Forget the TV evangelist who puts his hand on a sick person's head and proclaims them "Cured!" and they fall to the floor seemingly released from the bondage of their illness or crippling debilatation.
That's not what we're talking about.
On the contrary.
Dr. Jeff Sterling demonstrates anointing
The subtle but strong healing power of prayer is the basis of healing services, "Healing Beyond the Walls," that have been held in Warren - and more are planned - at The Crossing, coordinated by a group of local churches.
"This isn't about 'laying hands on someone' and the blind seeing and the lame walking," said Gary Lester, director of Family Services of Warren County. Lester was asked by coordinators to be on hand at the first service in case counseling was needed by anyone participating.
"It's more about belief in the power of prayer, caring ... spiritual healing," Lester said.
"I hope that we will be able to share the love of Jesus with those who come," said Mary Schall, who had the initial idea for healing prayer in a public forum, "that we will be present with them, to care, to listen to anything they would like to share. There is not one way that we do this. Some may choose to be annointed, some may choose to have two or three persons pray with them," she added, and prayer can be out loud or silent. "There is no 'service.'"
The next healing is planned for July 3 when a group of local pastors and church lay leaders will offer prayers for healing and anointing with oil at The Crossing, Warren's Christian coffee house ministry. The gathering will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., over the lunch hour, and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., explained Dr. Jeff Sterling, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Warren, and past president of the Warren Area Ministerial Association.
"Any person desiring anointing and prayer for him or herself, or for others, is welcome to drop in during these times," he explained.
"Anyone who desires to do so" is welcome, Schall agreed. "The Bible tells us that Jesus healed those who came ... those who doubted or those who believed."
Coordinators hope for the comforting aspect of prayer to benefit all who attend.
"Prayer isn't a guarantee that God will give us what we think we want, but he always listens, always cares and always walks with us," Schall said. "Prayers are answered in different ways. Sometimes they are answered by giving us peace or strength. Sometimes they are answered by giving us others to come alongside us. Sometimes they are answered in other miraculous ways. Sometimes the healing is emotional, sometimes physical, sometimes spiritual."
"We have been offering simple anointing in the name of the Trinity and prayers for healing every so often during our Sunday worship services, with great response," Sterling said. Mary "had the vision of opening this up to the public outside of our church, and The Crossing, in the center of town, was a logical venue."
The first of the healing services was held in March, and "quite a number of persons," came in for prayer, Sterling said. "One individual even 'clocked out' from work to come, and was then returning to work."
Pastors and leaders from several area churches have volunteered to participate including First UMC, the Salvation Army, The Harbor, Faith Fellowship, Warren Wesleyan Church, as well as Rev. Charles Wells (chaplaincy ministry), Gary Lester of First Lutheran Church, and Rev. Jon Swart, of Warren County Prison Ministry. Several other local churches have offered prayers of support.
This will not be a worship service or a meeting, but just a "drop in" opportunity for persons to be anointed with olive oil and a simple prayer said for healing, Sterling explained, and the "healing" addressed may be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
"For the person stopping in, this may be as simple as having a pastor and lay person apply a little oil in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and saying a very brief prayer-five minutes and out," Sterling said.
However, pastors will be available to talk privately with persons about faith issues or to offer more specific, personal prayer for those who desire.
The concept of using oil to anoint for healing comes from the book of James in the Christian scriptures: "Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet." (James 5:14, The Message)
"Most Christian denominations believe in healing prayer, and many make it a regular practice to offer anointing, but this kind of cooperative, public event is somewhat unusual," Sterling said; "If people respond positively, it could be the first of several, and we expect that more of our local church clergy and lay leaders will be involved in future gatherings."
Questions about the healing prayer times may be addressed to Dr. Sterling at First United Methodist Church, 723-4930. The Crossing is located on the corner of Hickory and Pennsylvania Avenues. Refreshments will be provided by the staff at The Crossing.