Praying for the sick is an old tradition among Christians. Apparently, the Last Rites in the Roman Catholic Church started as prayers for healing, but they morphed into a final send-off. Today, I am sure that Christians in most denominations will pray for a sick person, for healing and for peace at the end of life. If they don’t, they should.
Praying for the sick makes Christians different from all other religions. It’s not a common practice, in the religious world. The Bible is very clear about this responsibility in Christian churches.
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5: 14 and 15)
It’s clear to me that this is the business of the leaders in the church, and not the exclusive property of specialized faith healers. I am not criticizing faith healers, but I am reporting what is written for us.
A few years ago I had an illness that started as an embarrassment. I wasn’t seriously disabled at first, and I kept this like a secret. I used to swim every week, and somewhere, probably in the showers, I picked up a plantar wart infection on one foot. If you have never had this, wear flip flops at public pools so you don’t ever get it. The virus lives in the thick part of calloused skin, usually on the bottom of a foot, and it is highly contagious. I had to stop swimming in public pools.
I tried the usual wart removal treatments from a drug store, and the infection only grew, so I went to a doctor. In a clinic, the wart was frozen with a freezing spray. This didn’t hurt until I got out to my car, and then I had several minutes of excruciating pain, after the freezing wore off. The doctor gave me several of these painful treatments, and the problem seemed to clear up.
I went back to my usual life, for several months, and then, one day, I noticed that the wart had returned. It grew, and spread, and I started walking with a painful limp. It grew into more than an embarrassment, so I went to a foot doctor, a Podiatrist. He was confident, and he restarted the freeze treatment, and he was aggressive. I went through several more bouts of severe pain, and one night I could not sleep at all.
The doctor soon became pessimistic, and I became partially disabled, and the mess on my foot grew. The doctor said he had never seen such a severe infection, that would not respond to treatment. He seemed worried. And then my health insurance stopped paying for the treatments. That small problem on my foot grew into something really scary.
I did not know what to do, and then one Sunday, I was in church and the pastor invited people to come to the front if they wanted the church leaders to pray for their sicknesses. He did what the Bible told us to do in the book of James “call the elders.”
I didn’t want to crowd out people with serious illnesses, when I only had a wart on my foot, and I didn’t want to limp painfully to the front and back, so I stayed in my seat. I remember praying and asking God If He would help me. Nothing happened, except I thought, maybe, two words flitted through my brain. Are you ready for this?
I didn’t feel like being rebellious, and so I drove to a dollar store after the service, and I bought a package of sand paper. When I got home, I could only think of one possibility, so I rubbed the sore on my foot with the finest grit paper. I had to stop when my foot started bleeding, but I persisted for several days, until the day when I returned to the doctor for an uninsured appointment.
I expected him to get angry at me for doing something so stupid with sand paper, but I can still remember that look on his face. He stared, and his eyes bulged, and then he said something like “My treatment has finally worked, and your infection is gone.” I didn’t correct him, but there was another treatment.
And yes, my infection cleared up completely, and now, years later, I am still free from that painful and embarrassing thing on my foot.
Do you know that puppy love is real to the puppy? In my small world, I was lost, but now I am found. A plantar wart may may seem like a small thing, but that virus wrecked my life for a while. A sick person only wants to be well, and I thank God that I am well today. I also thank the doctor, for his persistent work. He was a part of the solution. God could use any resources and any treatment, I just wanted to be whole again.
And that is my story about the time when I was healed.
If you have a need like mine, as you read this, I hope that you can find what I found. It is good to be whole again.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 26: 24 to 26)