Prayer and Healing

Technical difficulties prevented us recording Rev Caroline’s sermon this morning. However, it was based on a story in Mark’s gospel, in which Jesus restored sight to a blind man. A transcript follows:

Healing of the blind. Such an important and symbolic aspect of Jesus’ ministry foretold by Isaiah and claimed by Jesus in Luke’s gospel as he declares:

“The  Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18).

A blind man in Jesus’ times would have been poor on at least two  levels….the obvious poverty of vision with all that it entailed and the financial poverty of being reliant on family to meet his survival needs.

The healing in this account is unusual in that it is the only healing that happens in two stages.

It happens in Bethsaida near to where the 5000 had been fed. It is concerned friends that have brought the man for healing (similar to those who brought the paralytic for healing earlier in Mark’s gospel) and they beg Jesus to touch him.

It is unclear why Jesus took the man out of Bethsaida before healing him. It may have been to  avoid  publicity, to establish a relationship with the man or because, Matthews gospel tells us, Bethsaida had already been judged. Clearly he wanted the man to be discreet about his healing, as he instructs him not to  return to the village. The fact that the reasons have not been made clear suggests that there is something different that Mark wants us to glean from this account that might speak deeper truths about healing and Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus has healed at least 8 blind people that the gospels make us aware of and his method is very varied.

  • 4 men in Matthew’s gospel were healed by their eyes being simply touched.(9:27-31, 20:30-34).
  • A man who was both blind and mute was simply healed (12:22)
  • Blind Bartimaeus was healed with a simple word (10:46-52)
  • In John’s gospel (9:1-7) a blind man was healed with an ointment of the eyes with clay and spittle.
  • Today’s blind man was healed by spittle and touch

Clearly Jesus was able to heal in whatever manner he chose from a simple word to actions or interventions. Those may have had a practical reason in response to the cause of the blindness each person had – or it may have had symbolism about a deeper level of healing that the person needed.

Sometimes we don’t know the deeper level of healing that is required in us that only God knows and we would struggle to articulate. We can come to God in prayer for healing of the immediately presenting problem and find something else is healed in response to that blanket request for healing that gives us a freedom and openness that we had not thought possible.

For example, I became diabetic not long before I met Aidan then, when we hoped to start a family, I was told that I would need to start using insulin to keep a baby safe. I was still assimilating all that it meant to be diabetic at that stage and the potential risks to a pregnancy. I was very afraid of using needles. I prayed for healing from the diabetes.

What I received was healing from my fear of needles and a greater confidence in living with my condition. To me that felt good – a bit like our blind man being able to see trees moving…..not quite what I had asked for but a dramatic difference. The diabetes has never been lifted from me and that is okay. God uses that experience in many ways to walk alongside others and, in doing so, offer those smaller experiences of healing as signposts on the way to others.

When I was pregnant with Lydia, a temping job I had took me to a Diabetes Unit in London and the nurses often called me in to encourage other new Mum’s to be to find the courage to start injecting insulin to keep their babies safe from the effects of diabetes medication. Healing has a way of pouring out to bless other – which always makes Jesus’ requests to tell nobody about a healing received seem a particularly big ask.

Prayer is often just like our blind man’s experience of healing and is rarely answered in the same way. God may immediately answer a prayer request. Sometimes, though, he asks us to wait a while but may give us seeds of encouragement along the way (just like the man seeing people like trees before the second stage of his prayers were answered). Sometimes he says “Yes” but does so in a way that we don’t expect and can sometimes only see with hindsight after reflecting.

I believe that God does always honour our prayers for healing whether it be for ourselves, for others or the world. When we pray for a situation that is so huge that we don’t know what to pray (like an earthquake, a  war zone or some personal crisis that threatens to overwhelm) God responds to the groaning of the Spirit in us that yearns for his light and his healing and responds. For those wider prayers for the world and our community or even in loved ones lives we may never be privy to the new shoots of life and healing going on….but they will be in people’s hearts, their one to one encounters, the people who come alongside to rescue, to treat them and to support. All are expressions of God’s healing love and a response to our yearning for that in the lives of others.

Healing brings the opportunity for us to spiritually grow. Like the disciples at times, the blind man initially could only gain an impression of what he was being shown in the world around him. We are not always ready for laser sharp vision of what God is wanting to show us in our lives….but we will be with time, perseverance, openness and faith.

Patience, faithfulness and trust are central to this journey with God. We are told nothing about the man’s faith. The man’s friends brought him in faith to Jesus. The man was still open and trusting to cooperate with Jesus after the first stage of his healing and by continuing to walk with Jesus was eventually able to receive full healing of the presenting problem.

Let us pause, in a moment of silence now, and talk to Jesus about the healing that we yearn for in our own lives and the lives of those we love and care about and ask him to bring his healing touch into all of our lives.

Amen.

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