The following entry is a response to a request from a long-time friend who is encountering some "cognitive dissonance" as he and his family attend a Pentecostal/Charismatic church. I make the entry with a lot of humility, but I offer my opinion in hopes it will help people as they seek to "do the stuff" (a John Wimber-ism by which he meant actually doing the works of the Kingdom, rather than simply studying about them). Hopefully this is not so academic that it fails to be practical for you.
My friend's church has taught that "you never ask God for what he has already promised or purposed for you...instead, you are to make 'declarations.'" In other words, asking shows a lack of faith; declaration shows a confidence in God's promises.
This particular issue goes to the heart of what distinguishes the Vineyard movement from Pentecostal/Charismatics (and also what tends to confuse our Conservative Evangelical brethren). You could say that the Vineyard is defined by the dynamic tension that exists between these two streams of Evangelicalism.
The titles of two books summarize the Vineyard position between the two. Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson's book, Empowered Evangelicals, says it all. We are a movement that wants to take the best of Pentecostal experience (empowered), leaving behind what we view as its excesses; while we hold on to a solid Evangelical approach to biblical/theological scholarship (evangelicals), but leaving behind the tendency to minimize the present miraculous work of the Spirit.
The other book is Bill Jackson's Quest for the Radical Middle. Once again, the Vineyard has sought to live in a dynamic tension between the fresh work of the Spirit, and a solid commitment to biblical theology. In other words, holding both the Word and Spirit in balance.
This all flows from the influence of George Eldon Ladd, late Fuller Professor, whose Gospel of the Kingdom, and New Testament Theology are foundational for understanding John Wimber's teaching about healing. In Jesus, the Kingdom of God broke into the present evil age. His words and His works were evidence of the reality of the presence of the Kingdom. Jesus passed on to his disciples his Kingdom ministry. And they have passed it on to their disciples. And on and on...all the way to us.
One of the key aspects of the Kingdom is that it has "now come" and is still "yet to come." This"now-and-not-yet" quality of the Kingdom characterizes everything we experience in this present evil age.
Take, for instance, our salvation. We enter the Kingdom and are saved when we place our faith in the King (2 Tim. 1: 9). Yet, we are "being saved" as we go through a process of transformation in this life called sanctification (Php. 2: 12-13). And we "will be saved" when the future promised Kingdom arrives in its glory (1 Pet. 1: 5,9).
Pentecostal theology has tended to argue that physical healing is included in the atoning work of Christ based on Isaiah 53, Matt. 8: 16-17 and 1 Pet. 2: 24 and therefore, we must just claim what is rightfully ours and exhibit unwavering faith in the work of God. There is not enough time to do a thorough exegesis of these passages. Suffice it to say that you must make several hermeneutical leaps to conclude that healing is guaranteed in the atonement.
If we say that healing is guaranteed in the atonement and that faith is the only way to access that healing, we must conclude that people are not healed solely because they lack faith in some way.
Just a quick survey of the New Testament shows that healing did not always occur for Jesus or the apostles. Jesus could not do many miracles (Mark 6: 5). God refused to heal Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor. 12: 7-10). Timothy's ailing stomach condition (1 Tim. 5: 23). The Pentecostal explanation is that they lacked faith. The Kingdom explanation is the now-and-not-yet of the Kingdom.
Yes, faith is necessary for healing. But if you analyze the healings in the New Testament, sometimes it is the faith of the pray-er (like Jesus healing the man at the pool Siloam) and sometimes it is the faith of the receiver (like the woman touching the hem of his garment.)
Does this exclude making declarative pronouncements? Not at all. When we are led by the Spirit to command healing, we do it. When we are led by the Spirit to lay hands on someone and pray for them, we do that. Every time that someone is healed, it is evidence of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God. Every time that someone is not healed, it is evidence that the Kingdom of God is not yet fully consummated. So...we pray again.
"Lord, may your Kingdom come, may your will be done, here on earth as it is being done in heaven (where your Kingdom is fully consummated)."
I welcome comments on this topic.