ANOINTING AND LAYING ON HANDS
The Scripture gives us instruction to anoint in one place and lay hands on the sick in another. They seem to be interchangeable. Either of them puts us in contact with the one for whom we are praying, and they seem to reinforce the intercessory prayer offered.
The two actions of anointing and laying on hands have an effect on the one for whom we are praying. They establish a connection through which the love of God flows through the intercessor into the supplicant. While neither seems to be an essential ingredient to intercession, they are like the dollop of whipped cream on the pie.
LAYING ON HANDS
The most widely practiced means of prayer ministry is laying on hands. That action seems to make the connection , and does not require that we carry oil with us where we go to pray. It gives the intercessors the opportunity to offer their hands for Jesus to use to touch the one for whom they pray.
The practice takes seriously the understanding that we are the Body of Christ. Jesus truly does indwell us, and will use us as His Body to speak through us, to listen and love through us and touch through us as we yield our bodies to Him. It is not that we wield the power, but that we yield to the power of Jesus who is able to heal.
If we are going to be clear conduits for Jesus love, we would do well to see that we have dealt with our unforgiveness toward others, toward ourselves and toward God. We must be willing and ready to forgive, and then place that problem in God's hands so that He can enable us through His grace.
We would do well to ask Him how He wants us to pray, and pray in that fashion. We must ask Him where to lay our hands, and lay our hands there. Normally hands are laid on the head of the person for whom we pray, but there are times when we lay our hands on the affected area. Ask, and proceed with the guidance you receive from the Lord.
There are many who sometimes feel the flow of energy through their hands as they pray for people. There are times when the one for whom prayer is offered will feel the flow of energy as the hands are upon them. While these signs are a blessing and assurance to those involved, they are neither an essential element to God's presence, nor an assurance that He will do things our way.
Our prayer life is rooted and grounded in the reality of the promise at the close of Matthew's Gospel, "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." Jesus is present with us where we are. We need not feel Him. We need to simply step out in faith that He is here, that He loves us, and He desires to use our presence in the situation as His own Body that He may manifest His presence to the one for whom we pray.
I recall a question from a lady who was seeking to learn and practice the ministry of healing. "How will I know when I have enough faith to lay hands on someone and ask God to heal them?" The answer is, "When you lay hands on someone and ask God to heal that person."
We need faith only the size of a grain of mustard seed. When it falls into the ground, it grows. We need to act with the sure knowledge that it is not our faith that effects the healing power of God. It is His faithfulness. Our faith simply opens the door, and invites Him to enter and help Himself to our presence that He might make our body His own.
In the laying on of hands, there is much communicated to the other person. Somehow love seems to flow through the touch of one person to another. The laying on of hands can be a comfort to the intercessor as well as the supplicant, and, I believe to God who loves us and seeks to reveal His presence.
Oil has always symbolized God's Spirit, and it has been associated with healing. David was anointed by Samuel, and the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. The Samaritan poured oil and wine into the wounds of the assaulted traveler. That was the first aid treatment of the day.
While the normal procedure for anointing is to make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the one for whom we are praying. There is nothing to prevent the anointing of the portion of the body that is diseased.
While the normal procedure is to use a small bit of oil on the thumb to make the sign of the cross, there are times when people have poured much more than that little bit over the area to be healed. John Gayner Banks writes the story of a minister who anointed a young girl a number of times with no apparent results. When, in frustration, he made her drink a bit of the oil, she was healed.
When I first became involved in the healing ministry, I used oil to anoint people rather than the laying on of hands because it was easier for me to separate my ego from the oil than from the hands. It was easier for me to offer the oil to the Lord, and bypass my concern about whether I was able to be open enough for Him to use my hands without my help.
As things have gone over forty years of practice of the healing ministry, I have learned to ask Father, "Abba, do you want this one anointed or hands laid on them?" I do what I am led. He is capable of using either one or the other, but I have learned to ask what He wills, not what He can do.
I learned a lesson years ago when a lady bought a cross from a parish bookstore, and asked if I would bless it at the
altar of the church next door. A friend who was with her made the observation that God could bless it where we were. It came to two of us that Abba was saying, "I can bless it here or there, but it is my will to bless it at the altar." It is not a matter of what God can and can't do. It is a matter of what God wills to do in His love and wisdom.
GOD HOLDS THE INITIATIVE
However we approach the ministration of healing, we are to be sure that God holds the initiative. That assurance requires that we be open to His leading. Are we to pray for this person, Father? How do we pray for this person, Father? Do we lay our hands upon them or anoint them? What is your will for them and for us in this ministry?
There are some churches that do not endorse the use of oil by lay persons. That issue must be settled in the mind of any who are led to use oil in the ministration of healing to anyone else. I feel sure that if the church God has put you in does not allow you to use oil, that He will honor the laying on of hands in each place He calls you to minister.
Both anointing and the laying on of hands are a form of sacramental presence for the Lord. As you lay your hands on the sick, Jesus lays His hands on them through yours. As you anoint them with oil, Holy Spirit moves through the outward sign to become the inward reality. We become the visible presence of the Lord for the one to whom He sends us.
The use of hands or oil as His hands or His touch, is a practice that sets us free to know that God is present, and God heals. Continued practice of the ministry enables us to do the work with God rather than for God. Jesus told the seventy to go into every town and village where He Himself was about to come. When they got there, He was there in their flesh.
He sends us out to heal the sick. When we get there, He is there with us. We are not alone. As we continue to use our hands or the oil, we come to the realization that Jesus is here, and we are the embodiment of His presence for others.
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