It is my privilege to pastor a church that prays when it gathers to worship. Not there aren't a lot of other churches that don't pray, because I know that they most certainly do. But there are some things about the way that our church prays when we gather that I wanted to share with others.
This is the second post of the series. The first post was on confession. The topic of this post is prayers for healing. Yet to come are posts on congregational prayer and miscellaneous, or other prayers during worship.
Before you let your imagination run wild with images of TV evangelists driving out spirits or people throwing down their crutches I want to know that what goes on here is not like that at all.
I first visited our church nearly two years ago, as a candidate to be their pastor. During the process of learning about the congregation and what was important to them I was told that for about two years they had been doing prayer specifically for healing during worship. I don't recall why they started it but in the time they had been doing it the healing prayer was something that was important in their sense of community as God's gathered people.
Here is what happens each Sunday. After our prayer of confession I invite anyone who would like prayer for healing to come forward. I usually use words that mention healing for something that troubles their body, their mind, their heart or their soul. We keep a small bottle of oil on the table in front of the pulpit and while I turn to get the oil people come forward.
The smallest group of people was two and there can be as many as ten or more. They gather in a semi-circle and when everyone who wants prayer has come forward I work my way around the circle, making the sign of the cross on their forehead with a bit of the oil and blessing them, by name, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
No one says why they come forward. They just come. I don’t need to know why they come. It is my role to bless them and to pray with them. After everyone has been blessed I extend another invitation, this time for people to come and lay hands on those gathered as we pray for them.
As people come up to lay on hands, I make a circle with the group, so that they and I are holding hands. And when everyone is in place, I pray.
I pray extemporaneously at this time, which means I put the words together as I go along. Personally, I couldn’t do this if we didn't have a prayer of confession first.
As I said earlier, no one throws down their crutches. If an outside observer watched this, Sunday after Sunday, he might wonder why do we bother? Some of the same people come up week after week. I offer up a free-form prayer, and probably use many of the same phrases each week. Is anyone actually experiencing healing?
The thing is that each week I come before God with the people He has gathered, and on their behalf I ask Him to bring healing. He knows what is troubling them. He knows what is best in providing for them. And He alone knows the how-and-when of providing His healing.
We gather as His people, lay our deepest needs before Him, and trust Him to deal with those needs as He knows is best. Is anyone experiencing healing? Without a doubt I believe that they are.
James 5:14 says this:
"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."
Prayer for healing is a powerful way of drawing our congregation together. We lift our sisters and brothers in Christ up to the Lord, ask for His healing presence, and trust Him to provide what He knows is best.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.