Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Now, Dave, sometimes we mince around. We talk about a few things, but today we are going to get right to the first question. Is that okay with you?
Dave: That’s fine.
Tom: All right. The Bible . . .
Dave: The first question coming out of this book that we’re talking . . .
Tom: But now you’re mincing . . .
Dave: No I’m not! We have to let people know where the question comes from.
Tom: Okay. Sorry.
Dave: It didn’t come from a listener. This is in a book called In Defense of the Faith. It comes from my files, and so forth. I didn’t make these things up.
Tom: Right, over your many years of ministry, people have asked you these questions, and you have files on them, and so on. And they can order the book, and Gary will give them some information later. Now that wasn’t mincing was it?
Dave: No, let’s get right at it.
Tom: Okay, let’s get to the question: “The Bible very clearly states in unmistakable language, with no conditions attached, ‘The prayer of faith will heal the sick’ (James:5:15). Yet thousands of such prayers for healing have gone up to God unanswered. How can we reconcile the promise with the results?”
Now, Dave, we may have touched upon this last week, but I want to go back over it because people read in the scriptures, “The prayer of faith will heal the sick.” It’s pretty straightforward.
Dave: Yes, I don’t know how this person can say “thousands of such prayers have gone up.” How does he know if they qualify as the prayer of faith? Now, if that’s true, and this (I think this came from an atheist), and if that’s true, then the Bible is not true. Right?
Tom: Can I just qualify that?
Tom: It doesn’t have to be an atheist. I’ve had many Christians tell me, “Hey that’s what it says. It says what it says. It means what it says.”
Dave: Well, okay, Tom, I’m not talking about it means what it says. I’m talking about saying, “Yeah, but people do this, and it doesn’t happen.” So, obviously, either the Bible is true, or it isn’t. If the Bible is true, then they have not been praying the prayer of faith, because the Bible says, “The prayer of faith will heal the sick,” ok?
So, now this person says thousands of such prayers (the prayer of faith) have been given without an answer. It can’t be possible, otherwise the Bible isn’t true, okay? We start with that premise.
Dave: All right, then we have to decide, “Well, what is the prayer of faith?” And I don’t remember—maybe we talked about it last week. We’ve probably talked about it many times, but people often think—Christians—If I can just believe that what I am praying for will happen, that’s faith. That is not faith. If things happen because you believe they will happen, you don’t need God. Okay? So, faith is in God. [In] Mark 11, Jesus said “Have faith in God.” He had cursed a fig tree, which is a symbol of Israel, actually, and it withered up. And the disciples said, “Wow! How do you do that sort of a thing?”
And Jesus said, “Well, if you had faith like a grain of mustard seed [that’s a very tiny seed], you could say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and cast into the sea,’ and it would happen.”
So then Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” Okay, now the prayer of faith, then, is believing that God will heal this person for whom I am praying.
Tom: So, I could do that. Every Christian who puts his trust, his belief, in God ought to—doesn’t it follow then?
Dave: Well, Tom, no, it doesn’t follow. Not exactly.
Tom: Okay, well this is what we want to get at. So now I’m sure there’s confusion out there. And if they’re not confused before, maybe we’ve already got them confused. So let’s straighten this out.
Dave: Well, Tom, it says “the prayer of faith.” Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” So, the prayer of faith would be believing that God is going to do what I am asking Him to do. Now, how can I believe that God is going to do what I am asking Him to do unless I know it’s God’s will to do what I am asking Him to do? In other words, you’ve got two possibilities. We’ve talked a lot about prayer lately. Prayer really puts me in touch with God. It puts me in harmony with His will. One of the things we say in prayer is—Jesus said it, Paul said it, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Now, how can I believe that God is going to do what I ask Him to do unless I know it’s His will?
Well, am I forcing my will upon God? Have I become God, so that now, by something called The Magic of Believing—you remember that? Bristol wrote that. That’s a New Age book. Or Norman Vincent Peale: “Positive thinking is just another word for faith.” Or Robert Schuller: “Possibility thinking is just another word for faith?”
But wait a minute! You can be an atheist and teach Positive Thinking seminars. It has nothing to do with God. It’s like, my mind—if I can just think positively, if I can just believe in the possibilities, then this is going to happen. Well then, you’re God. God is not in charge of His universe anymore, and prayer becomes a religious technique to impose our will upon God. And if we follow this technique, and we think positively, and we can talk ourselves into really believing that what we are asking for is going to happen, then we are in charge!
Tom: Yes, that’s the mind sciences. God is nothing but an impersonal mind out there that’s activated by our thoughts.
Tom: Eastern cults and Nichiren Shoshu. These, too, have a mantra they repeat over and over and over again to make these things come into . . . creating reality with your mind.
Dave: It’s called Maya in Hinduism. It’s all an illusion. There’s nothing out there. It’s not real; we have created it in our minds.
Tom: So how does this affect the individual Christian who read this? Now, how am I to apply this?
Dave: Well, Tom, I really have to be in touch with God to pray the prayer of faith. We mentioned it maybe last week, I don’t remember, but when Elijah on Mt. Carmel—he mocks the prophets of Baal. He says, “Look we’re not going to just each offer a sacrifice and then we’ll have the theologians discuss whose smoke ascended in the right pattern so it would be acceptable to God and so forth. None of this theoretical stuff,” Elijah said. “Look, you offer your sacrifice; I’ll offer my sacrifice, but we won’t put any fire to it. But God, whether it is Baal, or Yahweh, Jehovah, who sends fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, that’s the true God.” This is a real test.
Now, you think Elijah was just kinda whistling Dixie? He was hoping, “Oh God, I hope you’ll come through now! Don’t leave me stranded out on this limb.”
Tom: Or was he presuming on God?
Dave: Presumption? No. So, he mocks them, and you know some of the mockery: “Hey, he’s gone to sleep,” you know. They are jumping on the altar, they’re cutting themselves, they’re crying out. I’ve seen prayer meetings kind of like that, Tom. Where . . . Jesus said, “They think they will be heard for their much speaking.” I’ve been in prayer meetings where they’re all praying at once, and it gets louder and louder and louder, and I almost want to stand up and say, “You think God is hard of hearing?”
Tom: Dave, never mind prayer meetings; just turn on the TV. These evangelists—it’s outrageous!
Dave: Yeah. So Elijah mocks them. In fact, even at one point, not only does he say, “Maybe he’s asleep,” but he says, “Maybe he’s gone to the bathroom.” He is really mocking Baal, and when they give up, it’s the time of the evening sacrifice now. He says, “Oh, God, oh, Lord, Yahweh, let it be known that I am your servant, and that I have done this according to Your Word.” He knows—he knows—this is God’s will. He knows that God is going to answer him.
And down comes the fire from heaven! He had poured water on this sacrifice, and it was running down, and they had a trench around it that was full of water, and that fire comes down, and it licks up—it just consumes—everything!
And the people are awestruck. “The Lord, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!” And Elijah says, “Take those prophets of Baal. They have been leading people astray,” and they were all killed. That was pretty harsh. But—we don’t do that today—but what penalty should be given to people who offer a false gospel? Who give you a false hope of getting to heaven—and make money by doing it? There could be no crime greater than leading people astray for eternity.
So Elijah—he wasn’t just hoping. He knew.
So the “Prayer of Faith” that heals the sick—and I am sure we’ve mentioned it—I have prayed that prayer a number of times, Tom. When I knew (I don’t know how I knew; God just gave me the faith)—I knew that this person would be healed, and I’ve have laid my hands on people (on a few occasions) and seen them instantly healed. I have been instantly healed myself.
On the other hand, I lay in bed for a number of weeks with hepatitis that I picked up in Mexico. And I remember some dear people—there were about a half-a-dozen men came (and they were rather charismatic), and they came and got around my bedside, and they prayed and prayed for me. And then, I was going to escort them to the door, and they said, “Oh don’t get out of bed! Don’t get out of bed!” Well, I thought they’d prayed that I would be healed, and then they were afraid to have me get out of bed!
You have other instances like that in the Bible. You remember the prayer meeting to get Peter . . .
Tom: . . . out of jail.
Dave: . . . out of jail, and they did not believe it. And here, the angel delivers Peter, and Peter comes and knocks at the door, and Rhoda, the maid—she’s so excited she doesn’t open the door. She runs up to the prayer meeting, “Peter’s here! Peter’s here!” And they say, “You’re mad! It couldn’t be. It must be a spirit.”
And yet, there they are praying for Peter to be delivered. So, it doesn’t take a “prayer of faith.” If it’s God’s will, it’s going to happen whether you have the faith or not.
Tom: Yes, so this doesn’t deny somebody praying for healing.
Dave: No, no. Let’s pray for healing and say, “God, if this is Your will, we want You to do it, but we bow to Your will, Lord.”
But, Tom, here’s a problem—and I’ve been in some churches on occasion; mostly such churches don’t invite me back anymore—but I don’t remember whether you were with me the last time I ever (I think you might have been)—the last time I ever spoke at a Full Gospel Businessmen’s . . .
Tom: I was there, Dave. You were given . . . the guy kept going, “Cut! Cut! Cut!”
Dave: Well, no, he came up and gave me a note, and I read the note. I said, “I’ve just been handed” [that was the chairman] . . . I said, “I’ve just been handed a note that says, ‘Shut up, and sit down!’ But I’ve come a long ways to get here . . .” You remember that?
Tom: Of course, Dave! I was there wringing my hands in the back! [laughing]
Dave: So, I carried on, saying what I believed that God wanted me to say. But I don’t get up and rebuke somebody. But anyway, I have seen it. Here, the pastor, someone comes up and . . . for prayer—now, we pray for healing at our little fellowship, and the elders lay hands on them and just ask God to do this if this is His will. But I’ve been in churches where the pastor just demands, “In the name of Jesus, sickness, GO!” Well, Tom, you can imagine what that does to a teenager—12, 13, 14, 15, 16—and they grow up in that church, and they have seen that pastor, in the name of Jesus, command again and again and again the healing—for the sickness to go—and it doesn’t happen. Now, what does that do to their faith and to their understanding of the Bible?
Tom: Well, Dave, let’s broaden this a little bit. When you look at these so-called healing services, you have 25,000 people crammed into a convention center and so on—how many people supposedly are healed? Even if you’d say they are bona fide healings, you’ve got less than . . . what percentage? It’s so incredibly small compared to all who are there, and they all sort of are wheeled back out of there, carried back out of there. Well, what kind of witness is this to the world?
Dave: Tom, I can’t forget . . . and this was on TV, and I won’t name the healer—still popular on TBN. It was embarrassing to him, I am sure. They brought a lady up in a wheelchair, and “in the name of Jesus,” he commanded her to be healed. And then—of course, nothing happened. I shouldn’t say “of course,” because God can do anything—but nothing happened. And then he says, “Wheel this healed lady back to her place.”
What? Well, see, it was now it was up to her to “positively confess her healing.” Jesus, when he opened the eyes of the blind, they still couldn’t see, but He said, “Okay, guys, now begin to confess your healing. Confess that you can see, keep confessing it, and as you confess it long enough, why, you’ll eventually see.”
Never does Jesus do anything like that! So, Tom, maybe we need to move on, but the “prayer of faith”—that faith only comes from God. That faith is in God, and that faith has absolute confidence that what is being prayed for will be done, because we know it is God’s will. If not, then we can only say, “Lord, if this is Your will.”
Tom: Dave, I want to make a distinction here, a little side note. “The prayer of faith”—so this faith is a gift of God, correct?
Dave: I believe so. It has to come from God.
Dave: Because faith is in God.
Tom: What I’m saying is, you explained that you knew—God had given you the gift of faith to know and to understand that healing was going to take place. How does that compare with Ephesians:2:8?
Dave: Well, let me just finish this thought, Tom.
Dave: If I do not know (getting back to what we already said), if I do not know 100 percent for sure that this is God’s will, how can I believe He will do this? Then I’m imposing my will upon Him. No, I only want God’s will for myself and for others. Okay?
Now you’ve got Ephesians . . .
Tom: You know the verse I’m referring to?
Dave: Right, Ephesians:2:8-10?
Dave: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Tom: Again, this is a side note, but I want you to compare, one, the scriptures talk about the gift of faith, but people sometimes apply it to this verse. But this isn’t the gift of faith, is it?
Dave: Salvation is the gift there. We talk about that in our new book, What Love Is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God. In the Greek, it’s very clear that salvation is the gift—not faith. Now, we are expected to believe the gospel. Everyone is expected to believe it: “For God so loved the world . . . whosever believeth in him . . . He gave his only begotten Son that whosever believeth in him . . . .” This is something—God is telling us the truth now. When God says it, we must believe it. And when He says, “I gave my Son to pay the penalty for your sins, and if you will trust in Him, you will be forgiven of your sins, and you will receive the gift of eternal life. Salvation is the gift.” God expects every person that that message comes to, to believe it, because this is God’s Word. This is God speaking. It has even been foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament. We can prove that this is God’s Word—this is the gospel of God, as Paul says in Romans 1.
So there’s no question there what is God’s will, and those who do not believe it make God out to be a liar. That is entirely different from this question on “the prayer of faith will heal the sick.” You see, we know it is His will because it is not God’s will that any should perish.
And yet, we do have Calvinists who say . . . well, for example, one of my dear friends—we offer his book—and yet he says, “The counselor cannot say to the counselee, ‘Christ died for you,’ because you don’t know whether he is one of the ‘elect.’”
“To you; to your children,” Peter said on the day of Pentecost. How would he know that? He knows they’re all the elect? No! It is to “whosoever will.” The gospel is to the world. In Luke:2:10, the angel of the Lord (v.9) comes upon them; the glory of the Lord shines round about these shepherds, and the angel says to them, “Fear not [they are naturally afraid; I mean, this is an awesome sight], for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Now, if I’m not one of the elect, Tom, but if I have been predestined to eternal torment by God for a past eternity, and there is nothing I can do about it—the gospel is not to me, Christ didn’t die for me—how could you say this is “good tidings of great joy to all people” that a Savior was born? No, the Savior didn’t come to save me, if I am not one of the elect according to Calvinism.
Now, we don’t want to hammer away on Calvinism, but this is a problem. So there’s a difference between the prayer of faith, praying for the sick, and I don’t know whether it’s God’s will—and faith believing the gospel, which is offered to everyone, everywhere. That is not a gift, that faith that God gives to certain ones. No, He expects everyone to believe it, and those who do not believe it have made God a liar. They have refused to believe what God has said, and that’s very serious.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, you and I wrote a book together called The New Spirituality, and in it we mention . . . well, it’s about the New Age and the New Age Movement. We wrote it for Christians to give to their friends who are in the New Age Movement, because we just deal with the issues of Eastern mysticism, all the sort of spiritual marketplace, that has all of these techniques, methodologies, and so on, which have a very spiritual side to them. And one of the individuals that we mention is Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School. Now here we have faith with regard to—oh, if somebody has cancer, or somebody has a disease, now they believe they can sort of document, on the basis of a person’s faith, whether they’re going to be healed or not. Now there’s a real distortion of biblical faith.
Dave: Tom, they have tests, and they have people of all faiths, so-called, praying—Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims—and everybody’s joining in prayer, and well, they document some kind of a . . . maybe a longer survival; they’re not real healings—very, very few, very seldom. You can’t really document this sort of thing scientifically.
Jesus didn’t need that. It says He healed every one. They came to Him from everywhere. They brought every kind of disease to Jesus and He healed every one with a word. The scripture says . . . Matthew tells us this was in fulfillment of Isaiah:53:4: “He himself, he bore our sins, he took our sorrows, he bore our sicknesses”; and that was fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus Christ. There were no failures! Anyone who came to Him, He healed every one.
Tom: Dave, the point I want to make here is that we’re certainly hearing from the world and scientific circles that there is a kind of a methodology, a technique that you can apply, that’s going to help you in your healing process. For example, we’ve talked about visualization. This is bogus; this is an incredible (as I said before) distortion of what biblical faith is, and now they’re trying to put this in a religious context. So now, all you have to do is be a person of faith in order to . . .
Dave: Any faith.
Tom: Any faith!
Dave: Any faith. I was reading the Reader’s Digest this morning while I was waiting for the dentist to get to me. And it was about prayer. They just began to pray, to just feel that there was some higher power out there. Even the atheists have a prayer helpline. You call the 800 number, and nobody answers.
But everybody is talking about prayer, and they even have Buddhists praying, and that’s really basically atheistic. So, it doesn’t matter what you believe; it doesn’t matter in whom you believe, according to them, just so long as you believe in some higher power. “There’s somebody out there.” Wouldn’t that be comforting to know—someone’s out there. You don’t know who this person is. Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,” and it is absolutely essential that we know God and that we trust Him, and we believe the gospel—that Christ is God, who became a man, died for our sins, paid the full penalty, rose from the dead so that we could be forgiven and have the gift of eternal life.
Tom: Sure, and that we can have a personal relationship with Him, in which you have to have communication. You have to have communion.
Tom: You have to have the development of a personal intimate relationship, which all of that provides.