How have prayers helped your illness?

Religion / belief / healthHealing through faith

The stories of the healings of Jesus occupy a large space in the Gospels. To many people whom he healed, Jesus said: “Your faith has made you well” or, in other words, translated: “Your faith has helped you, has healed you, has saved you” (e.g. Mark 5:34).

Is there a direct relationship between faith and health being established here? So can we expect to be cured of physical or emotional illnesses if we entrust our lives to God and pray for healing?

Two observations help answer this question

Firstly, we must not misunderstand healings from Jesus in the sense of an absolutization of physical / mental well-being. The healings of Jesus must be seen in the context of his Kingdom of God message. Jesus proclaimed the advent of the kingdom of God for which the people of his time were eagerly awaiting. This kingdom of God is realized when people live in good relationships: with one another, with God, with themselves and with creation. When this kingdom of peace and justice became a reality around Jesus, great events would take place and many, but not all, people would be healed. The kingdom of God became "palpable" in the healings of Jesus, but it was by no means limited to that. As important and valuable as physical / mental well-being is - Jesus was about much more than "wellness". His actions aimed at "wholeness" in the sense of the biblical shalom, namely the salvation of man in all his relationships. That means: If people with physical defects live in peace with themselves, with God and with others, then they are in an essential sense whole, yes "healthy". The doctor and theologian Dietrich Rössler put it this way:

"Health is not just the absence of illness and ailments, but the strength to live with them."

Second, Jesus' healings were always relational. Jesus met everyone at eye level and accepted everyone, also and especially in their physicality. In an atmosphere of loving acceptance and appreciation, people were transformed, lifted and healed. Some were physically healed, but not all - but all felt that power came from Jesus.

From these observations it follows: In the biblical-Christian understanding, healing means more than physical or mental recovery. There is no direct, "automatic" relationship between our beliefs and healing from physical and mental illnesses. Faith cannot be instrumentalized for concrete healings. And yet: God is close to us when we are sick and faith and prayer have healing powers that can change our lives.

The following promises of the Christian faith can have a healing effect

  • God is close to you, especially and especially when you are not doing well. The closeness of God in illness strengthens, comforts, saves from despair and can alleviate or heal suffering. But the way in which God works in our illness must remain open.
  • Your life is affirmed by God and makes sense. Faith helps to distinguish between the penultimate and the last. He wants to protect against seeing a life without full health and with only limited efficiency as pointless.
  • You are absolutely loved by God. God's love does not have to be "earned", but precedes every individual achievement. This promise has a liberating effect on people who have repeatedly experienced in their lives that they are not loved.
  • God forgives you your debts. This promise can be beneficial, for example for people with mental illnesses, if feelings of guilt after wrongdoing or unfounded feelings of guilt intensify the illness. The experience of forgiveness is sometimes a first step towards reconciliation with yourself and with other people.

These promises can be experienced in prayer, church services, rituals (such as personal blessings), meditation, Bible reading, and pastoral discussions. You can strengthen people, change them and heal them in multiple ways.

Dr. Beate Jakob, Tübingen

further reading
Jakob, B. / Laepple, U. (2014), Health, Healing, and Spirituality. Healing ministries in church, diakonia and worldwide ecumenism. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener
Klein, C., H. Berth, H., F. Balck, F. (Eds., 2011) Health - Religion - Spirituality. Concepts, findings and explanations. Munich: Juventa
Utsch, M. (2016): Resources of Religion and Spirituality. Behavioral Therapy and Psychosocial Practice. 48 (4). Pp. 863-873.
Utsch, M. (2018): The wellness movement as a health cult. In: Brähler E, Hoefert HW, Klotter C (eds.) Change in health and illness concepts. Lengerich: Pabst. Pp. 138-144.