At St Stephen’s Church, once a month during our Sunday 10.30am service (usually the 2nd Sunday), we have a practice of offering a prayer for healing along with laying on of hands.
What’s happening when we do this? What do we hope to achieve by this?
When we are ill or unwell, we want to get better. This getting better can be straightforward. Time is a great healer, we say. ‘Try this,’ the doctor might say as we receive a prescription. This getting better might take a few days; it might take much longer but together, time and medicine, can produce the healing we want, and we are back to normal. Did you have that nasty cold virus before Christmas? I did and thankfully I’m better now.
Sometimes our being ill or unwell, is more complicated than this and our condition needs more than some time and some pills. For healing to be effective, we might need to change our lifestyle; we might need to change our habits; we might need to change how we think. This healing needs us to be honest with ourselves - never an easy job and then changes have to be made. The good news of our faith proclaims we have a God who gives us the strength to make the changes, the courage to face a different future and the determination to break old habits.
Getting better can be a long process and patience is not a virtue many of us have. As part of our prayers in the healing ministry we pray we can live with and accept the slow recovery. Our faith proclaims there is help with healing; and healing can occur. That feeling of hopeless and being ‘stuck’ because of our history and our habits can be changed to one of hope - the future can be different from our past. This is the good news of Jesus Christ - this is a healing of our whole selves.
But sometimes this being ill or unwell is not going to get better. It might be part of getting old - the pain maybe can be lessened but will not go away. The illness may be what takes us to our death. Then the healing and the prayers for this healing are for the strength the bear the weaknesses and the courage we all need to face our own deaths.
And in the prayers for healing we need to take seriously the way our illness/unwell-ness is a result of injustice and social oppression. We are called to speak out and challenge these injustices. Part of our own healing is a healing of our society which Christians are called to be part of.
On a different note, people have told me our own physiotherapist, Trish, has ‘healing hands’. I asked her what she made of people saying she has ‘healing hands’. She very kindly gave me some of her time to talk about healing and her work as a physio.
She says although she has strong hands and she uses her hands in consultations - her hands are not special. She is a people person and enjoys her job very much; what she doesn’t have is magical hands! What she does offer is time: time to consider the whole person and not just the bit of the body which is causing pain and also expertise in exercises and advice to put our bodies right again. She offers encouragement that pain and loss of movement don’t have the last word.
However, there was an acknowledgement that we are complicated! We struggle with ageing – things we used to be able to do… but now we can’t. So, she has to persuade us that in ageing we now can’t do what we used to do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Sometimes the pain we do have is made worse by own fear that it can’t be made better. So, to aid healing, Trish says she has to convince people that they can get better and with her physio techniques the healing can start.
What I’ve learnt through the healing we offer as part of the good news of Jesus’ love for us and the healing Trish offers is that it has to involve the whole person. Good health is not a given - sadly. We will all go through periods of being ill or unwell - either because we catch something e.g. flu; or because our own given bodies are prone to certain diseases or illnesses; or just because our bodies are getting older. Dealing with the illness, whether mental or physical, needs us to look at all of our lives and for me that has to include the spiritual.
- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool