A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
– James 5:14-15 (NIV)
– James 5:14-15 (NIV)
My parents taught me to pray when I was a child. The family rituals included prayer. It was a part of our daily rhythm: Grace before meals. Family prayer before we parted in the morning. We prayed in family worship. We prayed before eating dinner and before the television came on. As children, we said our individual prayers before climbing into bed.
Prayer, Bible stories and later, Bible studies, were woven into the fabric of my life.
I witnessed the transforming power of prayer in two pivotal moments of my life. I credit my son with teaching the power of Psalm 50:15 and a Pakistani woman for revealing the faith described in James 5:14-15.
I used to drive a red Toyota Celica. I loved that car. I tended to it well. Regular oil changes, precise detailing several times a year. One day, I was changing the brakes on all four wheels. The car was on jack stands. All four wheels were off of the vehicle, strategically placed for safety.
My son and his friend had come around to see what I was doing. I noticed a few minutes later that they were joyously throwing rocks at the tree in the front yard. When I had finished installing the brake pads and was ready to put the wheels on, it occurred to me that the boys had not been throwing rocks. They had thrown my lug nuts all over the yard, 20 of them.
Infuriated, I called him over. I heard myself yelling at him. I remember saying, “You better pray that you find every one of those lug nuts for my wheels or…”
A few minutes later, I was aghast when I saw my son and his friend kneeling on the porch praying that they could find each one of those “thingys that Daddy needs for his car.”
Chagrined, but now concerned for their concept of God, I knelt by the car and asked God to help them find each one as well. If they didn’t find them, they might lose faith in God and be afraid of me.
They found them all in a short span of time. When they brought me the last one, I said let’s thank Jesus for helping you to find them. We prayed. Then my son said words that I shall never forget. He said, “Daddy you seemed surprised that we found them. You always told me to pray when I was scared or when I needed something. I was scared that you would spank me and God answered my prayer. I knew that He would.”
The second transformational moment happened while I was the Pastor at my fourth church. My office phone rang. I picked it up and said, “This is Pastor Anderson. How may I help you today?” A woman with a thick accent said “Pastor, my son, five years old, is sick. He has a high fever and we need you to come and pray for him.” In retrospect, my answer was faithless. I said, “If he has a high fever you should bathe him in tepid water. If that does not work, please take him to the hospital.”
Her response was full of faith and a little impertinence. She said “Pastor, we are simply following the word of God, first, like we do in my home country. Will you come, or shall I call another pastor?” Chastised, I asked for the address.
Upon arrival, the child’s Aunt greeted me at the door. I asked where the child was. I wanted to pray quickly so that they could get him to the hospital. The aunt told me that it was their culture that when a new guest comes to the house, we must have tea and cookies. Frankly, I was incredulous, but, providentially, I understood and did not resist. Conversation, tea and a few cookies later, I again inquired about the child. By now the mother had emerged and said that he was sleeping but still hot. With urgency, I suggested that we pray for him now.
I was ushered into the room where the boy lay sweating and appeared unconscious rather than asleep. I was concerned. I touched him and knew that his fever was too high. I pulled out my vial of oil. I anointed him and prayed that God would break the fever and restore vitality to the child. I prayed that he would be mentally sound and able to move and breathe without difficulty. After I said “Amen,” his mother dabbed at his head with a moist towel.
I suggested that they take him to the nearest hospital. They demurred. Perhaps there were issues, financial or legal that precluded them going to the hospital. The mother said to me, “Pastor you must have some more tea and cookies before you go.” I understood that as a cultural imperative. So I obeyed her demand. A few minutes after I sat down for another cup of tea, the little boy came walking out of the bedroom. He looked normal and focused. His mother ran over to him and hugged him. She felt his head and chest and fell to her knees thanking God for healing her son.
After the ecstatic prayer, the little boy said that he was hungry. His mother brought him to the table and gave him some cookies. It was then that the little boy looked up at me. He said, “Are you the man who prayed for me?” I said, “Yes, I am.” He knelt beside me and said, “Thank you, Jesus, for sending your prophet to pray for me like Elijah did for that little boy in the Bible. Amen.”
Tears were in my eyes. This little boy and his family had faith superior to my own, at the time.
Prayer works! Try it! Practice it! See how it works!
Make prayer your first line of defense when life happens.
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Columbia Union College (WAU) in Takoma Park, Maryland. He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees–a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.