Most of us have heard stories of people being healed after they were prayed for. They encourage our faith and encourage us to keep praying for those we know who need healing.
But are they also useful in helping non-believers to believe?
Three different situations
It seems to me that there are three quite different scenarios.
1. Sometimes an unbeliever receives prayer and subsequent healing in such a clear way that it leads them to put their faith in Jesus. I have heard of this occurring in Muslim countries where people may have little opportunity to hear of Jesus (and will post some stories here soon), and some of the healings discussed in Eleven healings worked in this way. It is a brave or confident christian who offers to pray for healing for unbelievers, but I think we should be doing it more. Perhaps some readers can share stories of this?
2. We can also tell stories of well-attested healings in the hope that it will assist non-believers to trust Jesus. Some non-believers have a general belief in God, and are happy to believe in miracle healings. Such stories encourage them, and may be useful in stirring them to seek God.
3. However others are more sceptical and say they will only believe in something when there is evidence. If we tell them the same stories, even with good supporting evidence, I have found they tend to take a different line and say miracles are unscientific and cannot possibly happen, so the stories cannot be true.
This is a reflection of an argument by 18th century philosopher David Hume, who argued that, since a miracle is by definition a rare event, it is always more likely that there is another explanation than that the evidence should be believed. Hume’s argument has been refuted (some would say only ‘contested’) but it is still used. I think the evidence of healing miracles is still useful in discussion with these sceptics, but only if either (1) we have first hand knowledge of the healing, or (2) the healing is supported by good medical evidence.
Some case studies
At Eleven healings I have summarised the stories of eleven people who were healed, apparently miraculously, after prayer, and for which there is good supporting evidence. I hope they encourage you to pray more, and I hope you may find them useful in sharing with others.