The following was written by, and posted with permission, by Drew McLeod
I suffer from chronic back pain. I also believe in a God who heals. But these truths eventually led me to stop praying for healing. Later, a separate truth helped me to restart. Christians can often get into heated discussions about whether God still performs miracles and heals today but this is not what will be discussed here. I would like to think that most Christians believe that God can and does heal but that also that sometimes his answer is “no” or “not yet”.
The reason I mention my back is because it is often a daily reminder to me that sometimes God says “no”. I have prayed and prayed for it. Other people with more faith than me have prayed for it. It has come right for seasons and then gone completely out of whack in others. Finally, one day, after praying not only for my back but also for healing for many other people (including my dear, sweet grandmother who I also asked a word-of-faith friend of mine to pray for but passed when I was away from home in India) and consistently getting what seemed like “no’s” or “not yet’s” I decided, in a perceived Holy Defiance, that I would refuse to pray for healing for myself or anyone else since I already knew God’s answer on the matter. I continued to pray often for other things for God to draw people to himself, comfort people with his presence, help me to be a good husband, etc. but I had decided I would leave the “healing prayers” to other people. I’m sure some of this came from a place of some unrighteous anger towards God but I also felt like he could handle a pouty little child of his if it turned out that I was wrong.
One day last year, several weeks after finding out some of the most joyous news of our life (that we were pregnant with our first child) and maybe 3-4 weeks into my “healing prayer fast”, my wife was having some issues and there was no small amount of tears shed over the fact that we might be losing (or had already lost) Baby. I remember the night that I prayed for healing again for the first time. I begged God, “If you’ll sustain Baby and heal it, I promise to always say at least one prayer for every single healing prayer request I hear from here on.” I thought maybe God would change his mind about his “no’s” that he had been giving me. This brings me to the Scriptures on the matter…
As somewhat of a “Biblical literalist”, I had generally always believed that God “changed his mind” about things. The prediction of Hezekiah’s soon coming death is one of my favorite examples of God changing his mind in this way (Is 38:1). If it’s true that God cannot lie and that he told Hezekiah, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover,’” then there must be some sense in which God was planning for Hezekiah to die. Later on, Hezekiah’s repentant tears appear to change God’s mind, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years.” God sees our tears. He saw Hezekiah’s and chose to “add” fifteen years to his life. If Hezekiah’s life was pre-planned in meticulous detail by God, how would he have “added” these years to his life?
In Exodus, something similar happens when God says, “The Lord also said to Moses: “I have seen this people, and they are indeed a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone, so that my anger can burn against them and I can destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (32:9-10). I would like to think that most normal readers also don’t believe God is bluffing here and that he was planning to destroy the Israelites for their rebellion and do a sort of “soft-reboot” with Moses and a few others. After Moses appeals to God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his reputation among the unbelieving Gentile nations, it says the following, “So the Lord relented concerning the disaster he had said he would bring on his people.” [You can see an extended explanation of how God changes his mind/relents about things he is currently planning in Jeremiah 18:1-11. You may want to pause and read this passage now if you’re not familiar with it] From this point in the story, God further responds to Moses’ intercession with a few hotly debated words, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (33:19). Remember, this is in response to Moses’ intercessory prayers. Before, God had planned on destroying the Israelites and starting over. He’s promising to stick with them despite their rebellion and to “bless all nations” (Gen 12:3) through them and their “Seed” who would ultimately be Jesus Christ (Gal 3:16).
Much later in Israel’s history, Jonah is sent as a prophet to his enemies, the Ninevites. In his reluctant, bitter warning to them from God it is recorded, “In forty days Nineveh will be demolished!” The king of Nineveh seemed to understand that even God’s decisions on the matter were not pre-made regarding the prophecy that Jonah announced. He believed there could be a divine underlying motivation for it being made known to the whole city, that perhaps a citywide repentance might bring about a delay or cancellation of the announced judgment saying, “Who knows? God may turn and relent; he may turn from his burning anger so that we will not perish.” And all of this from a pagan king who received no explicitly stated condition in the prophecy!
More discussion could be had on this subject but however you would like to frame God’s omniscience and how it works, it would certainly seem to me that God changes his mind and thereby his plans for his creatures in response to their pleas and cries to him for mercy. This is exactly what I did that night as I lay next to my wife in bed weeping about an unforeseen future possibility of a life without our Baby Girl. I plead for his mercy, because I didn’t know what he was going to do, or what he might do, in response to my prayers. It could be that I might persuade him to change his mind about something he was planning. So, I prayed, “God please heal our baby. Have mercy on us, your children.” After a torturous two weeks of waiting for our next scheduled ultrasound scan, we saw her little heartbeat and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I cried tears of joy for probably only the second time in my life. Maybe God changed his mind. I can’t really say and maybe I’ll never know. All I know is I had vowed to never pray for healing again and acting on my persuasion from the Scriptures may have changed the future for our little family. As a result, I’m holding up my end of the bargain. Everyone that needs healing gets prayer because, ultimately, we can’t know what God might decide to do or not do in response. His plans for us are subject to change.
Now, our little girl, Phoebe Romine (whose middle name she got from her grandmother and late great grandmother) has a life that is full of possibilities and her dad prays for her every night because God still sees our tears as he saw Hezekiah’s and is often moved to change his mind. And if I didn’t believe that God indeed still changes his mind, I may not have changed mine.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thess 5:16-18
“Listen to your servant’s prayer and his petition, Lord my God, so that you may hear the cry and the prayer that your servant prays before you…” ~2 Chronicles 6:19