demon, or to a disease in the name of Jesus. It is about our actively producing a miraculous sign in the name of Jesus for the furtherance of the gospel. In this light, how then might we best interpret verse 24?
In line with the specific context, we might rephrase verse 24 in the following way: “Whatever you pray and ask me to do through you for the sake of winning souls, especially miraculous signs and healings, believe that I will do them through you. Believe that a measure of my authority has been given to you, and that as you exercise it over disease and demons, the miracles will occur.”
This interpretation is supported by Jesus’ reply to his disciple Philip in John Chapter 14 after he voices doubt that Jesus and the Father are one.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. 12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
Jesus encourages Philip to believe that he and the Father are one at least because of the works—the miracles—that Jesus has done. And then he goes on to make a most astonishing statement: those who believe in him would also do the works as well. Jesus is of course referring especially to the miraculous works and signs that he did. Believers would do these miracles in his name to show the world that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the way, the truth, the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him. Then follows the very well-known verses: 13 “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
Such a wonderful promise, but what is the immediate context? Is the context about our receiving from the Lord things pertaining to our very real personal needs and desires? No, the context is about demonstrating to the world who Jesus is through miraculous signs. What is it that we should ask in His name, that He will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son? What we should ask is that God use us to do the miraculous works that Jesus did, showing the world that He is indeed the Son of the only true God. This is how the Father is especially glorified in the Son. This is the most Scriptural application of the precious promises found in verses 13 and 14.
Not that these promises cannot include other prayer requests regarding our health, finances, family, and so forth, but they especially apply to our healing the sick and casting out demons as miraculous signs to confirm the gospel. The heart of the Father is saving the lost.
Let us now return to the original object of our investigation, which is Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Although this promise might also extend to areas beyond its original context, let us re-examine the practice of applying it to receiving physical healing from the Lord. Is there a precedent in Scripture for this practice? Is there an instance in the New Testament where after an infirm person was prayed over, the symptoms remained, but the person nevertheless declared, “I believe I’m healed by faith?”
To my knowledge, there is no such incident. However, there was an incident in which a person was only partially healed after being ministered to by Jesus.
Mark 8:22 Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. 23 So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. 24 And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” 25 Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.
After Jesus ministers to the blind man, he asks if he sees anything. Interestingly, the man tells it as it is. He can now see, but not at all clearly. He did not say by faith, “I can see clearly.” If he had, Jesus could very well have walked on since he had already completed the job of restoring the man’s sight. But because the man answered plainly, Jesus ministered to him again. After the second time, the healing was complete.
Speaking “by faith” about one’s healing can be counterproductive insome situations. The reason why such a practice is widespread is because ministering believers do not know how to minister healing as Jesus and the early disciples did. In the Gospels and Acts, the miracles were quick and sometimes immediate. (Recall that Jesus taught Mark 11.24 in the context of a fig tree withering immediately at his command, not gradually.) It was not necessary for anyone to “claim their healing by faith.” But because today’s ministers generally do not know how to use their authority to heal the sick in Jesus’ name, the infirm are forced to rely on a “confession of faith” which hopefully leads to a healing sometime in the future. At times the claimed healling actually does come to pass. But if we understand how to minister healing according to the gospels and Acts, we will like Jesus with the blind man continue to exert our authority against the disease until it actually leaves in the empirical sense. In this way the infirm are no longer forced to rely on a possibly stretched interpretation of Mark 11:24, but can receive their healing relatively quickly when a trained believer speaks with authority and without doubt to their disease according to Mark 11:23. When the believer speaks with mountain-moving faith, the disease (like a mountain) retreats in the face of the superior power of the name of Jesus.
Mark 11:23 “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Scripture records Jesus once saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” This incident was not a case of someone receiving their healing by faith sometime after being ministered to by Jesus. Rather, only after actually being healed did Jesus make this commendation about her faith.
Mark 5:29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” 31 But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” 32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
This incident does not support the practice of “claiming one’s healing by faith.”
I am not saying that this practice is wrong and therefore those who practice it are guilty of swerving from the truth. Sometimes a sick person may have no other recourse. However, I am saying that because of the Church’s ineptitude in ministering healing to those with infirmities, the sick are forced to take drastic measures. Not only should they receive their healing by faith, we ministers should also know how to minister healing “by faith.” After the disciples failed to drive out the epileptic demon from the boy in Matthew 17, drawing harsh disapproval from the Lord, they asked him the reason for their failure. In his reply, Jesus did not put the blame on any lack of faith on the part of the boy or his father. Jesus clearly pointed the finger and placed responsibility on his disciples.
Matthew 17:19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
We ministers of the gospel must learn how to move with mountain-moving faith, the key by which Jesus and the early Church ministered with miraculous signs as they preached the gospel. Admittedly, we are still far from that goal, and the sick must continue to claim their healing by faith. But let us acknowledge our deficiency and learn from the Word how to minister as Jesus did.