Share |

Praying for Shalom: A service of healing and restoration for the Lenten season

Our congregation was in need of healing. During the span of a year or less many members of the Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church had experienced serious illness, death, and other tragedies. The elders responded to these needs by calling several mid-week prayer services, which were helpful to those who attended. However, members also desired to deal with such needs in the context of congregational worship. The following service was planned and conducted in response to that need.

Explanation of the Service (1)

The service this evening will be especially a time of prayer—prayers for restoration and healing. All of us and our families (and the family of nations) experience times of distress, of illness, of loss. The Lord has told us to bring our needs and our groaning to him, and we have the assurance that our great High Priest will hear us: "Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Our prayers are not magical incantations, and not all our suffering will be erased this evening. But as we come in faith, we will know the grace and the healing power of Christ. And we will experience the oneness of the body of Christ.

During this service, there will also be an opportunity for you to request prayer for a particular illness or loss in your life. Prayer teams will be standing in the front of the sanctuary. During the silent prayer, anyone is invited to come to one of the prayer teams. You may specify a particular need or simply ask for prayer for a distress or need in your life.

Those who pray with you will lay their hands of blessing on you. Again, this laying on of hands is not a magical or supernatural ritual, but a symbol of God's grace and wholeness coming into our lives.


A Time to Gather for Worship

Prelude: "As the Deer" Hayes

Mutual Call to Worship: "As the Deer Panteth for the Water" (Martin Nystrom) Maranatha! Praise Chorus Book 246

Greeting from the Lord

Introduction to the Service (3)

A Time to Thank the Lord

Psalm of Thanksgiving: Psalm 121

Hymn: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" PsH 475, PH 478, RL 144, TH 76, 77, TWC 25

A Time to Confess Our Sins (4)

Psalm of Confession: Psalm 51:1-12

Hymn: "O Christ, the Lamb of God" PsH 257, SFL 44

Affirmation of Our Faith: Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither life nor death,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A Time to Listen to God's Word (5)

Scripture: Jeremiah 17:7, 8, 14; Philippians 4:5-7; James 5:13-16; Mark 10:13-16

Meditation: "Brokenness ... Prayer... Wholeness" (6)

Hymn: "Be Still and Know That I Am God" SFL 225, TWC 516

A Time to Pray

Jesus says: Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy. I will give you rest.

[Prayers for physical healing, emotional and spiritual restoration, and family relations are offered. The worship leader says something like the following: "After a period of communal prayer, we will continue with silent prayer. The silent prayer will begin and conclude with the singing of 'Jesus, Remember Me.' Those who wish to pray with a prayer team are invited to come foiward during this time, "] (7)

A Time to Respond in Gratitude

Psalm of Thanksgiving: Psalm 103:1-5

Hymn: "I Worship You, O Lord" (Psalm 30) PsH 30

stanzas 1, 2, 5: congregation
stanzas 3, 4: solo


Musical Offering: "O Christ, the Lamb of God" Bach

Hymn: "Father, We Love You" SFL 77, TWC 10

God's Blessing

Postlude: "He Is Lord" Hayes



1 The "Explanation of the Service" was printed as part of the order of worship. Since this was the first time that our congregation had held a service of this nature, we thought it necessary to be rather explicit and didactic. Future healing services may not need to be as didactic.

2 The worship planning team discussed the most appropriate "title" for the service. We considered but discarded "Healing Service" because the prayers were not to be limited to physical healing. "Restoration" seemed to capture the wider meaning of God's shalom working in our lives.

3 The "Introduction to the Service" briefly restated the written "Explanation."

4 Although we did not want to convey that specific illness or distress in our families is related to specific sins, we did want to acknowledge that there is a general relationship between sin and the suffering of humankind. We also followed the directive of James 5:15-16.

5 The Scripture readings were read alternately by a woman and a man.

6 The Meditation included the following brief comment on the "laying on of hands"—not a customary ritual in our congregation.

In Scripture the placing of hands on someone's head occurs at times of special importance. Jesus and the apostles often place their hands on people as a sign of healing. For example, in Acts 28 Paul heals someone from fever by "praying and putting his hands on the man." At other times the placing of hands suggests a more general giving of God's blessing. You recall in Genesis 48, when Grandpa Jacob blesses his grandsons, he places his hand on their heads and says these wonderful words: "The God who has been my shepherd, bless these boys."

And that reminds us of the Good Shepherd, Jesus himself. We just heard about those busybody disciples who protested that Jesus was too busy with important grown-ups and couldn't be bothered with little kids. Then we hear those grace-filled words of Jesus: "Hey, don't keep the children from coming to me." And then "Jesus took the children in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them."

In our worship, what does it mean when pastors raise their hands over the congregation and say, "The Lord bless you and keep you"? The pastor calls for, assures, declares, proclaims, bestows—no one word quite captures it—the powerful love and the loving power of God on his people.

What does it mean when we put. our hands on a person's head during prayer? First, it helps us, as God's people, literally to be in touch with each other. We are, all of us together, called the "body of Christ," and one way to experience that is to be in bodily contact. Second, Peter calls all of us a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 1:9). When we pray with and for each other, especially in the context of worship, we also assure each other and proclaim to each other that the Lord will bless us and keep us, make his face to shine on us, and grant us his peace. The laying on of hands symbolizes the healing, restoring power of God in our lives.

7 Three prayer teams (a pastor or elder and a deacon; one man and one woman for each team) stood at the front of the sanctuary. Some people came forward individually, some as families. We listened to them, put our hands on their heads or shoulders, and began the prayer with these (or similar) words: "We lay our hands on you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God grant you the healing presence of the Holy Spirit, releasing you from suffering (or: granting you his peace) and restoring you to wholeness." We then continued with prayer for the particular need in their lives.

Some churches sing during the time people come forward, giving the congregation also the role of prayer in a communal way while the groups at the front bring their prayers to the Lord privately. Most hymnals have listings in their topical index under Healing.