PRAYING FOR OTHERS: PART 2 - PRAYER FOR THE SICK
Dear Members in Christ,
Praying for others: Part 2 - Prayer for the sick
We pray for others during our prayer meeting. We pray for their service in the church, for those seeking employment, and for some who request wisdom to deal with the trials of daily life. Amid all these items, we also pray for those who need healing. In our body of flesh, we can fall ill, or become injured, or some may simply be fatigued and are in need of health and strength. Occasionally, we encounter those who request prayer for an affliction of the mind. This may be in the form of a bout of depression, or someone is stricken with fear and anxiety. The Bible urges us to pray for the sick. In the Epistle of James, the writer exhorts the believers,
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:14, 15)
The passage begins with an almost rhetorical question, “Is any sick among you?” The word translated as “sick” refers not just to an illness or a disease. It also covers any kind of weakness or injury. Someone who is lame or a person stricken with paralysis is also considered “sick.” In ancient times, as in the present day, people fall ill or become injured and suffer any condition which weakens the body.
A. Requesting prayer for healing and recoveryAre there the sick amongst us? If there is a present-day equivalent, just look at our prayer list of those requesting prayer for healing and recovery. We see a list of people, some with a chronic condition. This means a condition or illness that has been afflicting the person for some time. Others may have an injury or illness that has suddenly stricken an otherwise healthy person. Whatever the state, the Bible exhorts us to “call for the elders of the church.” And the elders are to “pray over them,” which means praying for those who are sick.
Significantly, the Bible exhorts the sick to “call for the elders.” It does not mean that the prayer of an elder is sought after because it is “more powerful.” The reference to “elders” or the “presbytery” represents the leadership of the church. We know from Acts chapter 6:2-6 and various epistles that the spiritual affairs and the leadership of the early church were entrusted to the elders of the church. Therefore, if there is an illness amongst the church members, and prayer is requested on behalf of the patient, the church elder is to be notified. Nowadays, given the means of communication, the prayer request can be made to any responsible office holder of the church.
Members, do not be hesitant in requesting prayer if you are sick. It is also an expression of faith on our part. We know that our Almighty God is able to heal according to His will. Therefore, if any of us fall ill, or if we have a loved one who is afflicted by an illness, we ought to request the church to pray for the one who is sick.
B. What do we pray for? And how do we pray for those receiving medical attention?The Bible verse in James 5:14 mentions the anointing with oil. The pronoun used points to the sick being the one to whom the oil is applied. Commentators remark that “The oil obtained from the olive was much in use among the ancient Jews, both as an article of food, and as a medical remedy…” (Abbott). It appears that both oil and wine are used for their medicinal properties in ancient times. A biblical example of the application of oil for curative purposes is found in the narrative of the good Samaritan (in Luke 10) who applied oil and wine to the victim who was wounded by the robbers. The bible contains instances where medicine and or curative means are applied to the sick. For example in 1 Timothy 5:23, Timothy was exhorted by the Apostle Paul to, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.” It appears that Timothy needed some medicinal aid as he is often afflicted by illness.
So, besides praying for the sick, someone who is sick should seek medical attention for their condition. Knowing this, how then ought we to pray for the ones who are sick? Firstly, any illness can bring distress and pain, therefore, we pray that God will comfort the sick and grant relief for their condition. The person is likely to be undergoing medical attention, therefore, we pray for God to grant wisdom to the medical specialists to diagnose and treat the sick. We also pray for caregivers, for God to give them strength and help in this time of need. In the midst of all this, we pray for God’s grace and mercy to grant healing in His time and according to His will.
Brothers and sisters, let us be aware if there are any amongst us that is sick. Let us make a prayer request, and let us pray according to God’s will for the healing and the recovery of the patient. May God continue to lead and guide us to help and edify one another. Amen.
Dn. Lim Seh Beng