Jay (or better yet, plug in your own name), I lay my hands upon you in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, beseeching him to uphold you and fill you with his grace, that you may know the healing power of his love. Amen.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ
-II Corinthians 1:3-5
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
-page 461, Book of Common Prayer
Early in my ministry, it was my privilege to serve in a big, lively church in Washington. One of the active (and surprising) ministries I found upon arrival was a ministry of healing. This was the surprise. This church was filled with some of Washington’s most accomplished leaders. If they had needs for healing, they seemed pretty well disguised.
In this ministry, clergy and lay people would pray with people who came forward to a chapel after receiving communion. I observed this for a while, a steady stream of people each Sunday. I was surprised because I had been prejudiced about healing ministries, imagining with some good reason that it was a tool of charlatans and show-people, snookering snake handlers, people profiting from pain, raising false hope, toying with the peril of promise, misleading people in moments of vulnerability. But I changed my mind.
One Sunday, one of the healing ministers didn’t show up. Coach pulled me from the bullpen. I was put in that person’s place, asked to offer prayers for healing, which I did so a bit reluctantly. After a brief tutorial, I began. Person after person came forward, offering their name and the concerns on their hearts. I prayed with them, using the form of the prayer found above and then adding a prayer for the moment.
It was a turning point for me, as I witnessed folks who seemed like they had life together coming forward. It made me realize we all have needs for healing. Scratch the surface of the most put together person, talk to that person for 5 minutes, and you can find an area of brokenness, of body, mind, spirit, memory, relationship, a concern for healing of our society, a concern for healing of creation.
Since that time, I’ve come to believe that just about everything we do in church has to do with healing, with making things whole, which is just one way of describing the word salvation. And while I’ve come to regard healing as a central ministry of the church, the more I think about it, the more I realize we enter into mysteries. Why do some prayers for healing seem to result in cure and others don’t? Where do healing and cure overlap? Where do they diverge?
I note in the gospels that Jesus was, among other things, a healer. It was a sign of divinely anointed status (a.k.a., Messiah). But it’s also a mystery, as he doesn’t approach healing in the same way with every person. Sometimes he has to be asked to heal. Sometimes he approaches people and asks if they would like to be healed. Sometimes he links healing to faith. Sometimes he links healing to forgiveness. He doesn’t heal everyone. He heals old people and children. He heals rich people, people of influence. He heals outsiders, foreigners and lepers, who bring nothing to the table but need. And he passed on healing ministries to his disciples. And they have passed those ministries on to us. Which brings us to pandemic. Healing is on everyone’s mind.
So where do you see need of healing in your own life this week? If it’s helpful, make a list of those needs (short or long) and pray that list each morning. Maybe even share that list with someone you care about and have them pray for you.
And ask: Who are the healers you see around you? Make a list and pray for them each morning, with thanksgiving. They may be health professionals, people shaping policy, church folk, family and friends. Pray in thanksgiving for them. Pray that they be strengthened to continue with courage (bravery and heart).
Then think about your call. How is God calling you to be a healer, even one as reluctant as I was in the D.C. church? Write at least ten needs for healing you see in the world around you, nearby and far away, local and global. Pray each morning for those needs. Ask God how you can be an instrument of God’s healing power. Ask God by praying not only with your lips but with your life.
Consider this great resource for personal spiritual growth during this pandemic (when many of us find ourselves sheltering in place).
RenewalWorks For Me is a personal guide for the spiritual journey, providing coaching to help individuals grow. It begins with a brief online survey which assesses where you are in your spiritual life. We call it the Spiritual Life Inventory.
Once your responses have been processed, we’ll email a helpful explanation of our findings, along with some tips for improving your spiritual journey. You’ll also be given a chance to sign up for an eight-week series of emails that will offer some suggestions, coaching for how you can grow spiritually, and ways you can go deeper in love of God and neighbor. Learn more at renewalworks.org