“If anyone among you is sick let him call for the elders of the church to pray over them anointing 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.”
Few things that we do in the church are more Christlike than praying for God to heal the sick. For a number of reasons there has been much controversy over this in the church in the last 50 or so years. As much as possible I would like to avoid controversy that may arise.
Possibly because of the controversies I have seen very little written about this. I think it might be most helpful to draw some principles from the healing done by the church in Scripture. Let's look at the final healing recorded in the book of Acts. Paul was being taken as a prisoner to Rome. The ship was caught up in terrible storm. They were tossed across the sea for days and days. Then Paul stood up and assured them all that God had told him they would be saved. But they would have to land on a certain island. The ship indeed crashed on the shore of Malta completely destroying the ship. But all those on the ship, 276 souls, were saved. The rain continued to pound on them but the islanders received them and gave them shelter. And they learned that the father of the Roman official on the island was sick. So we read in Acts 28:8,
“His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.”
Let me suggest two principles that might guide our activity in praying for the sick. The first is
Compassion. Compassion ought to be a driving force in the church. Again and again the gospels tell us that Jesus looked on people crowding around Him with compassion. And Paul said, “The love of Christ compels us.”(2 Cor. 5:14) If Jesus humbled Himself and came to earth to die for us, how can we hold ourselves above or apart from the needs of others. If we care enough we will pray for people even when it embarrasses us or them. The compassion of agape will drive us to pray publicly for them even if we have little confidence in our prayers.
Compassion gives birth to faith, and faith acts in love. Galatians 5:6 speaks of faith that expresses itself through love. The faith required here is not simply faith in miracles. It is faith in God. It is faith that God loves the hurting person more that we love her. It means believing in God even if we do not see the miracle we long for. It means trusting Him to help us suffer with those who are ill and infirm. God calls us to trust Him enough to pray especially in dire circumstances and painful conditions. He calls us to trust Him in this world that has not yet been healed of all tears.