“And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.”
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
“And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Confession of sin is a forgotten key in the ministry of divine healing. Yet it is clear from the above Scripture in James, that it was an integral part of the ministry of healing in the New Testament. People were instructed to “confess your trespasses [sins] to one another”, AS WELL AS to “pray for one another”, “that you MAY be healed”. The implication is, if you don’t pray for one another, OR if you don’t confess your sins TO ONE ANOTHER, you MAY NOT be healed – that is, it is quite possible that you will not receive healing.
I hope you are amongst those people who believe in getting prayer answers. What is the point of praying if God is not listening? Well, you might think that at least praying like this might prevent us from doing something worse, but actually God says in Proverbs 28:9,
“One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination”.
In other words, if you don’t care what God says, God doesn’t care to listen to what YOU SAY. Not only that, God hates such prayer. To him, it is mockery. So then, in a church where sin – both open and hidden, has time and again limited the working of the Holy Spirit, do you think that a lack of honesty and transparency before God and man could be a reason why some prayers for healing are not answered? I believe you will say, ‘Yes’ to this. Sometimes, it is more surprising that ANY of our prayers are answered than that some of them are not.
Instead of making a theology of saying that God doesn’t do it any more, we would be better off finding out if He has told us in His Word somewhere WHY he isn’t doing it. And there may well be reasons that can be discovered. I am NOT saying that unconfessed sin would be the only possible reason for the lack of healing in a particular person’s case. But deep probing – both into the life of the minister of healing and into the life of the sick one, will often reveal that it easily could be.
Do we have the ear of God when we pray? The Bible says, “And if we KNOW that HE HEARS US, whatever we ask, we KNOW that we HAVE the petitions that we have asked of Him”. (1 John 5:15). If we are asking things from God, and we don’t KNOW that we have them, according to this Scripture, its because we don’t know if God is hearing us or not.
And there are reasons why God sometimes chooses NOT to hear our prayers. David the Psalmist wrote:
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” (Psalm 66:18)
Iniquity is rebellion. We are talking about things you know about, where you know you are going against God and His purposes. The Scripture indicates that if there are things the Lord is not happy about in your life, and God is speaking to you about them, but you love those things and don’t want to give them up, God won’t even hear your prayers. That is the price you pay for harboring and holding onto sin.
If God does not hear your prayers, you won’t get prayer answers. That will take all the excitement and wonder out of the Christian life for you. You may be able to get into a praise service and get caught up for a moment with the music and the motion and the atmosphere of it all, but in your deep heart, you just won’t have the confidence and joy that comes when you are no longer rebelling against the will of God for your life.
(As an aside, please allow me to point out that some people prefer churches that don’t confront sin. They want something that will tickle their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). They want an entertainment programme and motivational messages that build their personal self esteem without drawing them to the cross. Such churches may see what man is capable of doing, but they will never see what God is capable of doing. A lot of people like it that way though. Churches like this, if they are well run, CAN grow into the thousands, and look very successful. It doesn’t mean God is impressed, though we tend to be. There is something noteworthy about strong leadership, no matter who exercises it or to what purpose.)
Sin can block answers to prayer, and prayers for divine healing in particular. Jesus did promise to answer our prayers, but there are conditions. These conditions are not unreasonable. We must “abide in Him and He in us” (John 15:7), we must not “regard iniquity in our heart” (Psalm 66:18), we must “ask the Father in Jesus’ name”, we must “believe that we receive” (Mark 11:24), “forgive men their trespasses” (Matthew 6:14,15; Mark 11:25) and we must “keep his commandments and do those things which are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). And his commandments are “not burdensome” (1 John 5:13). His main commandments are to walk in faith and love. This we can do if we humble ourselves before God and receive grace from God. God is not looking for perfect legalistic obedience but an obedience from the heart.
There are certain kinds of unconfessed sins which are almost certain to prevent a person from receiving divine healing in their lives. Many times these unconfessed sins are also the real reason why the person got unwell in the first place.
I want to tell you want the most common sins are that block the flow of God’s healing power – or indeed God’s power in any dimension of salvation. They are:
Unforgiveness can grow into a root of bitterness, and cause other negative things to grow up in the soul of man – things like resentment, hatred, retaliation, revenge, anger, hatred, violence and murder. Murder can exist in the heart whether or not the act is ever carried out. And yes, these kinds of sins will often stop a person from getting healed. They need to be confessed in the right way. First of all to God, but often to the person involved, or to a minister of the gospel, as the Spirit of God leads.
Unforgiveness and related conditions of the soul are often responsible for diseases like arthritis and cancer which EAT AWAY at a person’s body, just as the bitterness EATS AWAY at their soul.
Fear and Anxiety
God says, “Fear not!”. To yield to fear is a sin. To accept fear is a sin. Fear many times is faith in the devil’s ability to hurt you. Fear can get a grip on your heart if you are not full of God, or if you refuse to walk in fellowship with God. But we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), so FEAR is evidence of disobedience to God in this area. Fear is a substance of things not hoped for, an evidence of things not seen. Fear, and related issues like anxiety (worry) are responsible for MANY diseases – including heart troubles, angina, high blood pressure, asthma, migraines, sleep disorders, PMS, allergies, acne and many other skin disorders.
We are commanded by God to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we hate ourselves, our capacity to love others is correspondingly limited. And we tend to reject the love of God for us, also, when we hate ourselves. Some people reject themselves because of the way they look, others because of the things they have done. No body is perfect, but the body is a vehicle for giving expression to the spirit and soul. Good qualities in the spirit and soul can definitely be expressed through a less than perfect body, and most sensible people realise this, and appreciate a person for what they are on the inside. But if we hate ourselves because of our bodies, it sends a signal to the body which may result in various kinds of auto-immune diseases where the white corpuscles start attacking the body, leading to diseases such as Lupus or Krohn’s disease. It also makes us look and feel miserable.
The same thing can happen if we reject ourselves because of our past failures and sins. Self-rejection and guilt are roots for many diseases. Christ gave us a new life through his death and resurrection, opening the way for the Spirit of God to make us new. We need to identify with that new life, and not reject ourselves any longer. The old nature with all its wickedness and foolishness was put to death in Jesus at the cross.
The spirit, soul and body of man are closely inter-related.
If the soul is out of harmony with the perfect will of God, then the body will often get out of harmony with God’s perfect will, and get sick. If the soul is afflicted with feelings of resentment, bitterness, fear, guilt and self-loathing, then there are plenty of open doors for disease to come in, and spirits of infirmity to take root in a person’s life, resulting in disease.
God says to confess our sins and trespasses to one another, so that we may be healed. Traditionally evangelicals have emphasised only confession of sin to God, not to one another. Roman Catholics have emphasised confession to a specially appointed “priest”, but I don’t see that word in the passage of James. It says to confess to one another, the reason being that as born again Christians we are all priests unto God (Revelation 5:10, 1 Peter 2:9). Still it may well be that the Roman Catholics in one sense are closer to the truth in orthodox practice than many evangelicals – especially those who give the impression of having no need of repentance.
The biblical idea of confessing our sins to others is harder to embrace for many. For one thing most of us haven’t seen too many examples of it. Its hard to be the first to do something, even if it is written pretty plainly in the Word of God. Someone has to exercise leadership in this area. To whom though should we look for such leadership?
Many church leaders, being unwilling to confess their own sins to others, are not eager to create a culture in the church where this sort of thing could happen. I understand that there is a difference between temptation and sin. I am not suggesting church leaders confess their temptations to the church, because that would be totally unedifying. The Scripture is clear that sinning elders should be rebuked in the presence of all, that the rest may fear (1 Timothy 5:20). The difficulty in the voluntary confession of one’s sins – the times one has deliberately yielded to temptation or done the wrong thing, is that there is always the risk that loss of position and respect will ensue. Some sins, if they were known, might result in a clergyman being out of a job. However, there is also the God factor. God says, that if we humble ourselves, HE will exalt us. It is better to be exalted by God than to be a hypocrite. At the very least, problem areas should be confessed to someone else in the ministry. If this can’t happen, its an evidence of pride. It doesn’t matter who you are, and how many millions you are reaching.
In cases where elders are not willing to put the Scripture into practice in the matter of confession of sin, should they also stop praying for the sick in church? The two seem to go together in the Word of God, as I read it in the book of James. God’s Word promises results when we do what it says in the Book of James. But if we won’t do what God’s Word says, why go through the motions and discredit the Word of God and the name of Jesus by our fruitless ministry sessions?
If we do things ostensibly in the name of Jesus, but they are ineffective, we dishonor Jesus Christ and his name. What sort of king issues proclamations only to have them totally disregarded? If in the authority of the Lord of Heaven and Earth we command disease to leave and it does NOT, how does this honor Jesus Christ? Rather than suggesting, as some do, that the Lord really doesn’t want to intervene anymore in the case of his suffering children, I would suggest that we take a good hard look at what God is expecting from us. If we are going to use the name of Jesus, let us not do so fraudulently. Let us do so, having followed the instructions of the One whose name we claim to represent in our dealings. Let us minister in Jesus’ name as people filled with the Holy Spirit who have truly learned to wait on God in our ministry.
One of the main things the confession of sin does is to destroy PRIDE. It is pride and fear that keeps us from confessing our sins to one another. The confession of sin, done rightly, greatly destroys pride, and brings us quickly back into a place where God would be delighted to bless us.
The FEAR OF MAN is another reason why people don’t confess their sins publicly as much as what God wants. The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be kept safe (Proverbs 29:25). When everyone is afraid of each other in the church, and what people think, we are all ensnared, and we won’t be able to move in real faith to the extent that God wants. When we are looking to receive glory from one another, based on the phony impressions we create about our own piety, it is impossible to believe the Word of God (see John 5:44).
Three Ways God Heals
1. God can heal someone sovereignly.
This happens just because God wants it to, not because of any conditions being met by anyone. God can do whatever He pleases. Sometimes unbelievers are healed against their expectation. Sometimes believers are surprised by healings they receive from the Lord. This can and does happen, but we can’t count on it happening for US.
2. God can heal using the gifts of the Holy Spirit through some minister.
Basically, this kind of ministry depends on the minister being led by the Holy Spirit. This kind of leading could come through a Word of Knowledge, or some other kind of instruction from the Lord. Other factors, such as faith in the heart can be important here. When what the Lord said is done, healings can result. These healings can come to people who still have major issues in their life, but are believing God.
3. God can heal through the removal of roadblocks to healing.
This method is the focus of this article. When a person comes before the Lord, and before a minister, and openly reveals the issues which have been a burden to their soul, great things can happen. This humility and transparency is often rewarded by the Lord.
By putting one’s life right with God and with one’s fellowman (as well as with oneself) through the confession of sin, God is honored, and the devil loses his legal grounds for afflicting the person. This is often very important. It is especially important that a person renounces all bitterness or unforgiveness and freely forgives those that have wronged him or her. This creates the conditions for a person to receive healing and/or deliverance. It is very important. People who have been rejected by others and are still in pain over it are usually need to practice forgiveness towards those who hurt them.
Repenting of fear is also very important, but it has to be more than saying some words, or being ashamed of the fear. There has to be a commitment to go after God. If a person is serious in this area, and use their faith to take authority over the spirit of fear, ultimately they will be freed. This freedom from fear will clear the way many times for healing to take place in the person’s body. At very least, it will be a factor in future disease prevention.
Sometimes there is a need to confess and repent of unbelief. We see this in the case of the man whose son was afflicted with epilepsy. The father of the boy said, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” This kind of honesty and confession was all the Lord required – he then healed the boy.
Other times a person must confess to the reasons they are feeling guilty, and bring these things into the light. Issues of self-rejection can and should be discussed.
Unconfessed adultery and fornication are common enough reasons why a person may be given over to sickness. Jesus makes it clear there is a link. In one place He says, “Indeed, I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 3:22). A person who commits adultery in their heart, giving themselves over to uncleanness and shameful lusts, could also be in this way opening the door to disease. Pornography and the masturbation it leads to are in plague proportions in the Body of Christ today from all accounts, few have remained totally untouched by it.
Ministries Practicing this Today
There are churches today that are encouraging people to expose their sinful ways and confess their deeds openly, so that the roots of sin can be destroyed. These churches are getting amazing, unheard of results in the area of ministering healing to the sick. One such church is very active in ministry in America, and more information on it can be found HERE.
The public confession of sin is also a major feature of T.B. Joshua’s church in Nigeria. A lot of lies have been put out against this ministry on the internet, and those who repeat them should take care lest they offend God. But even the enemies of T.B. Joshua cannot deny that something supernatural is happening along the lines of healing. The miracles taking there are unprecedented in the 21st century.
Confession of sin is a great pride killer. However, there is also a great responsibility on the ones who hear such confessions, that they never use them to put a person down, but rather to help them be lifted up. “The Lord raises those who are bowed down” (Psalm 146:8). After all, if GOD exalts those who humble themselves, we have to be careful how we treat those who have entrusted their deep secrets to us. I myself have experienced a kind of wounding from a minister who I trusted and loved very much when I exposed some of my former sins to him, and so I know that this is a very sensitive and important issue.
This kind of exposure of the roots of sin, and spiritual blockages to healing should become more and more standard practice, as we seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Let us not forget this major key to effective healing and gospel ministry.