In my June posting, “Do These and You’ll Always be Successful!” Dr. Cletus Hull shared with us that there are five practices in ministry that are always successful:
- Anoint the sick with healing oil,
- Serve holy communion,
- Read from the Bible,
- Lay hands on those who are ill, and those who are set apart for a task; and
- Pray always!
In the weeks that follow, I’ll discuss each of these holy practices and I invite you to join our conversation.
Let’s start by reading James 5:14-15 (NLT):
Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.
Healing the sick is part of the Christian message. It is not an optional aspect of the gospel message. Anointing with oil was an act of dedicating a person to the Lord. Jesus came so that his followers “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Jesus’ healing ministry clearly shows that “life to the full” includes healing from the pain and suffering brought about by illness.
Sickness was a huge part of the world in the time of Jesus, and it remains a large part of our world today. It is estimated, for example, that health care comprises a sixth of the US economy. Advancements in medicine have brought much relief, and I believe that God in his grace has given this knowledge to humanity. God remains, however, the healer—as the motto of St. Paul’s hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, says so well: “We dress the wound, but God heals.” Despite all the developments in the medical field, millions of people are still suffering and are desperately in need of healing.
My mother had been involved in a serious car accident just a few months before she and my father were married. Her sister, as well as the driver of the vehicle, were killed and my mother was the sole survivor. She experienced fractures all over her body and suffered much pain until her death at the age of 56. We often prayed for her healing, we fasted and took her to healing services. She was a sincere believer and found the joy of the Lord in the midst of her suffering. My dad, Head of the Department of Orthopedics at the University of Pretoria and a devout believer, assisted her with great care. Medicine could not do anything more and our eyes were on the Lord, who brought her safely through many surgeries, including the removal of a brain tumor. It was indeed a miracle that she was able to raise two boys and we are so thankful that she attended both my brother’s graduation ceremony as well as mine. But she was not healed in the way we were praying, and now we look forward to the new heaven and the new earth where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev 21: 4).
I still have vivid memories of the times when we earnestly prayed for my mother’s healing. The prayers of our trusted friends were a source of great comfort and encouragement. My mom and dad had a close relationship with a group of missionaries who shared the gospel in South African schools. Joseph Chauke, Samuel and Johanna Theron, as well as Danie and Marie Blom met every Tuesday evening for a few weeks to pray for my mother’s healing. Shadrach Maloko, a devout pastor of a church in neighboring Soshanguve, also came to pray for my mother one evening. As we ate together, he observed that he could not eat much, since he had been fasting for my mother the whole day!
Healing remains a mystery because not everyone is healed. Even Paul mentions that he left Trophimus sick in Miletus (2 Timothy 4: 20). Yet I firmly believe that we should pray for the sick. When praying steadfastly and in faith, the Lord will answer—sometimes with miraculous healing, sometimes with a gradual improvement of the condition, and sometimes with healing in the new heaven and the new earth. God always answers steadfast, believing prayer and grants those who earnestly pray for the sick the experience of his intimate presence. Our Lord reveals himself in a unique way to those who pray for the sick.
Please share with us your experience of praying for the sick and anointing them with oil in the discussion box below!