Sunday, May 30, 2010

Prayers for the Sick

Arlecia D. Simmons, Durham, N.C.

This past week I had the opportunity to interact with all of the generations that make up Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church. One of my key duties this summer will be to share the teaching responsibilities of the Wednesday noonday Bible Study. This hour of prayer, praise, and teaching is followed by visitation with the deacons and prayer warriors. After this week’s service I ventured to Durham Regional Hospital with an associate minister, two deacons and Mrs. Joyce Turner, the wife of Dr. Turner. No Mt. Level members were hospitalized, so we visited with two people who were “friends” of the church.

Prior to entering the room of the first patient we all had to cleanse our hands and put on hospital gowns. We prayed after exchanging greetings with the family members present and the infirmed older woman. The minister anointed her head with oil while a deacon read James 5:14: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

It was on the next visit of the day that my teachable moment occurred. We walked into a room where the patient was unable to communicate with us and family members were not present. It was evident the man was in some kind of distress. Mrs. Turner summoned us to continue with prayer and the group looked to me to lead them. I pray often but was hesitant about praying in this moment. We gathered silently and held hands around the bed of the man who was too sick to acknowledge our presence.

Praying for the sick is one of the topics we had previously discussed in Dr. Turner’s The Holy Spirit and Ministry class, but I still wasn’t sure if I was praying the “right” prayer. Do we ever know if we’re praying the “right” prayer?

After evening Bible Study I was able to talk with Dr. Turner about my concern. He was more knowledgeable about the man's condition, and offered instruction on how to approach similar scenarios in the future. Pray the Scriptures,” he reminded me. This was the same advice Dr. Stephen Chapman, associate professor of Old Testament, gave us during his Old Testament lecture on the Psalms.

At the end of the day I had to make peace with the fact that God knows what to do with our petitions. I was also reminded that to be effective in ministry, we must meditate on the Scriptures day and night. If we are to pray the Scriptures then we must know the Scriptures. If we are unable to recall the words of the psalmists, as Chapman suggested, then we must rely on the Spirit to make intercession.

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