Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity James 5: 13-end Mark 9: 38-end
You feel unwell. It may not be more serious than a general feeling of ‘under the weather’, or it may be a raging toothache that is driving you mad. There is an avenue open to you that possibly will bring you relief from your agonies. Paracetamol, the universal pain relief, and where is it kept? In the wife’s handbag, of course. There are now two options available to finding your deliverance. Either you brave all of those hidden mantraps lurking in the depths of the handbag and gingerly delve around for the tablets, or you wait until the ‘keeper of the bag’ is near enough to ask. The former method brings relief quicker but places you in great risk whereas the second method will probably result in the tablets being placed in your palm but along with them comes a questionnaire.
James was exhorting his listeners to pray when sick. He also urged them to pray when happy. Cries of, “Woe, Woe, and Thrice Woe”, would have echoed along the streets according to Frankie Howerd in ‘Pompeii’. The poor sufferer from that terrible disease Leprosy would have walked the streets calling out, “Unclean! unclean!” so that those who heard him would be able to keep their distance. Actually it was also a call for their prayers that those who heard the call would offer prayers to God on their behalf. Family members of the afflicted would go to the wise men in the vicinity to ask for their prayers.
Prayer offered to God was seen as a major step towards recovery. As too was anointing with oil together with prayer. Prayer, oil and healing have been a part of the Church’s ministry for centuries, since the time of Jesus and before. Through time and into the Middle Ages and Monasteries we pass and witness where the monks would operate the Infirmary in a setting of prayer.
Today, the Church’s ministry of prayer continues with healing services held in some parishes. On Maundy Thursday oil is blessed in the Cathedral by the Bishop for use in the Ministry of Healing up and down this land. So effective was the use of oil that it was always carried on all journeys as a cure for even the most dangerous of illnesses.
Combined with all of these uses of oil in the curing of the sick the application of prayer stands alongside of them all. James in his letter urges the use of prayer for the sick as a means of effecting their cure. God shall use the prayers as a means of a sick person’s recovery. However, if the sick person is ill because of a sin that they have committed, the cause of that sin must be removed before the restoration to health. Only then will the power of prayer come to the front.
When the power of prayer is present faith should be acknowledged that a blessing may be given. The spirit of prayer is the proof that the power of God is present. The prayer of the Church is for healing in body, mind and spirit, and thanks be to God, he is ever present to cast his healing hand over us, his children.
Collect for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself,
and so bring us at last to your heavenly city
where we shall see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.