Something beautiful happens when people come together to pray. In moments of gratitude and joy, it is easy to sing praises. And in moments of seeking or sorrow or struggle, our prayers become like incense rising in the presence of God.
Sometimes when people come to the altar for prayer at the church where I serve, we anoint them with holy oil. Blessing the oil and placing it on their forehead, making the sign of the cross, we remember the advice of James to “call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them.” Often the presence of God moves us to tears. We lay hands on people as they kneel or stand at the altar, speaking words of intercession and care. Being before God in sorrow or praise is both vulnerable and powerful because the Spirit of God comes into those moments with much grace.
When we pray for healing, we trust the Lord to know how, when, and where that healing will come. We place our belief in a God who heals and restores us, a God who beckons us to bring our hearts and bodies and minds to the altar of prayer.
As a pastor who has prayed over many people at the altar, I have experienced the overwhelming presence and compassion of God for each of us. Sometimes we feel that presence and compassion in the simple and brave act of getting on our knees or lying face-down before the Lord and saying, “God, this is the cry of my heart today. Please hear me and come near.”
Merciful God, heal the brokenness in our hearts and minds. Take our fragile bodies and strengthen them for today. Allow us to walk in the healing steps of your love. God of mercy, inspire us to come to your altar and pray. Amen.
The Jewish people have faced possible destruction numerous times. The story begins not with the Holocaust in Europe but far back in history during the time of Esther. The wicked Haman plots to wipe out God’s people, but God saves the people through Esther’s courage. The psalmist praises God for this kind of salvation from seemingly impossible circumstances. Although we may not face genocide, we have our own struggles. James encourages us to pray with faith, believing that God can and will answer. Our prayers are powerful, James assures us. Jesus teaches us the importance of letting nothing stand between God and us. Using vivid hyperbole, he admonishes us to put the pursuit of God above everything else and to support others in that same pursuit.
Read Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22. When have you chosen to speak out in a way that made you vulnerable in order to help someone else?
Read Psalm 124. Recall a time when you had a strong sense of God’s being on your side. What was the situation? How did that assurance come?
Read James 5:13-20. How do the members of your faith community pray with and for one another?
Read Mark 9:38-50. Whoever is not against you is for you. How can you share God’s love with those outside your inner circle?
Respond by posting a prayer.