Anointing in the Name of the Lord
By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell
Scripture Readings: James 5
Key Verse: James 5: 14
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
A member of our church told me this week that sometimes he finds it hard not to doubt when he prays. He knows the scriptures say that we are to pray in faith, believing and trusting that God hears our prayers. But, in practice, he admitted that he doesn’t know why God heals one person and not another when he prays on their behalf. I tried to reassure him that God hears all of our prayers, but that God’s purposes are not always ours. I am not sure that reassured him and I have thought about it a lot since then.
I told him of a person I know about who has stage IV cancer but is living with determination and resilience, living to the fullest in the face of her terminal state, because she’s not done yet, she’s not ready to go. She may have more “life” in these last months, weeks, days than she has for years—she may minister to others and love more in these days than she might have if she didn’t have cancer. Only God knows her heart and what she has endured, but she is a wonderful example of faith and endurance.
I told him that “we all will die” because we are “all perishable.” That’s a given. We don’t live in a world where we will live forever and without pain and suffering—this is not that realm or time period.
I don’t know if I told him this, but I was angry with God when my father died young and then my mother only a few years later, ages 57 and 60. I was in my 20’s. I prayed “hard,” as they say. When my mother was in the hospital after her stroke, a distant cousin I didn’t even know told me and my siblings that “if she died, it would be because we hadn’t prayed hard enough.” Luckily, I don’t share the same faith that man had—to me, that was poor theology. I didn’t cause my mother’s death because of my lack of faith. And God is not “Santa Claus” who gives us exactly what we want because we wanted and asked for it.
Healing comes in many forms. And healing is not always physical healing. I sometimes think that angels attend the ones who are “suffering”—the ones we mourn for, the ones we think are suffering because we suffer on their behalf. I don’t know. I just don’t know. But, I do know that Jesus suffered on the cross and that because He was human as well as divine, he understands our human suffering. And when we pray for those who suffer, I believe He hears us.
The scriptures say that Jesus wept for Lazarus when he found him dead, before He raised him to life again. The scriptures say that Jesus wept for Jerusalem, because they did not recognize who He was and that He had come to them and they rejected Him. He grieved for them. I believe He grieves for us when we suffer. But, He must have a greater plan that we can know. He allows us to have mortality—that mortality is a result of the original sin of Adam that we inherited and that we also engage in, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
And that greater plan includes us in his “glory.” In Romans 8:16-18, the scriptures read, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
And our scripture verse says that we should pray for each other after first “anointing with oil in the name of the Lord.” Per my KEY WORD Study Bible (NASB) commentary, to pray “in the name of the Lord” means to pray with “His character and purpose” in mind that His will be done in the situation according to His purposes for us which we may not know. In this instance, the commentary indicates that “anointing” refers to application of medicinal assistance, which indicates that a believer will suffer physical affliction, which “may be a result of his own sin.”
We are sinners—that’s a given. We are forgiven, but not necessarily devoid of pain and suffering in this life.
I believe He hears all of our prayers. I believe God answers all of our prayers. I believe that He has purposes we cannot fully know or understand. I believe we are forgiven for our sins, but that sin may still have some consequences. I believe He bears our burdens with us and that healing may come in other forms than physical relief. I believe He loves us and I believe He offers mercy and comfort. I believe that He is there with us in the toughest times to help us through. I believe on faith. I can’t prove it, but I believe it. I take it on faith.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus—I know that you suffered on the cross for me. I know that you understand human suffering and I understand that you even cried tears for Lazarus and for Jerusalem. I believe you grieve with us when we are hurting. But, I believe you are merciful and loving. Please comfort me and aid me in my disbelief—strengthen my faith that I may pray with confidence, knowing and trusting with expectant hope that you hear my prayers. Amen.