Reading: James 5: 13-16

Since the time of Christ, spiritual healing has taken the form of the laying on of hands in faith and prayer. James adds a reference to anointing with oil, i.e. touching the forehead with oil. Olive oil was often used far healing purposes, as when the Good Samaritan poured oil and wine into the wounds of the traveller. But in this passage in James the use of oil is more of symbolic character. It is 'the prayer of faith that will save the sick man.' We have no record that Jesus ever used oil in his healings.

The gifts of healing. Today there is awakened interest in the gifts of the spirit, among which are ‘gifts of healing'. (1 Cor.12:10) Many people, unknown to themselves, have this gift in some measure, and could try - among friends or in the family setting - to alleviate pain. This is especially easy in young children, who so often get bumps and bruises.

The Army Founder, William Booth, took a definite stand on the belief that God could heal the sick in answer to faith and prayer. He wrote in TheWar Cry 'This is in perfect harmony with the views and experience of The Salvation Army from the beginning. Nothing to the contrary has ever been taught by our authority, and numerous instances of faith-healing have occurred in the Army throughout its history.'

The channelling of healing energy is the common factor in all non-medical healing movements, whatever their denominational differences. Healers believe that this energy comes from God and is increased by attunement to him through prayer. It would appear that a sick person - by actual or near contact with the healer's hands -is able to receive a vital emanation which makes for healing. Spiritual healing helps the body to restore itself, by augmenting and accelerating the natural bent towards recovery. Sometimes the improvement lasts for only a few days and then has to be repeated, each 'treatment' bringing the sufferer a stage nearer to health.

In the laying on of hands for healing, the hands can be placed on the head as in blessing, or they can be applied outside the clothes or bedclothes to the site of the disease or pain. There is an actual transfer of energy - usually felt by both healer and receiver - and it is not simply the performing of an act of ritual. The use of the word 'healer' does not mean that any person can dispense healing at will. The so-called healer is only a channel for a divine power which flows through the human instrument of his body out to another in need. It is a gift from God in his boundless generosity.

Distant Healing is a form of intercessory prayer. The prayer first quiets his own heart and seeks attunement with God in worship. Then the sick person is named, being 'lifted' in thought into the loving presence of Christ the Healer, and visualised as receiving strength from him. That thought is held for a few moments, then thanks are offered to God that he hears and will answer prayer.

DISCUSS the possibility of distant healing. Choose a sick person known to most present, and spend some minutes in an act of corporate healing prayer.