Interesting question from a reasonable skeptic

He writes:

Please help me understand something. If someone isn’t healed, that, just like a healing, is God’s will–I presume I have the correct? So why would anyone pray for healing when that could well be contrary to God’s will?

I could better understand a prayer that said , “God, thy will be done,” a prayer that didn’t specify an outcome, because we can’t know which outcome is consistent with God’s will in any particular case.

Because a relationship between person makes room for persons to freely express their needs, wants, and desires. So Jesus commands (note the paradox of that) that we freely express our petitions (“Give us this day our daily bread”). “Daily bread” is shorthand for “everything we need”. One thing we need is healing. Sometimes the need is for physical healing and such healing is given. However, physical healings–even resurrections in Lazarus’ case–are only tokens pointing to the real action, which is spiritual healing. Lazarus died again eventually. All physical healing will end in physical death, just as all bestowals of daily bread end in hunger again. That’s because this life is passing and is, by its nature, not going to last. But this life is sacramental and points beyond itself. So we ask, not always sure how God will answer (one answer is “no”, but not all answers are “no”). If the request is contrary to God’s will, then the answer will be “no”. But part of the process of prayer is discerning that will. Mary got a “no” to her petition for more wine at Cana, but she persisted (as, by the way, Jesus mysteriously urges us to do) and the answer turned out to be not merely a “yes” but a spectacular yes that not only consisted of the water made wine but (much more importantly) of the inauguration of Jesus’ messianic mission (which was the real subtext of her petition all along).

The Church makes bold to say that *every* request for healing will *always* be answered by Jesus (that’s why there is a sacrament of anointing). She is not foolishly saying that physical healing will always occur (though you could flag down almost any priest and probably here some lulu stories). But some sort of healing is always available through the sacrament. We are a species in need of all kinds of healing, but the principle healing we need is spiritual and a sacrament is a guarantee from God that he means to supply it. It just may not be the healing we think we need.

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