One of the practices we have when we gather for worship each Sunday is to offer prayer for healing. I extend an invitation for anyone in need of healing of body, heart, mind, soul or spirit to come forward. Sometimes I read the words of James 5:14, which say:
"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."
Each Sunday anywhere from one to a dozen people come to the front of the church, where they stand in a semicircle. I go around the circle and make the sign of the cross on their forehead, using a little oil on my thumb. As I do so I say their name, adding, "I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Those who have come forward for prayer then join hands and I invite anyone who would like to lay hands on them as we pray to come forward. When everyone is in place I also join their hands and offer up a prayer that God would bring the healing they seek, closing the prayer in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I never ask why anyone comes forward. Sometimes I know, such as the Sunday following the sudden death of a member's daughter. Other times I think I have a general idea, because of things I am aware of in a person's life. And other times I just don't know, and I don’t need to know. We are God's people, gathered to worship, and I pray with whomever the Spirit moves that morning.
Does God answer their prayer and bring the healing they desire? Yes in some cases, and not yet in others.
In three years as their pastor I have prayed with some people on Sunday morning many, many times. Practically speaking, what is the point of praying with the same people each week, lifting their concerns to God one Sunday, and lifting them again the next Sunday, and the next?
The point is this. Each Sunday I lift them to the Lord. praising Him, thanking Him, and asking Him to be powerfully active in whatever way it might be that they need healing, leaving the results and it's timing in His hands.
In a sense our healing prayer is like chemotherapy. I have a friend with an incurable cancer. He was diagnosed several years ago and received an initial period of treatment that put the cancer into remission. His doctors have no cure for the cancer. All they can do is monitor its status in his body and regularly give him chemotherapy: powerful, nearly deadly medication, designed to keep his cancer levels low. To the best of my knowledge he will receive chemotherapy for the remainder of his life.
Our healing prayer is like chemotherapy, in the sense that in its own way the prayer is an ongoing kind of treatment for something that is not right and for which we long to be made well. But there the similarity ends, for where chemotherapy uses deadly chemicals, prayer is a treatment that by it's very nature brings life.
The specific healing may not be provided immediately, or it may not come for a very long time. But to approach the Lord God Almighty and to trust that His word and His promises are unfailing, is a powerful act of faith. In the darkest storm of life the light of God may seem to be invisible, but in our prayer for healing we trust that it is there and we anticipate the day when we will see it in all it's glory.
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.