Why does talking about the Work of Mercy of healing freak out non-freaky Christians so easily?
Because most of the writing that’s done about healing emphasizes healing technique, which is a misplaced emphasis because God never healed anyone due to the technique of the healer.
If, instead, we can focus not on technique but on God’s great desire to heal, well, that makes the subject a whole lot less freaky.
It is God’s nature to heal. You only have to take so much as a sidelong glance at Jesus in the Gospels to see how much time he devotes to the practice. And yet, as you’re taking the sidelong glance, do note also how little time he devotes to teaching his disciples the techniques of healing and how much time he devotes to clearing up their misconceptions about God.
Like the misconception that God would rather a sick person suffer through worship in the synagogue to demonstrate his or her devotion instead of getting healed. The Father, said Jesus, is not like that. If there’s a worship service and someone’s ill, everyone should stop and the person should be brought before God in order to be healed.
There’s nothing, you know, freaky about that. That’s just good solid insight into the nature and character of God.
We can ask all kinds of questions like “Why doesn’t God heal everyone?”, but we should never doubt that God loves healing more than he loves ceremony, and that Jesus portrayed healing as a simple matter rooted in the character of God rather than in a hard-to-master, arcane technique.
To that end, then, I want to encourage you to be faithful to follow Jesus’ lead and James’ command to pray prayers of healing for the sick every time you encounter someone who is ill. One way to do that and to avoid getting freaked out in the process is to learn a simple prayer of healing that you can grow into. As you know, I’m a big fan of growing into prayers–learning the prayers handed down to us by our theological forebears so that we don’t cower in the face of big human challenges like illness. Mrs. Foley taught me the Korean saying, “Imitation is the mother of invention.” That means that before you start inventing anything new, imitate the work of a master so that you can grow into it.
I hasten to note that in commending a sample prayer to you I am not commending a focus on technique. Instead, I want you to see how simple, straightforward, and plain a prayer of healing is. This way when you run into someone who is sick, you can catapult yourself bedside without hesitation and say, “You know, God would want me to stop and pray right now for you to be healed. What he does with my prayer is his business, but I have no doubt that that is how he would want me to pray because he is no great fan of illness. Illness doesn’t stop him from achieving his purpose in you, but that sure shouldn’t stop us from doing what Jesus did, which was to regard illness as an interloper each time he came across it.”
With that in mind, here’s a prayer from the Lutheran Service Book that you can learn this month. Write it out on a card and put it in your wallet or purse if you need to. But practice with it this month, recalling that Christ always confronts illness with healing. You should too, and leave the result in the Lord’s hands.
Almighty God, Father in heaven, watch over Your child [Name], now afflicted with sickness. Mercifully spare the life You have given. Relieve [his/her] pain, guard [him/her] from all danger, and restore [his/her] health according to your gracious will, that [he/she] may be raised to a life of faithful service to You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
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