A number of years ago I had back surgery. Before the surgery, I prayed and believed God could heal me. The night before the surgery, I had no pain and was convinced God had done a miracle. I was rejoicing, but woke up the next morning in excruciating pain and needed the surgery. It was a success and I had my healing. Looking back at the night free of pain, I believe God gave me the rest I needed to go through that procedure. My healing was no less a miracle than if God had touched my back immediately and healed it without surgery. In this case, he used the skillful hand of the surgeon to accomplish the healing, even though I had faith that God could do it without the surgeon’s help. God is all powerful. Healing, I have learned comes in many ways.
So why is it that when we talk about mental disorders like Bipolar Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Schizophrenia, etc. that we believe prayer alone heals people? These type of disorders have a clear biological root. We can now see the differences on brain scans. We know that God remains all powerful, yet sometimes His healing comes through the use of skilled doctors and mental health professionals. Personally I don’t see a difference. I do pray for healing over my clients. I believe God could heal their brain chemistry the same way He can heal a tumor. For years, I have prayed that prayer. What I see most often, is God healing through using His servants and what He has equipped us to do.
This tension we feel in the church about mental illness and healing need not be. We continue to lay hands on people and believe for healing. Then we allow God to do what He can only do. That may involve the help of medicines, doctors and mental health professionals. God gave us the knowledge to see into the brain, to develop the medicines, to learn the pathways to help people. God equips us to do His work.
Yet according to a Lifeway Research survey, a third of Americans – and nearly half of evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians – believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness. I think we need to be careful in limiting God to heal the way we think he should. Sometimes He uses doctors and medicines. Sometimes, a progressive healing gives people the chance to work on various areas of their lives that they wouldn’t do under different circumstances.
God sees the whole picture. He knows what is best for us. Sometimes, the outcome of someone struggling with a mental illness is a closer walk for family members, even a conversion can happen as people depend on God. We don’t know how God uses the brokenness of our lives. So can you prayer away mental illness? Yes and sometimes No. Sometimes God’s healing comes through doctors and medicine, the same way the neurosurgeon was used to heal my back.