Have you ever had someone pray for you to be healed and used language like, "May this illness depart your body and go to another place never to return?" I have--once or twice. And I might even use that kind of language to pray for someone else, though I'd probably be talking about "cancer" and the "other place" I'd have in mind would probably be "remission." Occasionally, however, our prayers for healing sound awfully spiritual in nature. Prayers of deliverance from disease sometimes border on requests for deliverance from spiritual adversity. Why?
There's a connection between spiritual illness and physical illness--there's no doubt about that. And I'm not just talking about demonic possession or attachment. I mean that people experience physical consequences for psycho-social-religious asynchronicities. If I feel abandoned by God, I might also experience physical ailment (see today's Psalm--Psalm 38). That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that my fever of 101.4 is caused by an evil spirit. Sometimes the flu is just the flu.
In today's reading from Luke (4:38-44), Jesus goes to his friend Simon's house, where he discovers that Simon's mother-in-law is running a high fever. Jesus "rebukes" the fever, which departs her. Later on, when the crowd brings to him lots of sick people, many of them have demons come out of them--demons which cry out in recognition of the healer. Weird, yes. Completely foreign to our experience? Well, perhaps not completely.
I was out early the other morning and was thinking about how the different aspects of my life are connected. My health affects my work. My work affects my family life. My family life affects my work and my health. And my spiritual well-being is affected by and in turn affects all of the rest. We're organic, integrated beings. And I think we sometimes need spiritual healing.
I'm not suggesting that we should go to a "spiritualist" whenever an illness stikes. Sometimes the flu needs Tamiflu rather than annointing. But sometimes my body is out of sync because my prayer life is out of sync. Sometimes I'm in a bad mood because I haven't spent enough time in quiet prayer. Sometimes I feel run down because I haven't been renewed spiritually. Sometimes I may even show symptoms like a fever when all I really need is a dose of God.
Jesus represents good news, and sometimes that good news is the same sort of news we want to hear from our physician. When doctors say, "I have good news for you," that doesn't mean that we're not ill. It usually means that we are ill but that we will get better. Jesus is good news. We are broken--spiritually and physically. We are in need of healing. And Jesus represents a source of that healing.
How are you out of sync? What sort of healing do you need?