Day 5 —
James 5: 14-15a (13-20)
If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health.
Several years ago I learned that a man in my congregation had terminal cancer. When we learned that he was getting worse, my wife, Susan, pointed out that, as an elder in the church, I should lead a healing service where we would anoint him. While this was not something I had been trained in, that evening we joined a few church and family members for worship and prayer.
I anointed him and his family with oil, and prayed the scripture’s promise that the prayer of faith will heal the sick. In the midst of plentiful tears, the man seemed more at ease. Though seemingly improving, a couple of weeks later a call came that he died. As he was a man of strong faith, the funeral service was not difficult. Nevertheless, I struggled with praying for God to heal this man, and then his death coming so soon thereafter.
As I lingered in the yard at the family gathering, one of his sons came over and thanked me for the service, and for being there with his dad and family. I honestly said, “Thanks, but I want to say that I am sorry. We prayed for God to heal your dad, and that didn’t happen.”
He boldly responded, “My dad was healed! We had learned that Dad was afraid of dying. That night God healed him of his fear, and he found the peace he needed to gratefully accept his place in the great cloud of witnesses you spoke about today.”
This young man helped me see that pastoral excellence is mostly the result of pastoral faithfulness to offer sacramental opportunities that God can use exactly how they are needed, thus moving the glory to God where it always belongs.
Heavenly Father, help us to recognize that our striving for excellence is fully understood in light of your response to our faithfulness in using the means you have provided. As we are guided by the Holy Scriptures help us remain vigilant in our care for others expecting always that you will provide just the right things in the offering. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
The Rev. Dr. Richard W. Clark
Jackson District Superintendent, Memphis Conference