Starting with relationship
Jesus’ prayer in v41-42 is based almost entirely on his relationship with the Father and not on any formula for praying for the sick. His confidence that the sick would be healed was not based on a technique he had come to know, but on the Father he had come to know. Perhaps this is why Jesus began entrusting the healing ministry to us by choosing Twelve “that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mk 3:14-15). We cannot bypass this principle and hope to minister healing through the Holy Spirit without first coming into an intimate friendship with Him. No servant is greater than his master (Jn 13:16).
Some hope to see miraculous healing as an automatic right so long as people have enough faith to receive it, but Jesus did not operate based on that formula. Martha only had a little faith (v21-27), Mary had less faith (v32), the onlookers had even less faith (v37), and of course dead Lazarus had no faith at all! And yet even in this context of little faith the miracle came.
Healing comes through the knowledge of God
Others hope to see miraculous healing through techniques such as laying on hands, speaking commands rather than prayers, anointing with oil, ending prayers with the words in the name of Jesus, and so on, but we must note that the gospel writers deliberately contrive to prevent us from seeing any comprehensive formula in the healing ministry of Jesus. If we only had the Matthew account of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law then we would assume that laying on hands was the key factor in her healing (Mt 8:14-15), but Mark’s account of the same healing would lead us to assume that helping her to her feet was the key factor (Mk 1:29-31), and Luke’s account would lead us to assume that rebuking the fever was the key factor (Lk 4:38-39). Matthew, Mark and Luke all give us partial accounts of the methods which Jesus used in his ministry because they want to keep us focused on Jesus as the perfect example of ministering in partnership with the Holy Spirit, not on any secret formula (Mt 12:28, Lk 4:18, Lk 5:17, Acts 10:38). The same is true for the healing of blind Bartimaeus. If we only had Luke’s account then we would assume that the key factor was Jesus commanding him to “See!” (Lk 18:35-43); if we only had Matthew’s account then we would assume that the key factor was the laying on of hands (Mt 20:29-34); and if we only had Mark’s account then we would assume that the key factor was proclaiming over him “Your faith has healed you” (Mk 10:46-52). Perhaps Luke gives us the most damning assessment of reliance on a formula rather than relationship when he tells us that the seven sons of Sceva were seeing some success in the healing ministry using the words “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out” – a well-worked formula if ever there was one! – until one day they learned a very salutary lesson (Acts 19:13-16).
Intimacy leads to healing
Jesus clearly attributes the miracle at Lazarus’ tomb to the intimacy of his prayer life with the Father, the same thing he taught when he told the disciples in Mk 9:29 that he was only able to heal because he had communed intimately with God through “prayer and fasting.” The Old Testament had long taught that removing the sin which hinders our walk with God is a vital step towards seeing miracles of healing (Is 58:6-8), and so it should not surprise us that Paul also stresses the prime importance of our walk with God when he tells us that “gifts of healings” come as the Holy Spirit “apportions them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor 12:9&11). Both Old Testament and New Testament testify together that the work of the Holy Spirit is to bring healing through any person who allows His River to flow through them (Eze 47:12, Rev 22:2, Jn 7:37-39). Therefore we need to reject any confidence we have in formulae so that we can place our full confidence in fellowship with the Holy Spirit (Zech 4:6) and let His River flow through us (2 Cor 13:14, Phil 2:1, 1 Cor 3:9). When we know intimate fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit then the healing comes through His initiative, not through our know-how.