Healing. It’s a controversial topic. Some people believe that miraculous healings stopped centuries ago, others that God still heals today. Some believe that he wants to heal every disease, others that he doesn’t always heal, and the reasons why are a mystery.
I don’t want to get into that – mainly because I haven’t got any answers! – but one thing this verse does seem to speak to is the question of sin.
Some of those who hold that God wants to heal everyone would say that if, after receiving prayer, a person is not healed, it must be because of unconfessed sin in their life. This passage does not seem to support such a conclusion in any way. James doesn’t say ‘if he has sinned and makes a full confession of that sin, he will be forgiven’, simply that he will be forgiven as part of the healing process.
This is consistent with how Jesus operated: when the four friends brought the paralysed man to Jesus and lowered him through the roof, for instance, the first thing Jesus did was forgive the man’s sins, even though no one had asked him to. There is no hint from the text that the man had come to a place of repentance, or even that he acknowledged his sinfulness – Jesus simply forgave him then healed him.
Why some people are not healed today despite fervent prayers by all the ‘right’ people I don’t know, but from this passage I feel confident in saying it’s not because they are so sinful God is unable (or unwilling) to heal them. Let’s not put that burden on those who are already suffering.