“Why do we take medicine and not just pray for healing?”

I saw this question on Quora….

If religious people pray to God to cure their loved ones of a disease, why do they take medicine? For further clarification, if they really solely believed in God and his powers, and dispute scientists, why take medicine, why not rely on god alone? (I am an atheist looking for an answer from a religious person, not an atheist himself because I know what you will say, thank you!)

Here’s my answer…

It’s a good question. My wife is a medical doctor, and a believer in God. As other have written here, science and faith are not mutually exclusive. Think about this – the writer of Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts was a doctor.

“Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” (Colossians 4:14 NIV11)

Luke recorded the miracles of Jesus, Peter, Paul and others, and, as far as we can tell, saw no contradiction between his faith and his medicine. Paul tells Timothy to,

“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:23 NIV11)

In this context wine is to be used as a ‘medicine’. It’s interesting that Paul does not tell Timothy to pray (though he does not rule that out, either). And we know Paul believed in the power of prayer, and healed people himself (Acts 28.8). What are we to make of this?

Why would Christians take advantage of medical science rather than only pray for healing? I can see at least three reasons.

  1. God provides gifts – we are to take advantage of them. His gifts include both the substances of medicine (chemicals etc.) and the skills of medically trained people (nurses, doctors, radiologist, ophthalmologists etc.). It would hardly be an act of faith to disregard the gifts that God has given.
  2. God receives glory when his gifts are used and enjoyed. Much as a parent shares in the glory of the achievements of their children, God is honoured when we enjoy healing through prescribed plant enzymes or the skills of a surgeon.
  3. The healing professional receives joy. The provider of healing can rejoice that their skills are used to the benefit of other people. This is not something exclusive to the medical profession, of course, but there is great satisfaction in using one’s skills to help someone in dire need. Providing relief for pain, hope for a better future or a prolonged life is a wonderfully gratifying experience. Why would we deny people that joy?

There are times to pray for healing, and there are times to take a pill. Indeed, it would seem wise to do both, since God has provided the medicine.

In no way have I addressed all the issues here. I’m interested in other perspectives too. What do you think is the right balance between prayer and medical intervention?

Please leave a comment here and continue the discussion.

Malcolm

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