A few years ago I developed chronic rheumatoid arthritis. While this is painful and debilitating, it is very common. There are many books about arthritis, there are many herbs and medicines for it, and there are many anecdotes of healing. But there are also many who never get well.
I prayed that God would heal me, but I did not consider being anointed. I didn’t have a serious disease like cancer; I was not in danger of dying suddenly. Anointing, I thought, was only to be used for serious illness and as a last resort.
One day I talked to my doctor, a dedicated Adventist physician, about my arthritic condition. She advised me not to stop taking my medication in an attempt to demonstrate my faith; rather, she encouraged me to consider anointing. My husband and I discussed it, and I decided to be anointed.
The minister of our church in South New Zealand, Dr. Graeme Loftus, visited me several times. He was encouraging and enthusiastic. He felt that if the situation was not urgent, it would be wise for us to spend some time in study, prayer, and preparation, much like a new Christian prepares for baptism.
This was a new concept for me, and it proved to be a blessing. I learned that God’s healing includes spiritual, emotional, and physical healing, often in that order of importance. Each week we would study and discuss a new topic about healing and God’s will. Between the weekly meetings, I continued my own research and prayer. I was searching for answers to a variety of questions. What if I didn’t have enough faith? What if I had an unforgiven sin? Would it show lack of faith to ask “according to God’s will?” Do we “ask” or “command” healing? Why does God tell us to anoint the sick? Does the devil perform miracles of healing? What will my reaction be if God doesn’t heal me? What will my obligation be if He does?
I decided not to be anointed until I had the biblical answers to all my questions. I studied all Bible passages that mentioned healing and spiritual growth, and I felt I came close to God as a personal friend. I began to pray to Him in a way that I hadn’t previously, and I felt His presence in me.
The books Ministry of Healing and Counsels on Health, by Ellen G. White, were also sources of inspiration. I read other books on healing by Christian authors but only accepted the instruction that agreed with the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy.
A few weeks before the date I was to be anointed, I was in bed waiting for my husband to come home. I had been praying for about an hour when I received positive assurance that God would be with me and bless me. He touched me, and I knew He was in the room with me. He took away all my worry and fear. It was very real and very wonderful.
One day as I was having my weekly visit with a lady in a rest home, I noticed she was very distressed, both with pain and frustration. She had been bedridden for some time with sciatica. We had often talked of the assurance she could have that her sins were forgiven and that she was right with God. But she constantly needed reassurance. We prayed together about that topic. Then I felt impressed by the Holy Spirit for her healing. I placed my hands on her and prayed to God that if He willed, He would heal her sciatica. I continued to pray for her during the following days.
Two weeks later, I visited her. I was surprised to find her sitting up in the dining room. When I talked with the matron, I discovered that she had gotten out of bed the very morning after our prayer for healing. She had no pain and had been up and independent ever since. We shared a praise-and-thank-you prayer together. I believe that God healed this dear lady for two reasons: first, for her comfort and blessing; second, to assure me He could heal, and I could trust Him to do what was best for me.
Many modern so-called Christian healers promote the theory that we should exercise strong faith by commanding that God heal the sick person. But my study of the Bible and Ellen White’s writings has convinced me that this is false. It is presumption, not faith.
Greater faith is demonstrated when we trust in God’s will and leave the ultimate decision to Him. Faith becomes even more evident when, if He answers prayer in the negative, we remain His confident, trusting child. So I believe it is right to always pray “according to God’s will” and expect Him to heal if He sees it is best in the long run.
When I was anointed several weeks later, it was a private and lovely little ceremony. It was a Sabbath afternoon. I had fasted since the night before and prayed much. The pastor and elders met my husband and I in the church. We read some Scripture and I gave my testimony. God had come to me, touched me, and impressed me that whether I was healed or not, He would always be with me, and that He had a special work for me to do. They each prayed for me and then stood in a circle, touching my arms or shoulders, and poured a little oil onto my head. It was very solemn and very lovely.
Great spiritual healing came to me through this experience. Although my arthritis did not get better and has continued in a typical up-and-down pattern, God has granted me healing of mind and spirit. I have been able to forgive myself for certain problems and to forgive others for situations which have caused me distress and grief. God has blessed by giving me peace and comfort.
I have rededicated my life and strength to God. I pray that I will never leave Him, and I know that He will never leave me. If I can, I will use my experience to bring encouragement and blessing to others.
Anointing does not need to be regulated to the seriously ill and dying. It can be an experience which can bring about great blessing to the sick. Anointing means being set aside and dedicated to the Lord’s service and being submissive to His will.
If you are sick and discouraged, consider following the counsel of James 5:14-16. Spend time with God to know and understand His will. Search your life and your soul and lay them open before your Lord. He is loving and wants what is best for you. Most of all, He wants you to come closer and closer to Him. He promises to bring healing into your life.