Friday, May 29, 2009

Waynesboro Presbyterian Church

Healing in the name of Jesus.

Can you list all the Bible stories of Jesus which involve healing? Of course, we know healing is a powerful and common dimension of the ministry of Jesus.

Despite all the changes and transformations in the church today, one constant remains true about the work of pastors. Pastors today are expected to make hospital calls. This is an aspect of ministry which simply cannot be neglected or abandoned in the church today. Indeed, most pastors understand the vital, spiritual importance of hospital calls. We understand that our pastoral presence is a powerful source of healing and encouragement when our people are living through the trauma of modern medical care.

I was richly blessed by the opportunity to worship with our Waynesboro Presbyterian Church on a Sunday when they included a Service of Healing in their worship. Given the centrality of healing in the ministry of Jesus and in our professional ministries today, it may be appropriate to consider more ways we may include a Service of Healing in our regular worship services.

The Waynesboro example is very meaningful and beautiful. This Service of Healing was expressed during the regular Sunday morning worship. Pastor Brian introduced the Service of Healing by explaining it as an extended time of prayer. The members of the session were invited forward to join him at the front of the church. A chair was brought out and the pastor and session formed a loving semi circle around the chair, facing out toward and thus including the congregation in their circle. Brian invited anyone who wanted prayers to come forward. Slowly and reverently individuals came forward and quietly whispered their prayer concern to Pastor Brian. Brian then repeated the prayer concern for the congregation to hear, invited the person to sit, the session all laid hands on the person and Brian lifted up a pastoral prayer focusing on their individual prayer need.

This Service of Healing, I learned, is a regular practice at Waynesboro expressed about quarterly and always as part of worship. I am sure there may be some uncomfortable feelings and attitudes when this practice is first introduced in worship for the first time. But the feeling I had with the Waynesboro Church was one of deep reverence and a real depth of prayer as the congregation prayed for healing. Such depth of prayer only comes with practice.

Given my introverted personality, if you asked me whether I would ever seek such public prayer for myself, I would quickly respond, “Probably not.” I typically prefer my prayers private and anonymous. But this time of healing prayer during worship at Waynesboro moved me deeply. So I went forward when there was an appropriate time, and quietly asked Brian to pray for the healing of the Presbyterian Church, and for my leadership. I was lifted and blessed by the gentle touch of the session members, and truly encouraged by Brian’s prayer for the unity of our church and my ministry.

Maybe our church will be more faithful and effective if we each identified those ways we need to be healed, and publicly asked for healing prayers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.