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Healing Ministry and Worship

The aim of this article is to guide you:

  • to the best resources available for introducing or improving healing services in your congregation's ministry;
  • to provide suggested steps for introducing healing services and ministries as part of your congregation's life;
  • to link you to other healing resources.

Ours is a hurting and broken world. It is no wonder that there has been a very positive response to opportunities for healing prayer and anointing.

Many United Methodist congregations now include healing prayer in worship services. Some offer healing prayer as part of services of Holy Communion. Some schedule weekly, monthly, or quarterly services of healing, depending on the needs of their particular church and community.

Basic Understandings of Healing and Worship

The Bible affirms spiritual healing.

"Are any among you sick? They should call the elders of the church and have them pray for them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14).

When pastors and laity pray for people with the laying on of hands or anointing with oil, they are not claiming that they are doing something for the sick. They are not claiming that God will make everything better. They are seeking to be faithful to continue Christ's threefold ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing.

The Bible clearly calls disciples to pray with and for one another, and this faithful ministry of touch with prayer pleads and performs (enacts) the grace of God. This touch bridges alienation, swallows isolation, breaks suffering, and opens discouraged human spirits.

Services of healing are not services of curing. Rather they "provide an atmosphere in which healing can happen." (See The United Methodist Book of Worship, 613-614.) All healing is God's work, and worship settings where God encounters people are intrinsically healing.

When people are hurting, and when there is an invitation to share the pain, people respond. It is very natural and an act of hope in God. The ritual practices of healing prayer in the context of worship do not embarrass or expose people. United Methodist healing services use a simple sacramental approach to healing that expresses compassion, hope, grace, and a quiet confidence in God. There we can bring our insufficiencies to the all-sufficient Christ, who understands our need for wholeness.

Worship Resources

The publication of worship resources for healing ministry in our United Methodist Hymnal and Book of Worship says: "We have the Church's affirmation and tools for healing ministry."

Here are the most readily available resources for United Methodist congregations:

Basic services:
The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992) offers basic services of healing (615-626). There you will find flexible and complete resources for planning healing services. The same materials are available in the "Pastor's Pocket Edition" of The United Methodist Book of Worship. Both are available from Cokesbury (1-800-672-1789).

Additional services:
The Book of Worship contains additional healing resources for people going through divorce, suffering addiction, living with AIDS, facing life-threatening illness, or living in a coma. See 626-629 in the Book of Worship.

Teaching material:
The Book of Worship also contains two pages of excellent introductory teaching material for leaders to use in helping the congregation to understand and feel comfortable with services of healing. On page 12, the book gives congregations permission to print this teaching material and the services for educational or worship use.

Recommended Scripture texts:
There are extensive lists of Scriptures for healing services on 616 and 617 in the Book of Worship.

Music for healing services:
The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) contains useful indexes of hymns for various needs and occasions (934 and following) and a specific list on healing (943). The Book of Worship, 614, references prayers in the Hymnal that are appropriate for healing.

Oil for anointing:
If you choose to use anointing oil with healing prayer (see James 5:14 and The United Methodist Book of Worship, 614, 620-621), go towww.cokesbury.com
and type "oil" in the search window. The screen will bring up various anointing products, and you can order online.

Next Steps

What steps can you and your congregation take to make healing and wholeness a consistent and accessible facet of your ministry?

  • Begin with the excellent two-page "Introduction" to healing services in The United Methodist Book of Worship, 613-614. Here is solid theological and practical help to serve as a foundation for starting a healing ministry in worship and pastoral care. Study the services that follow the introduction. Discuss with other leaders how and when you might use such resources.
  • Talk with and learn from pastors and churches that already hold healing services or that include those services in their regular services of Holy Communion.
  • Have a Sunday school class or Bible study that focuses on healing and wholeness. Stories in the gospels and Acts of the Apostles can be found in The United Methodist Book of Worship, 616-617. Or go to The Upper Room Online Bookstore for books about healing.
  • Invite community resource people such as hospital chaplains, parish nurses, and staff of community health and support agencies to help you and your congregation develop increased sensitivity to those with illness and handicapping conditions.
  • Think through issues of accessibility for those who respond to opportunities for healing prayer in worship services.That All May Worshipis available from Cokesbury.
  • Let your people know of the availability of The Upper Room's Prayer Center.

Healing and Wholeness Links

Upper Room Books on Healing and Wholeness
Here you will find resources on healing and wholeness in English, Spanish, and Korean.

The Upper Room Prayer Center
The Prayer Center telephone line and e-mail center take calls and requests for prayer 24 hours a day.

Daniel T Benedict, Jr. , formerly worship resources director for the Discipleship Ministries, retired in 2005.

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