Healing, Anointing, and Laying on of Hands at the Presbyterian Church


[The Lord] heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

DATELINE WAKE FOREST Thursday evening (in a world defined too much by brokenness, pain, mistrust, rancor, suspicion, alienation, judgment, intolerance, marginalization, condemnation, division, and bad news) Presbyterians in Wake Forest gathered for a Service of Healing & Wholeness.

IMG_8627-001It was a quiet event, without the crowds of Sunday morning, but it spoke volumes about who we are as a community of believers, and the kind of future we are moving into as a people of God called to be a place known for grace, healing, balm, trust, goodwill, peace, mercy, tolerance, absolution, unity, community, and good news.

The experience wove together a beautiful tapestry of scripture, prayer, music, hymns, litany, anointing with oil, laying on of hands, meditation, and powerful silence. One responsive reading in particular touched me deeply (adapted from Isaiah 40:28-31):

  • There is something deeper than trouble: It is mercy – God’s amazing grace – carrying, lifting, holding us in all seasons.
  • There is something more powerful than despair: It is mercy – God’s amazing Love – seeing us through dark nights, waves of sadness, and mountains of grief.
  • There is something longer-lasting than pain: It is mercy – God’s healing touch – bringing us hope, leading us to joy, and teaching us to sing.
laying on hands

The time of prayer, anointing with oil, and laying on of hands was emotionally powerful – a visceral, palpable engaging of God.

I’m not a gushy or overly sentimental person, but I could literally feel the gravitational pull of the Spirit of God; I could sense the presence of Jesus, placing his hand on the head of each person along with the ministers and elders; I could almost detect the brush of angels’ wings; I could see pain and anguish shed like scales, through the tears – and there were a lot of tears – tears coming not from sadness but out of the overwhelm of love.

This is who we are; we are humble servants of God, worshipping together, praying for one another, and learning to follow Jesus more closely. We do not seek to be defined by ironclad doctrine so much as by vulnerability, humility, and self-giving love. In the final analysis, our life together as a faith community is about loving God, following Jesus, and being filled with the Spirit.

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
 He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
 He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.
 The Lord sustains the humble… – Psalm 147:2-6

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