I remember the first time I had included an anointing service in a Sunday morning worship service. The elders on that church’s board doubted that anyone would be interested for a special service of healing. Instead they suggested that I tack it on the end of a regular Sunday morning worship service and perhaps one or two people might come forward. I came prepared with lots of oil, mostly because I wanted the people in the back rows to see it. The elders were partially correct, I had to stand by myself at the front of the sanctuary for a moment or two waiting for the first person to come forward to accept anointing with oil. But as soon as I had blessed her two more stood behind her. Within minutes the line stretched down one side and across the back of the sanctuary. Before worship had concluded that Sunday all but perhaps one or two had come forward.
That morning I experienced that, while no one said aloud a particular sickness or suffering, each person in that room wanted healing.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
— James 5:13-15 (NRSV)
I am confident that it made a spiritual difference in their lives. I am confident that the ritual of prayer with assurance of forgiveness provided spiritual healing that in turn had a physical impact. I am confident for although no one had touched oil to my head, through this ministry of oil that I had also shared in the blessing with each person I touched and thus had also received many blessings that day.
I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, September 27th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor