Recently, a fellow leader in the network of congregations and ministries to which MMI belongs (Tikkun International) asked me why I think it is so much easier to see healings in African nations and other third world countries than in the US (or the West in general). It is true. I had never seen a blind man receive his site or a lame man begin to run under the power of the Holy Spirit until I went to Africa.
And in the West, I seem to be stuck at hiccups stopping (twice!) and headaches. Below is my response with additional comments:
Well… You have asked the million dollar question, a question that I get at the end of many services in the US when someone in need of, or with a relative or friend in need of healing, comes to me and asks, “Why in Africa and not here?” It is often a heartbreaking question, and I wish I could tell you and them that there was a simple answer. There isn’t, but let me offer a few thoughts.
1. Some congregations are experiencing miracles. I recently heard of a verified miracle during ‘revival/renewal’ meetings in Mobile, Alabama. One of my best friends is one of the main administers of logistics at the Mobile meetings.
A woman who, after a car accident over 20 years ago, had had no feeling in her legs began to have sensations during the meeting. She was prayed for, and in the video it actually looks like a hyped miracle because you don’t realize that she had NO FEELING in her legs before then, but weeks later, after 20 years and no feeling in her legs, living in a wheelchair, she was leading worship, walking back and forth on the platform. Other ‘moves of God’ in America have been characterized by healing as well, but again, let’s not fool ourselves—they seem to be few and far between.
2. It would seem that those who do see breakthroughs in healing in the US and West in general are those who (a) have a supernatural visitation that is characterized by healing, as is happening in Mobile or (b) those that have made healing and faith for healing a major, if not the major, emphasis of their congregation or movement. That would include having significant teaching on miracles, healing teams and healing rooms that are committed to long-term prayer for one individual.
One of the early healing evangelists, who lived into his eighties, often said that the reason he was one of the only healing revivalist from the 40s/50s that lived a long life was because he learned to not merely rely on the gift of the healing (which often worked on others, but rarely on the minister), but to develop his faith in God for healing.
1 Corinthians 12 speaks of a “gift of healing,” while the New Testament teaches that anyone with faith can be healed.
One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Yeshua to heal the sick. (Luke 5:17)
We would assume that the power of God to heal the sick would be with Yeshua all the time, but this passage would lead us to believe that, along with the “gift of healing” passage in 1 Corinthians, that Yeshua only conducted mass healing meetings when this gift was in operation.
It’s a positive catch 22. When large crowds gather who are desperate for healing, God releases this gift. He is moved with compassion. In other words, when people are not filled with a desperate longing, this gift rarely functions. When people discount the power of God or the vessel of the Lord, as was the case in this next passage, the gift of healing is not released.
Yeshua said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:4-6)
Their unbelief quenched the gift of God.
Now, anyone with faith can come to God to be healed. We see that often in the New Covenant. To the woman with the issue of blood, “He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’” (Mark 5:34) In Acts 14:9, we see a man who “listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed.” And then the lame man jumped to his feet and began to walk. This was not a gift of healing, but rather a man simply coming to God in faith.
John G. Lake had great success in Africa, but was able to bring that same faith for healing back to Spokane, WA, not because they relied on a gift or a move of the Spirit, but because they taught exhaustively on healing and had healing rooms. They trained ‘healing technicians’ to pray for the sick and over 6 years documented over 100,000 healings. It would seem obvious that those who focus more on healing and miracles and pray for more sick people, would see more healings and miracles—in the same way that one who shares his faith regularly is more likely to see more salvations than one who does not.
This is an important point because one of the leaders who received this wrote back to me that it has been some time since he had focused on these passages. I am not being critical. No one believer can give his or her attention to every focus of the New Covenant. And for me, it wasn’t until I returned from my first trip to Nigeria with Reinhard Bonnke and saw the gospel go forth with signs and wonders, that I returned to not only these passages for meditation, but passages that would build my faith that the gospel can take a city!
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. (Matt. 4:23-25)
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:5-8)
If we want to see more healings, we need to give ourselves to scripture study, meditation on those passages and prayer. If you want to see more people healed—pray for more people! And by the way, it is a lot easier if you build yourself up before you get sick!
3. In much of Africa they have nothing. In many cases, the choice is healing or death. They have no insurance, health plans or credit cards and thus the desperation level is so much higher in most cases, as opposed to the west. In Nigeria, we had one fellow come and say his wife was more than a month overdue! But they had no real hospital. She was getting ready to go to another city where they have a sonogram machine when her pastor told her that our team was coming on Tuesday and that when we arrived she would give birth…and she did. If the same case happened here in the West she would have had a caesarian a month before. And of course, that is a good thing—but the abundance of doctors and medicine also means that we are not as desperate as those without.
4. Africa is continent full of witchcraft and superstition. Amazingly this works in favor of the new believer because he or she is used to believing in the supernatural. There are very few Africans who are atheists. They do not have the skepticism that many in the West do regarding the supernatural. So many of the people we met on our first outreach had more faith than we did!
5. Most of the miracles in Africa are happening in the midst of mass outreach meetings. One of the things I was told was that at these meetings, Muslims get healed at a higher rate than believers. God is always seeking to draw in the lost. Mark’s version of the Great Commission speaks of signs and wonders confirming the preached word of God. He ends his book by saying that “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20)
When we in the West pray for the sick, it is 95% of the time (my guess, not a real statistic) for another believer. Rarely do we have meetings where we pray for unbelievers to be healed. Now I understand that it is far easier to gather a crowd of Nigerian unbelievers, than Americans, or Israelis for that matter. But my experience praying for people in the US, and that means even in street witnessing or sharing at work or other places (not merely in meetings) is that it is far easier to see God move in the life of an unbeliever.
In fact, I can tell you several stories of unbelievers being healed in the US, but can hardly call to mind healings of believers. Going back to the second point, I believe that the gift of healing is primarily, not always, a sign to the unbeliever and those of us who believe are expected to build a faith relationship with God and learn how to trust Him for all things—including physical healing.
Even a healed headache is a big deal for an unbeliever. I prayed once for a coworker who had four Advil in her hand! I said, “Why are you taking that?” She said she had had a horrible headache for hours. I told her, “Let me pray for you and God will take away the headache.” I did, and He did and she gave the Advil back to the person from whom she borrowed them.
So there is my 2 cents. I think point 5 may be the most significant. If we could seek ways to be with those who don’t know Yeshua and pray for their needs, I believe we would see more success and that might release grace for more healings within the body of believers as well.