I know I have written about this subject in my journals but I don’t know where at the moment, but it is fresh on my heart right now, so am going to write about it.
A startling thought dawned on me a few years ago. All my years in the Work, claiming to be a servant of God, never once did I pray WITH the friends about a present need. I prayed privately for them and those needs, but never with them. It wasn’t done. What was I thinking? Obviously, I simply wasn’t thinking at all.
How much more effective and powerful a situation could have been, if I had? Picture an evening with the friends and my co-worker and I have had one of those rare meaningful and personal visits. Maybe someone opened up about a situation in their family or their marriage or their meeting that they were distressed about or didn’t know how to handle. Maybe someone was really hurting emotionally or spiritually. (One and the same, actually) Maybe someone expressed some very real fears or worries. We would talk about it, often at great length. Then, we would end the visit and leave the home or restaurant and that was it. We might have said, “We’ll pray about it and get back to you.” That was good but what if we had prayed WITH them in the moment? THAT should have been second nature to me. Instead, it never crossed my mind because it just wasn’t done.
Help us all! The reason I am so adamant about this now is that I have been on the receiving end of those kind of prayers in the last 13 years on many an occasion and it is powerful, moving, and effective. It is NOT done for show as I was always told it would be. It is heartfelt and sincere.
What did I/we do with verses like James 5:13-16?
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
The fellowship doesn’t take those verses literally. If we had, we would have been considered being “religious”. The early workers made a big deal of not doing anything that appeared to be religious. Perhaps they had good reason for doing so. But this left out many scriptural things to do; like these verses in James. Instead of shunning all those things entirely, why not instead purpose to do them right? With a pure motive, in love and in faith. Not caring what others thought or how uncomfortable you felt in the moment.
Another appalling thing, I never did was pray for the sick. I visited a lot of hospitals but did not pray with the patient! Unbelievable! What a comfort it could have been to the sick.
I also never ever remember the elders of the church praying over them and anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. I just see some precious opportunities missed. Ways that our faith could have been more real; more active and more present.