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Prayers of Healing

October 29, 2013

 After I lost my mother last year, I was strangely surprised by the ongoing grief that I felt.  I suppose I thought that, because I was “prepared” for her death, and we had a good relationship, that I would quickly be at peace.  I knew she was with God.  However, her death was quickly followed by that of two other close family members: her oldest brother and my dad’s oldest sister.  Still other friends and family were sick or going through difficult times.   All of these things happening together made me feel as though my own world had shifted on its axis – just too many changes at once.  I had known God’s presence during my mother’s death, but where was He now?

In my grief and confusion, I began to return to a deeper form of prayer. I have written before about my surprise in growing to appreciate the Rosary[1].  The practice of meditating on Scripture while my hands and heart worked their way through the prayer beads led me into a deep communion with God, and became a great comfort to me.  Last year I was also blessed to be in a special group of women as we learned to seek God through entering into the Gospels with Jesus.  This experience, along with attending a “Healing Rosary”, led me to collect my own favorite scriptures of healing for prayer and meditation.  (Even if you are not Catholic, you can just meditate on the scriptures below, or you can pray a Protestant version. Here is a wonderful website with a link to an Evangelical Rosary.

In praying the Rosary, I use the following scriptures for each of the 5 “decades” of ten beads.  Here are the scriptures I use, and my thoughts for each:

1.  Jesus Heals a Paralytic (Mark 2:1-12)

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.  So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.  Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and , after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that?  He’s blaspheming!  Who can forgive sins but God alone? 

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier, say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?  but that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .”  He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

I love this story because the friends of the paralyzed man would not give up – no matter what, they were going to get him to Jesus!  When I am praying, I place the object of my prayer on the mat and I am dragging them to Jesus (even if they don’t want to go!)  I struggle to lift them onto the roof and lower them down to Jesus.  I know that if I can just bring them to Him, He can and will take care of them.  Notice that the scripture says, “when Jesus saw their faith” (the faith of his friends) He said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  However sick, weak in faith or reluctant people may be, we can always bring them to Jesus in prayer.  Like the friends of the paralytic, we must not let any obstacles keep us from bringing those we love to Him.

2.  The Faith of the Centurion (Luke 7:1-10)

When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.  There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.  The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.  When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him.  “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”  So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”  Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Meditating on this scripture reminds me that God has the authority to heal and to deliver.  In submitting to God and lifting up those I love in prayer, I recognize Jesus’ authority, just as the centurion did.  The centurion was also humble, acknowledging his unworthiness for Jesus to come to him, yet asking for help at the same time. This story shows the power of faith on behalf of another, even when they are far away from us.

3.  The Faith of the Canaanite Woman (Matthew 15:21-28)

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 

Jesus did not answer a word.  So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”   The woman came and knelt before him.  “Lord, help me!” she said.   He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.”  And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

 Years ago, when I first read this story, I was offended.  Why would Jesus ignore this woman and talk to her that way?  My study Bible later revealed that the Greek word used here means something more like “puppies” or “pets” – not an ugly word, but perhaps a way Jesus was using to explain his priority – the lost sheep of Israel.  Later, as a mother, I recognized this woman’s attitude – she would gladly bear any rebuff or insult if she could only get help for her child.  Meditating on this scripture is easy for me – I know the humility and desperation of a mother with a sick child.  The Canaanite woman knows that Jesus is her only hope and she is willing to humble herself before him.  To me, this story also means that even when we come to Jesus with our flaws and weaknesses, He is willing to hear us if we humble ourselves for the sake of those we love.  Bring your children – and your nieces and nephews, and your friends’ children  – to Jesus.  He is our only hope.

4.  The Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Cloak (Mark 5:21-34)

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.  Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there.  Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him.  “My little daughter is dying.  Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had; yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him.  He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, “Who touched me?”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering. 

Given Jewish law about women and menstrual bleeding, Jesus’ response to this woman was remarkable for its compassion.  Under Leviticus 15:19-30, this woman had been “unclean” for as many years as she had been bleeding, and therefore everyone and everything she touched was also made unclean.  Not only was she unclean, she was also financially ruined with medical bills.  We can only imagine her shame and pain and isolation!  When the woman told Jesus what she had done, kneeling before him in the midst of a Jewish crowd, no wonder she trembled in fear!  But Jesus’ response was filled with gentle kindness:  “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  I love this meditation for what it tells us about Jesus and women.  How many of women’s medical ailments, from breast cancer to bladder infections, are “taboo” topics?  Jesus reached out to this woman in her embarrassment and shame and healed her, praising her for her faith and speaking words of encouragement.  For all who suffer with embarrassing or painful problems, medical or otherwise, Jesus stands ready to comfort, heal and encourage.

5.  The Man at the Pool (John 5:1-15)

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.  Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ”Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.  While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”  

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

This scripture spoke to me about the times when we are in great need of God’s healing, but feel paralyzed, unable to reach him.  This man must have felt so alone, even in the crowd, hoping for healing and relief, but finding it always just out of reach.  Jesus comes to him and heals him, even when he cannot get to Jesus.

There are many kinds of wounds and diseases in our world – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  I do not wish to imply that this way of praying is any “magic formula” for healing, but it has been a great comfort to me.  In my prayers, by putting myself into the Gospel story – I become the man carrying my friend to see Jesus, or the woman pleading for her child — I draw closer and closer to Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8) We know He stands ready to hear us with the same heart of compassion He showed to the people in the Gospels.

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