Prayers for Healing is an exercise focused on the disciplines of spiritual friendship and intercessory prayer. It is way of opening our lives to healing through scripture, symbols, compassionate listening, and sharing God’s presence in prayer.
Provide several small bowls of ashes and several bowls of lightly scented oil on a table. You may want to have a worship center or lighted candle on the table.
Read Isaiah 61:1–3, from one or both versions below, and offer brief reflections on God as the one who gives us beauty in exchange for our ashes, the oil of joy for our tears, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Sing Community of Christ Sings 585, if desired.
Invite each person to take a pinch of ashes and place it in his/her hand. Ask people to take a few moments to think of something for which they need healing—perhaps a memory that needs forgiveness, a burden that needs lifting.
Ask people to share with a partner the situation or memory represented by their ashes. Each person should take two to three minutes to briefly share what his or her ashes represent. The listening partner is asked to hear the story quietly and compassionately, offering only brief supportive comments as appropriate.
After each person has told his or her story, the partners discard their ashes into the bowls or a wastebasket. Each person dips one finger in a bowl of scented oil and places the drop of oil on the skin of their partner where they have indicated they would like to be anointed (i.e., wrist, forehead, back of the hand).
The partners then take turns offering brief prayers of healing and blessing for one another.
The facilitator invites people back to the circle and offers a brief prayer of thanks.
This activity is not meant to serve as a replica of or replacement for the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick carried out by the elders of the church. It should be done as an act of compassionate listening and spiritual friendship that is at the heart of our relationship together as members of Christ’s body.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion; to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. —Isaiah 61:1, 3 IV
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. —Isaiah 61:1–3 NRSV
Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine by Larry Dossey
Intercessory Prayer: Praying for Friends and Enemies by Jane E. Vennard