Does Healing Prayer Have a Downside?

by Darren Wilson
Fall/Winter 2017

I am a filmmaker. I have spent the last 10 years of my life chasing after God with a video camera, attempting to capture glimpses of Him moving around the world, and by doing so, hopefully giving both myself and the world a tiny glimpse of His character. After a decade of "filming God," I can confidently say that while I don’t know if I understand Him any better, I certainly do love and trust Him more than ever.

The more I get to know God, the less I understand Him. He is obviously the most creative Person in the Universe, which means that He will never be predictable, He will always surprise us, and He doesn’t view things the way us “normal” people do. Simply put, He is God and we are not.

While making my films Holy Ghost & Holy Ghost Reborn, I traveled to Brazil with evangelist Randy Clark to film at one of his annual “Youth Power Invasion” trips. On this trip, hundreds of young people (roughly ages 15-30) travel to Brazil to learn how to pray for healing. They are then thrown into the fire at a giant crusade, and are pegged to be the ministry team for the thousands of people who come forward for healing prayer.

For my purposes as a filmmaker, I singled out a handful of kids who had hardly ever prayed for anyone in their life. I didn’t want to talk to the ones who were old hands at healing prayer, I wanted the frightened ones—the ones who hoped something would happen, but doubted that it would. While talking to them, a few things became immediately clear.

First, they were all terrified to pray for healing. This terror was rooted in the fear that when they prayed, nothing would happen. This same fear is what kept me from praying for anyone for years. There is a natural tendency to play things safe in life, which is why stepping out in faith-fueled prayer is such a leap for many people. On the one hand, you fear disappointing someone and making him or her doubt whether God loves or cares. But drill down deeper, and I think the true apprehension lies in our own thoughts and fears about God and our own relationship with Him. If He doesn’t heal when we pray for someone, what does that say about us? Stepping out in faith and being dropped isn’t just embarrassing, but it can also be devastating to our own faith.

Believing in an invisible God is hard enough. But when God is silent, it is almost too much for many people to take. Better to hedge our bets and play it safe when we pray, so that we (the praying team) and the person we’re praying for don’t get disappointed.

I watched this fear play out with one of the young people I filmed in Brazil. It was both painful and confusing. This young woman had never prayed for anyone before, but she had come to Brazil after hearing amazing stories of how God moves and she wanted to be a part of it. Add on the fact that she was being filmed by the “Finger of God people” and she was more than confident that she would see miracles. But she didn’t see miracles. When she started praying for people, nothing happened. Time and again she would pray, and the person would admit that they didn’t feel any better. And as I watched her, her face fell, until by the end she seemed to be questioning her own faith in God.

I believe that healing should be a normal aspect of our faith, and that boldness in our faith should be pursued and cultivated. But there appears to be a downside to healing prayer, and it’s something everyone must face. Not everyone you pray for will be healed. In fact, for many people, most of those you pray for may not be healed. The question then becomes: what are you going to do about it? Are you going to continue your pursuit of a radical God who loves immensely but cannot be fully understood? Or are you going to shy away because of embarrassment and disappointment and turn to a faith that is built on principles only, with no risk involved?

I think the thing that often gets lost about praying for healing is the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s not about us anyway. If we can’t take credit for the times when God does move and someone is healed, then likewise, we can’t take credit for times when God, for whatever reason, doesn’t heal when we pray. God doesn’t need a publicist, He is perfectly capable of defending His own honor. When we shy away from our duty as believers to pray for the sick and broken, we are essentially saying that it’s more about us. When we think we need to protect God from Himself, we elevate ourselves to a position of a pseudo godhead where we are claiming to be more merciful than the one who made us.

There is a downside of healing prayer, but it isn’t the disappointment that comes when nothing happens. The true downside of praying for healing is the tendency we have to make this prayer more about us than about the one we are praying to…and for. Once you remove faith in God and love for the person from the equation, then you have left the realm of relationship and replaced it with the religion of performance. While it is natural to feel a pang of disappointment when our prayers go unanswered, it should never debilitate us from praying for healing.

Author, speaker and filmmaker Darren Wilson is the Founder of WP Films, a film/television production company that focuses on creating media that creatively and powerfully advances the kingdom of God around the world. Darren’s films have been seen by millions around the world and have helped change the spiritual climate of the worldwide church.  Devon Franklin, VP of Production for Columbia Pictures, calls Darren “one of the most innovative filmmakers and authors of faith today.”  Find out more about Darren and his work at wpfilm.com.


Darren Wilson Darren Wilson is an author, speaker, filmmaker and the Founder of WP Films.  Fall/Winter 2017 Issue