Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick
A million years ago, I graduated from college as a nurse, and I decided to move to Chicago to go to seminary. While there, I found a church home in the Evanston Vineyard. The Vineyard is a church movement where laying hands on the sick and praying for them to be healed is part of almost everything that they do. We would stop to pray for someone as soon as they mentioned a sniffle or an ache. We would gather in groups to pray for our friends in the hospital. Praying for each other at the end of every church service was a given. My practice of prayer changed a lot during this time in my life. I was praying almost continuously. I talked to God about everything because I honestly believed that he was listening to and answering me. I told people, on a regular basis, things that I thought God was saying to me for and about them. Honestly, I was pretty cocky about it. I was doing this “in love,” but it assuredly involved some serious feelings of superiority. In hindsight, I can see now that I was crying out in desperation for God to heal me. I wanted him to fix all my problems. If I could get God to heal me, then I wouldn’t have to work through my shit! *Massive eye roll* I am SUCH A NINE!
Not everyone was healed when we prayed for them, of course. But enough confirmation bias was happening for me to continue with this practice for a lot of years. Now, a truly cosmic irony happened while I was writing my master’s thesis on healing prayer. My flat mate during my last year of seminary had stomach cancer. She had surgery to remove much of her stomach and had started chemo and radiation shortly after I moved in with her. My friends and I prayed for her SO MUCH during those many months, and I really believed that God was healing her. I believed it so much that I threw a “cancer free” party for her as soon as she finished treatment. There was no medical clearance of her cancer at this point, there was just a young nurse who should have known better with a rather large and misplaced faith. This party was in February. In March, I took her to the ER for intractable abdominal pain. By June, my friend died from abdominal cancer that had spread like grains of sand throughout her abdomen. My grief for this loss was very difficult and very long. I was aware that it was a grief over more than the loss of my friend. It was difficult for me to admit, but my desperation for God to heal my friend was ultimately selfish. I wanted so badly for God to be able to heal my friend so that I could believe that he could heal me. I did not want to admit that my own healing might require effort that I was unwilling to put forth. It was linked like this in my uncareful heart, and I was blind to it. This link needed to be broken, and my friend’s death was certainly the beginning of that break.
I do believe that there is an unknown, spiritual piece to healing and health. There is an abundance of medical research proving that prayer for the sick makes a significant difference in the outcome of all kinds of ailments. As a nurse, I can tell you that placing your hands on the sick makes an immediate difference in the symptoms that they are currently experiencing. That said, sharing the above piece of my own journey, I wanted to expose a sort of underbelly view of healing prayer. I’m thankful for what I now can see of my experience all those years ago. I can see a path toward more pure love to offer to the sick. And for heaven’s sake, the biggest thing that our fellow sickies could use is huge, pure, unadulterated love.
Monica Lin has been a nurse for 22 years. She has been a wife to Dave Lin for nearly 18 years, mother to Sam for 16, mother to Nathan for 14, and cat mom for 9. Her current and new position of employment is at the Peoria City/County Health Department as the Clinic Coordinator. She plans to go back to school to pursue a master’s in nursing very soon! She is helping to make the Lin household the most over-educated place in the northern hemisphere. Lol, jk! But seriously. She has lots of hobbies, but those are for another conversation.