Last Sunday night, I went to my sister's church where they had a "healing" service. This was unlike any healing service I'd ever seen. The pastor preached on James 5:13-16.
"Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make them well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
The pastor's interpretation of calling the elders to pray and anoint with oil those who are sick in the congregation was that the oil was not some spiritual or magical potion but rather the modern medicine of the day as illustrated by the Good Samaritan pouring oil on the wounds of the beaten traveler. In other words, pray AND seek the help of professionals.
In keeping with the literal, however, they offered a prayer bench so those who wished could come have the pastor pray over them and anoint them with "plain, old, nothing-magical-about-it, scented oil." He even said you didn't have to tell him what you were requesting be healed.
Up to this point I'm totally tracking with this guy. My heart is amening and cheering him on, but at this all my enthusiasm came to a screeching halt. I'm not a Biblical scholar but I have studied people, and I think one of Satan's greatest tools is to convince us to suffer in silence. Either by shame, lack of close relationships, some twisted sense of personal courage in the face of adversity, or any other means at his disposal, the devil does not want us to share our burdens. How many wounds fester in the dark, growing in size and toxicity, until it's too late? What if we were forced to bring our sickness, in whatever form it took, to trusted, godly people?
I am not advocating pouring our deepest, darkest secrets and fears out to anyone who will listen; I am saying we need to have two or three friends who are mature in the faith with whom we can share our sickness and sin. And churches need to chose their elders carefully and then encourage members to come confess those things which are hindering their physical, spiritual and mental health...and then be referred to professionals for follow up. Both the suffering in silence and skipping direct to the professional without sharing with those who can pray with you and over you will only prolong the pain.
Until next time,