As a pastor, I pray for healing, a lot. I pray for people I know who are in need of healing in their lives. I pray for people who ask me to pray for them or for someone they know who needs healing. I pray for healing in a general sort of way, that God will heal the brokenness in the world and in people.
Sometimes, my prayers for healing are quiet. At morning prayer each day in our parish chapel, we take some time to offer prayers of intercession and thanksgiving and often after I get through my list of spoken names I will sit in silence and let the images of others and their needs rise before me. More than words, there is an intention that these receive God's attention and love.
Sometimes, in hospital rooms, in private homes and often at church, we engage in public prayers for healing. Just this past Sunday, a person preparing for surgery came forward at the end of our liturgy and asked for laying on of hands and prayers for her upcoming ordeal. More than 3/4 of the congregation present came forward to join in that prayer. Just last night, I met a man outside our soup kitchen who stopped me and asked for a blessing and a prayer as he readies to get married. This union is a new beginning for him in what has been a very difficult journey to recovery and renewal.
Too often, the need for healing in our lives gets shrugged off. We don't want to be a bother. We fear approbation if we exhibit our pain or need. We worry that offering up our needs and concerns will mean a kind of exposure that will trigger shame or embarrassment. I am saddened that as often as people will boldly walk up to me as a pastor and ask for my prayers, many will first consider that action and then dismiss it. They doubt, worry, decline and avoid the opportunity to lay it out there...and yet what more could we desire than to experience healing in our lives?
Easy...because a mistake we make is to assume that healing is "fixing." My clothes dryer needs to be fixed. My neighbor needs healing. There is a difference. Healing means coming to both wholeness and holiness in life. I know some VERY ill people who rejoice in their healing path...they are at peace with what they are going through. They experience communion with others and with God even though they are far from being "healthy" or "fit."
When God, through Joel, promises healing to the people of Israel, we get reminders of just how often we turn from God's healing presence. Joel also reminds us, and does the Psalmist, that God's healing is not an "opt-out" thing...it comes, and like grace it is on God's terms and ultimately THERE for us. Jesus, in Matthew, is on a healing tour. He travels, teaches and HEALS...on a scale we that has a dramatic impact on us TODAY. We can only imagine what it must have been like to witness him cleansing the leper, healing the Gentile's servant at a distance, taking Peter's mother-in-law's hand (and her fever from her), exorcising the two Gadarenes' demons. God, through Christ, brings and abundance of healing into the lives of those who join him on the way....
....and the only thing asked of us in exchange for that healing light?
To accept it.