In the same way that doctors are not necessarily the best patients, and English majors don’t always use the best grammar, so pastors can sometimes operate independently of authority. Those who teach accountability and submission don’t always practice it themselves, either in relation to Scripture or to other elders. Thus, it required a choice on my part to do both last evening.
After my initial episode of vertigo on August 15, I have had ongoing dizziness and lack of balance. As I shared this with others and asked them to pray, one friend said, “I’m sure you have already called for the elders to pray for you.” To be quite honest, I had not. I could excuse myself for being in a fog the first few days. But now that it was brought to my attention, would I follow the instructions in James 5:13-15, and call for the elders to pray for me?
James 5:13-15 (ESV)
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
I realized I had a choice to make. I could choose to act independently and take a “me and God are enough” approach. I could choose to be stoic, and “patiently endure to the end.” Or, I could admit my inability, lay aside my pride and independence, and obey Scripture by asking the elders to practice their role as intercessors, which I quickly and willingly did.
Prior to their arrival, I tried to examine my own motives and expectations. I did not see this time of prayer as a “magic bullet” that would guarantee immediate and complete healing. The if & when of healing is still in God’s power and timing. I also did not see this as a last resort–“we’ve seen the doctor, run the tests, and done everything we can and it hasn’t worked, maybe we’d better pray” approach. Instead, I saw it as a step of obedience on my part.
Because verse 15 includes the forgiveness of sin, I also asked God to search my own heart and see if there was any issue on my side that needed to be dealt with. Receiving a “No” answer, I had to trust that God had something else in his plan and purpose for me at this time.
So the elders came last night, laid hands on Carol and me, and prayed for us. As I listened to their prayers, I offered one of my own. Having become discouraged of late, I prayed, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Am I completely healed? Not yet. But for the first time in many days, I am hopeful. That in itself, is a step in the right direction.