Back before the rush, panic and seriousness of the pandemic turned our world upside down, we had a monthly practice in our worship services. Of course, we pray ever Sunday we get together, but once a month we focused our prayers on healing. It wasn’t really something new or something I came up with on my own. It was more of just a reading of scripture. And this particular passage is very clear.
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 the sick person 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. James 5:13-16
After reading that passage each month, we’d gather at the altars and do exactly what we read. We’d anoint those in need of healing. We’d pray for forgiveness. We’d lift up those in trouble. We’d celebrate victories.
Sadly, we’re a little (or a lot) more hesitant to lay hands on each other these days, and I understand that. We’re less likely to scoot in close, kneel together at the altar and spread our prayers over each other for fear of spreading our germs over each other. We’ve made some adjustments, and it’s been the right thing to do.
Sure, we’ve still had our prayer times. We’ve prayed for our intern pastor as we send him back to college. We’ve prayed for one of our young adults as we sent her off for military training. We’ve prayed for our babies, our graduates, our baptized and our sick.
But, wisely, we’ve avoided the laying on of hands and gathering at the altar during these times. And the Lord certainly still heard our prayers. But, I’ll be honest, I miss our time at the altars.
So as we push forward through a pandemic and reassess some of the ways we practice our faith, we’ll make the necessary adjustments. But we cannot leave behind the call to prayer. In fact, it may be more important now than ever.
I’d like to ask for a renewed commitment to prayer, especially prayer for the sick. This is a call for the people of God to be the people of God.
If you need help getting started, the words of Psalm 6:1-9 are helpful. Let’s make this our prayer today.
Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.