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19. Good News for the Sick

D. A Model for Healing

In fact, the Bible has offered Christian congregations, then as now, a way to carry on Jesus' mandate to help the sick and thereby sustain Jesus' ministry of healing: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he 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 man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:14-16)

The following points briefly elaborate on this passage:

1. Mature Christians, committed disciples of the Messiah, are to carry out this procedure. They are to acknowledge God, His holiness and His love; to recognize God's gracious desire that seeks the welfare of all people; to know and to trust in Jesus the Messiah as God's unique revelation of Himself in this world, and as His way for people's bodily healing and eternal salvation. To be sure their lifestyle is to reflect their spiritual maturity to intercede on behalf of the sick.

2. When they pray, they are to pray over the sick and to anoint them with oil, a medicine and the symbol of God's life-giving Holy Spirit. They are to pray to God that His Holy Spirit, who heals bodies and cleanses hearts, would heal and cleanse those for whom they pray from sin, suffering and disease – in the Name of Jesus, just as Peter and all Jesus' disciples have prayed in the Name of Jesus.

3. As they pray for the sick, they will pray in faith. Such prayer does not mean that those engaged in prayer resort to constant repetition of Bible verses and prayer, sustained shouting and shrieking lamentation, as if God's hearing and understanding were impaired and His heart required softening. However, praying in faith may mean praying with patience and perseverance, more so since the healing itself may require time. It certainly means that those engaged in prayer recognize that the Heavenly Father knows the needs of all and provides for them, even before they are brought before Him. And, yes, He hears and answers them, as He understands what is best for them, just as wise parents know what is best for their child. After all, He is wiser than all the wisest put together!

4. They know, of course, that this ministry of prayer and anointing (perhaps linked with fasting) among the sick does not mean that the sick are to ignore, much less despise, normal treatment available to them through the hospital, medicines and medical personnel. After all, these, too, are gifts of God, for which we all should thank Him. Indeed, how many medical personnel pray for their patients and seek God's guidance while they treat them! In sum, all healing, whether spontaneous or prolonged, whether by prayer or regular medical treatment or both, is from God, from God alone. To Him be the praise! “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:2,3)

5. Then, they will remember the connection between sickness and sin. They know God alone truly knows the condition of all people's bodies, minds and souls. Yet they, too, as they are aware of their illnesses, need to scrutinize the condition of their minds and hearts to discern their need for repentance. All sin is not only against themselves but also against God and their neighbours. Even if a sickness cannot be attributed to sin, yet nothing frustrates and blocks health of body, mind and heart so effectively as lack of forgiveness – God's forgiveness for the sinful hearts and actions of individuals and communities and their lack of forgiveness for those who sin against them. While praying for health of body, let them consider praying also, like the great king and prophet David: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1,2)

When we know God's forgiveness and can forgive others, then we can pray for others more effectively also, or be prayed for by others.

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