Martin Luther’s Call for the Faith Healer

martin_luther_in_worms-03-webThe Reformation of the 16th century made an unmistakable mark on Christendom. Led by the spirited Martin Luther, reformation leaders led the body of Christ in a renewal, marching under the cadence, “justification by faith!” Luther did not limit his critique of Catholic practice to the area of penance only, but he also attacked the Catholic practice of prayers offered for the healing of the sick.

James writes, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up…” (James 5:14,15). Contrary to the belief of some, this practice continued after the death of the apostles. As Christian thinkers established the doctrine of the Catholic Church, the prayer of faith for the sick was included initially as a sacrament called Extreme Unction. Unfortunately, due to unbelief, this sacrament evolved later into what is known now as “Last Rites.” Last Rites include an anointing for death, but at its inception holy men of faith practiced it with the expectation of recovery not death.

In The Pagan Servitude of the Church, Luther dismisses Extreme Unction as a sacrament, but he does comment on the need to pray for the sick. He writes,

“But in Extreme Unction as practiced in our day, there is no prayer of faith. No one prays in faith over the sick, confidently expecting their restoration. Yet James describes that kind of faith in this passage (in James 5)…. There is no doubt at all that if, at the present day, this kind of prayer were offered over the sick, i.e., by the older and graver men, men saintlike and full of faith, as many as we desired would be healed. Nothing is impossible for faith.”  [Martin Luther: Selection from His Writings, John Dillenberger, ed. (New York: Anchor Books, 1962), 354.]

This passage from Luther almost reads like a prophecy of the healing revivals that would cover the globe from the late 19th century to the present day, as people full of faith pray for the physical recovery of the sick. Faith is limitless in its pursuit of the kingdom of God, as Luther himself proclaims, “nothing is impossible for faith.” May this encourage the weary and fainthearted not to allow their confidence in God to wane. Continue to pray with faith and expectant hope no matter what we see. Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Hope does not disappoint because God’s will is true, no matter what the earthly facts may convey to us.


  1. God healed me of terminal leukemia in a hospital when I was 12 yrs. old, when I was 16 yrs. old on a gurney on my way to an OR for an emergency appendectomy I was healed, my little boy’s almost total blindness was healed by God when medical science couldn’t help him. I prayed for a woman with rheumatoid arthritis and she was healed. She started jogging and painted her fence. She said she was a new woman. I prayed for a woman with terminal cancer and she was healed. I prayed for an adolescent boy with a serious scoliosis and his back was straightened. God used me to bring a man dead 50 minutes back from the dead witnessed by the EMT’s who couldn’t. All these healings were documented by doctors. I’ve prayed for people who weren’t healed to my disappointment. But God certainly heals.

  2. Amen and Amen! The Ways of the Lord have not changed nor has His love for the sheep changed. However, we have given in to too much thinking and too much fear. Where is faith and courage? It is found only in Christ, i.e., when we look fully in His face and believe that He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above that which we can ask or even think. To Christ be the glory today in the church as she re-examines her calling and her gifting.

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