Praying for Health
John describes himself as 'The Elder'. Certainly he was getting old by the time he wrote this letter to Gaius, but he was also a church leader who had spiritual oversight and godly care for this man. Although John was a disciple who had been personally commissioned by Jesus, he does not assert his apostleship but uses a pastoral title. John cared for Gaius and everything that concerned him.
Gaius (a Roman name) did not have a Jewish background. He was a Gentile convert who John had known and respected as Gaius had grown in faith. The two men shared a love for the truth as revealed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Although John was still his teacher and spiritual mentor, they had become friends and John regarded him as a trusted co-worker in the gospel because Gaius had a ministry of hospitality (the reason for the letter was to remind him how to be hospitable in a godly way). As such, John prayed for him that he would remain fit and well to do that work, and do it with discernment so that he welcomed genuine believers but was wary of impostors.
John's prayer was not that his friend would have good health in order to feel good about himself, but so that he could serve the Lord well. Hospitality is spiritually and physically demanding. It requires a sacrificial, willing servant-heartedness. Interestingly, it is an essential ministry gift for anyone being considered to become an Elder (1 Timothy 3:2). If he could not welcome people into his own house, how could he welcome them into God's household? John knew, because he too was an Elder.
Although we like to have good health and may be anxious when we are sick, wellbeing is not a right or a reward; it is given so that we can serve our Master. It is right to pray that God's servants will remain spiritually tuned to God's will and that they will have the strength to do all that the Lord asks of them. All the apostles and elders of the Early Church knew that ill health would prevent them from getting on with the work of gospel ministry. That is why they prayed: it was not for their own sense of wellbeing but so that they might have the strength to serve.
© Dr Paul Adams