Prayer & Healing
Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House
Spiritual direction is a ministry in which dis-ease figures greatly. Sometimes this is the dis-ease caused by guilt produced by past actions and omissions; sometimes it is the dis-ease caused by present unresolved conflicts or anxieties; sometimes it is the spiritual dis-ease and confusion caused by physical illness. In the holistic approach of Christian spirituality, the spiritual life of an individual is embedded into a dynamic physical and emotional context. Because of this, I often find myself exercising a ministry of healing. Indeed, it would be true to say that the whole endeavour of Christian spirituality is the quest for wholeness and healing.
It follows that when an individual approaches a time of physical or emotional trial, open to the means of grace, the Lord provides an opportunity for a closer walk with God - a deepening in faith, hope and love. Although the first port of call might be a doctor's surgery, the second should be that of a priest or a trusted Christian friend.
Here is some practical advice about prayer and healing. The first thing is not only to pray for oneself but also to ask others to pray for you. Make sure that you are on as many prayer lists as possible! This opening up of your need will be met by the generosity of God. The second thing is to make a determined effort to keep your spiritual life going. Illness, by its nature, means that we can manage less. My advice is that a time of prayer or Bible study should not be one of the first things to go. If you are struggling with this, share your difficulties with others and trust the Lord to give you the help you need.
The third is to make a regular Communion. The parish priest will be more than happy to arrange this for you at home. Far too many people think that it is too much bother for the priest, or think it is something of an admission of failure to ask for a home Communion - nothing could be further from the truth. Be assured that receiving Holy Communion in your own home is as real, effective and prayerful as in church, and in many cases more so. Fourthly, if you are full of anxiety and fear, open your heart to God in prayer or make a confession to a priest. There is wonderful healing grace in the confessional. Finally, if it is not offered, ask for prayer with the laying on of hands and prayer with anointing. God surely works in the ways he has promised to do.
For those of us who are in rude health, it is important that we keep the sick and housebound at the heart of personal prayer, and as a cause for prayer and service by the whole Church. We are after all one body and when one member is sick or in trouble, the life of the whole body is weakened. If we are faithful in sickness as well as in health, the Lord draws near to us and he will bring good out of our troubles - if we look to him as the source of life and goodness.
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