Grace, peace, and wellness to us all!
My mind was wandering as I wrote last Sunday’s sermon. You may recall if you heard the recording that Matthew 26 places Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed there with his three closest disciples a total of three times, mainly the same prayer, asking God the Father to remove the cup of passion and death from him. Jesus resolved himself to follow the Father’s lead and stick to the mission.
As I wrote the sermon, the mind-wandering began to other occasions in the Gospels where Jesus prayed. We find quite a few references to Jesus at prayer in the Gospels, especially in Luke. The texts include Jesus at prayer privately or with the disciples alone or with large groups. But, how many examples of Jesus’ quoted prayers are there? I couldn’t recall. So I tested myself. Right off the bat (sorry, I’m mourning for baseball), I listed The Lord’s Prayer (in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 only, which Jesus offered as an example of prayer, while perhaps actually praying it with the disciples,) Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (John 17), three lament prayers from his cross (Matthew 27, Mark 15, and Luke 23), and Jesus’ prayer before The Raising of Lazarus. Then, I did some research.
Here’s what I learned: I missed two prayers: Jesus’ Prayer for Glory (John 12:28) and his Exhuberant Prayer to the Father (Matthew 11 and Luke 10). Jesus prayed out loud six times in total, recorded three times in Matthew, twice in Mark, four times in Luke, and three times in John. Moreover, there are 13 references to Jesus praying or having prayed recorded in 19 passages from among all four Gospels. Jesus valued prayer!
Then, my mind wandered to a question: How many times did Jesus pray for the sick? I could not think of nor find a single example! That shook me a little, to be honest with you. I pray for the sick every day. Did Jesus? I did the research, using a Greek lexicon to study the word proseuche (pros-yoo-khay), which is used 50 times in the Gospels. The thrust of the word is action-oriented in making prayers, offering prayers, and merely praying. None of these are coupled with praying for the sick. Hmm!
Try to keep up! My mind wandered again! This time to an example when Jesus prayed: the raising of Lazarus in John 11. We learn there that Lazarus is ill. The Greek word used is astheneo (a-sthe-ne-o) with the thrust of being weak, feeble, and sick. In Lazarus’ case, he was sick unto death. Lazarus’ sisters informed Jesus of his friend’s plight. Jesus did not visit him or pray for him because he said the illness would not lead to his death but the glory of God and the Son. On the way to Bethany, Jesus announced that Lazarus had died. By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus was quite dead. We all know where the story goes. Jesus spoke to God, although the text doesn’t refer to the speech as a prayer. His words sound like a prayer. He calls out to Lazarus, who comes out of the tomb alive.
Why didn’t Jesus pray for the sick? The Gospels themselves suggest that Jesus healed the sick and entrusted the disciples to heal the sick. He did not ask his disciples to pray for the sick. What’s the implication for us, especially during this virus when there seems little to do but pray?
The thought moves my heart that as I pray for the nation’s healing, the world’s, for those with confirmed cases of Covid-19, and others with many illnesses, I am free and commanded to heal as well as pray. I can lay on hands, I can anoint, and I can witness to God’s desire to heal. Let me share a witness: During a Maundy Thursday service years ago, I washed the feet of twelve church members. I washed their feet from ankles to toes with my hands. I recall the eyes of one person vividly. After the service, she told me when I washed her right ankle that she felt a power healing her chronic pain. For years and years, she expressed her gratitude to God and me for her complete healing. God healed her; I just washed her feet.
Isolated as we are from each other because of Covid-19, acts of touching, anointing, and washing are unwise. But you may recall Jesus healed the centurion’s servant from far away. We can connect with the sick in body and soul, with people who are afraid, and offer prayers for healing and courage. Use your church directory. Cold call the people you know. Ask how they’re doing. Offer prayers for healing. Encourage people to anoint themselves with oil or wash their feet. Be a healer with hope and words. Pray and act as you can.
If you’d like to pray, anoint, or wash with me–call! 484-767-2352.