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The Role Of Faith In Spiritual Healing
The disciples in MARK 9:14-29 not only failed in their attempts to heal the child, but also failed to understand the relationship between faith and healing, as evidenced by their question to Jesus in the post-ministry debriefing session: "Where did we go wrong?" Jesus' reply:
"This kind of demon only comes out through prayer (and fasting)" has led some to think you can only deliver demons by prayer and fasting. This is to completely miss the point of what Jesus is saying. His complaint is about their unbelief/lack of faith that God can do what human efforts cannot. Prayer and fasting are not techniques to ensure demons are sent packing - they are an essential part of our relationship with Father God and demonstrate we understand that apart from him we can do nothing (JOHN 15:5). It is part of our recognition that all ministry is God's ministry - we are simply channels for the Holy Spirit to flow through in order to bring deliverance and healing.
In this incident the unbelief/lack of faith is on the part of both those ministering and those seeking ministry - in this case the boy's father, who is quick to confess it and ask Jesus to rectify the situation. In other cases Jesus specifically comments on the role of faith in the person seeking ministry. For example, MARK 5:25-43 and MARK 10:46-52. In yet other cases it is the faith of the friends of the person seeking healing that seems to bring about God's compassion in answer to their prayers and perseverance. For example, MARK 10:3-12 where it is the faith of the friends of the paralytic and their perseverance in seeking healing to which Jesus responds.
Faith & The Placebo Effect
On several occasions Jesus specifically comments on the role of faith in the person seeking ministry. For example, MARK 5:25-43 and MARK 10:46-52 , where Jesus says to the person: "Your faith has healed you." In recent years a considerable amount of research has been undertaken into what is termed The Placebo Effect. The effect (which comes from the Latin word meaning to please or placate) involves the apparent influence of psychological or neurological factors in aiding healing. Drug trials usually include a control group who are given a placebo - a pill or substitute procedure that has no known therapeutic value at all. In many research studies patients given the placebo appeared to do as well as those receiving the genuine drug or experimental procedure. This suggests a neurological mechanism in the brain which can actually produce or facilitate healing. It is possible that there is a link between this and those cases of healing where Jesus comments: "Your faith has healed you." Belief that God can and does heal is obviously likely to facilitate the Holy Spirit's ministry of healing body, soul and spirit.