Acts of Healing:
Anointing with Oil
& Laying on of Hands
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)
In the Old Testament anointing was used to set apart priests for purification (Leviticus 14:15-18) and kings as ordained by God (1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13). It was also used for medicinal purposes (see Isaiah 1:6 and Jeremiah 8:22 and 51:8) and in times of gladness (Psalms 23:5, 45:7; Isaiah 61:3).
In the New Testament, as the apostles went out on their first missionary excursion, Mark tells us “They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:13). The “good Samaritan” also used oil in a medicinal way (Luke 10:34).
Our use of oil signifies all that the Holy Spirit is secretly doing to initiate healing and bring us to wholeness in Christ. We use it in thanksgiving and in hope, grateful for Christ’s ongoing ministry among us, mindful of the restoration he promises.
Laying on of hands is another ancient sign of the Holy Spirit and often accompanies the offering of a blessing, healing, or the bestowal of the Holy Spirit around the time of baptism. As we lay hands on one another we reinforce the presence of a prayerful community gathered around the sick. The hands laid upon the ill represent the hands of the Body of Christ, his Spirit filled church, and the touch of God placed upon those who are broken.
Both anointing and the laying on of hands find their fulfillment in the grace of God received in faith by those who look to Jesus Christ in anticipation of the healing he offers us.