Prayer and Faith vs. Doctors and Medicine
by Rich Deem


Healing Miracles?

The scenario has happened many times before. Some Christian (or Jehovah's Witness) decides that prayer is the way that his child should be healed, so he forsakes medical treatment and the child dies. It made me upset when I was an atheist and still does now that I am a Christian.

Rich Deem

A recent news story told about "extremely religious" parents who allowed their 11 year old daughter to die of a treatable form of diabetes by seeking healing through prayer instead of seeking medical treatment.1 This situation is obviously a tragedy for the family, who are left with grief and remorse. In this day, should Christians always seek medical treatment or just pray or do both?

Purpose of healing miracles

Do miracles happen today? Some Christians say "no," although I was personally healed of an "incurable" disease in 1985.2 However, as in the accounts in the Bible, miracles have a specific purpose that usually involves bringing a person to faith in Jesus Christ. My case was no exception, since I was an agnostic deist at the time I was healed. This is not to say that healing miracles don't happen for Christians. However, miracles are rare and are done with the purpose of displaying God's power. So, even though I consider myself a spiritual Christian, I would never assume that I had the power to heal anybody through prayer. God miraculously fed His chosen people manna during their 40-year wandering through the desert.3 However, today we are expected to feed ourselves.4 God has blessed us with the technology to treat many disease and we should take advantage of those gifts.

Physicians in the Bible

There are some Christians who believe that Christians should not visit doctors, but rely solely upon prayer for healing. They claim (falsely) that all healings in the Bible were strictly the result of prayer. It is true that the gospels contain many examples of Jesus (and even the apostles) healing the sick and lame.5 However, the healings of Jesus were given as a sign of the legitimacy of His claim of Messiahship, since the Old Testament said that the Messiah would heal the blind and the deaf.6 Despite claims to the contrary, there were physicians at the time the New Testament was written. In fact, one of the writers of the gospels, Luke, was a physician.7 Jesus seemed to know that doctors could heal people, since He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick,"8 giving legitimacy to medicine as a healing art. Jesus also quoted from the proverb, "Physician, heal yourself!,"9 indicating that physicians of the time were healing people. The Greek word for "physician" is derived from the root verb iaomai, which mean "to cure" or "heal,"10 indicating that a physician's job in the first century was to heal people.

Some Christians go to the complete opposite extreme, claiming that the healing gifts died with the apostles. It is likely that neither extreme position is correct, since it seems likely that God does heal some people to demonstrate His love and power. However, in addition to His miraculous healing power, God has called some people to be doctors to minister healing to others.

God chooses doctors

I believe that God calls people into different vocations so that their strengths can be used to care for others11 and bring glory to Him.12 God calls people to be doctors as in this example, told by Bruce Hennigan, M.D.:

"When I was a senior in high school, I had no idea what to do with my life. I was truly confused and lost. My high school counselor was frantic because I was losing opportunities for scholarships. In February of my senior year, my pastor preached a sermon in which he said that God can call people into jobs and professions that were not necessarily related to the church. This idea that God had a "purpose" for my life was novel in 1973. But, it impressed me and I knelt and prayed that God would reveal to me the purpose and future for my life. I totally surrendered to whatever God wanted me to do. I can only describe the following event as truly supernatural and miraculous. I had the incredible certainty that I was supposed to be a doctor. This was never on my list of professions and not only was I certain this is what God wanted me to do, I had incredible peace from my decision. In the months that followed, God worked in ways I could never attribute to man to get me into a special "six year" program that guaranteed me entrance into medical school (only 10 people in the nation were accepted each year) and to supply a way to pay for my entire education through the end of medical school. I can now tell patients that God called me to be a physician and gave me the tools to complete my education. So, if I am called by God to be a doctor, then isn't it possible that I may be the answer to their prayer? My point is that God and God alone equips us with the intellect and the thirst to explore science that leads to medical breakthroughs. If God does this, then by extension, doctors, nurses, and all health care personnel are God's answers to these prayers."13

Conclusion Top of page

Christians should not rely solely upon prayer to treat diseases that are reliably treated through modern medicine. This doesn't mean that we don't pray for the sick. When Christian parents let a child die from a disorder that is readily treatable by modern medicine, it says to the world that we are stupid and uncaring. However, since God calls certain individuals to serve others through medicine, aren't those people really an answer to our prayers? So when your child gets sick, use your faith to seek medical professionals whom God has provided for their healing. And, yes, pray for your child and also for the doctors that God would provide them wisdom and discernment in your child's treatment.

La Oración y la Fe Vs. Los Doctores y la Medicina

References Top of page

  1. The girl had been sick for several weeks, but was not diagnosed with diabetes until after she had died. See Parents pick prayer over docs; girl dies.
  2. See Rich's Testimony for Jesus Christ for details.
  3. "I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'" So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat." This is what the LORD has commanded, 'Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.'" ...The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey... "The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (Exodus 16:12-16, 31, 35)
  4. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
  5. Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
    The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. (Matthew 4:24)
    And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment. (Matthew 8:13)
    When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. (Matthew 8:16)
    Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. (Matthew 9:35)
    Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. (Matthew 10:1)
    "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8)
    the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. (Matthew 11:5)
    And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--so that they might accuse Him... Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand!" He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. (Matthew 12:10-13)
    But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, (Matthew 12:15)
    Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. (Matthew 12:22)
    When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)
    Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. (Matthew 15:28)
    And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. (Matthew 15:30)
    So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. (Matthew 15:31)
    and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there. (Matthew 19:2)
    And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. (Matthew 21:14)
    And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was. (Mark 1:34)
    for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him. (Mark 3:10)
    And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction." (Mark 5:34)
    And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. (Mark 6:5)
    And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. (Mark 6:13)
    They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him... and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, "Ephphatha!" that is, "Be opened!" And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. (Mark 7:32-35)
    They were utterly astonished, saying, "He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak." (Mark 7:37)
    Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. (Mark 8:23-25)
    And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!" And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. (Mark 10:51-52)
    While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. (Luke 4:40)
    But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:15)
    One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. (Luke 5:17)
    who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. (Luke 6:18)
    And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all. (Luke 6:19)
    for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. (Luke 7:7-10)
    At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. (Luke 7:21)
    And He answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. (Luke 7:22)
    and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, (Luke 8:2)
    When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. (Luke 8:47)
    Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, "Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him, knowing that she had died. He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Child, arise!" And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately; and He gave orders for something to be given her to eat. (Luke 8:52-55)
    And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1)
    And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. (Luke 9:2)
    Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (Luke 9:6)
    But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:11)
    and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' (Luke 10:9)
    But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, "There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day." (Luke 13:14)
    And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?" But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. (Luke 14:3-4)
    Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, (Luke 17:15)
    As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging... "What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." (Luke 18:35-42)
    But Jesus answered and said, "Stop! No more of this." And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51)
    When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death... Jesus said to him, "Go; your son lives." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. (John 4:47-50)
    But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. (John 5:13)
    So they said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?" And he said, "He is a prophet." (John 9:17)
    The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, (John 9:18)
    He then answered, "Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." (John 9:25)
    "Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. (John 9:32)
    Others were saying, "These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?" (John 10:21)
    But some of them said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?" (John 11:37)
    And a man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. (Acts 3:2)
    "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. (Acts 3:16)
    let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead--by this name this man stands here before you in good health. (Acts 4:10)
    And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. (Acts 4:14)
    for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. (Acts 4:22)
    while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4:30)
    Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed. (Acts 5:16)
    For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. (Acts 8:7)
    Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed." Immediately he got up. (Acts 9:34)
    "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)
    At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. (Acts 14:8)
    And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. (Acts 28:8)
  6. And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. (Isaiah 29:18)
    Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah. (Isaiah 35:5-6)
  7. Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. (Colossians 4:14)
  8. But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick." (Matthew 9:12)
    And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)
    And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick." (Luke 5:31)
  9. And He said to them, "No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'" (Luke 4:23)
  10. Thayer’s Greek Definitions:
    iaomai (Strong’s G2390)
    1. to cure, heal
    2. to make whole
      1. to free from errors and sins, to bring about (one’s) salvation
    Part of Speech: verb
    A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: middle voice of apparently a primary verb
    Citing in TDNT: 3:194, 344
  11. '"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' " (Matthew 22:36-39)
  12. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
  13. Bruce Hennigan, M.D. 2008. Personal correspondence.
Last Modified July 15, 2010


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