What Is a Prayer Cloth and Is it Biblical?
- Melissa Henderson Contributing Writer
- 2021 29 Mar
Have you heard about prayer cloths? Have you seen prayer cloths distributed at church? Maybe a local church group is meeting to create the special prayer cloths for someone in need of extra prayers. Possibly someone with an illness or difficult life situation will be given prayer cloths. The reason for needed prayer may or may not be known. Or perhaps prayer cloths are being sewn to send with missionaries to a foreign land. Those prayer cloths created for the missionaries may be given to believers and non-believers in hopes of sharing the love of Christ.
What is a prayer cloth, and is it Biblical? Using a prayer cloth while praying can be comforting for some people. Remembering that God is the only one who heals can allow the person praying to focus on prayer and not the cloth. Materials do not hold special healing powers. God is the only one who can provide healing.
A dear friend of mine created a “prayer pocket” and gave it to friends, family, and anyone who she felt could use extra prayers. My friend sewed a small piece of material with a pocket and a wooden cross attached to the front. While a prayer pocket is different from a prayer cloth, or prayer shawl, the sentiment is the same. My prayer pocket is about two inches by three inches in size. The pocket allows for small pieces of paper to be placed inside. Those papers have the names of people needing prayers. I keep that pocket by my bedside as a reminder to pray before sleeping. The prayer pocket also reminds me of the kindness of my friend.
A prayer cloth can be handmade with special material. Also, the cloth can be handed down from generation to generation. When we hold the special prayer cloth, or pocket, or shawl, as Christians we are not worshipping the material. These special items remind us of the power of prayer and the hope found in God.
What Is a Prayer Cloth?
A prayer cloth can be created from inexpensive material or created from the finest fabric. The prayer cloths may be solid in color or multi-colored. Various sizes and shapes can be found when looking for or creating prayer cloths. Perhaps you have heard of a prayer cloth or prayer shawl ministry. Some churches have groups of people who gather to sew the prayer cloths, shawls, or pockets, and then distribute them to those people who need extra prayers.
Mormons may have been the first to use prayer cloths during the 1830s. Today, the Pentecostal and the Roman Catholic Church often use prayer cloths.
What Is the Purpose of a Prayer Cloth?
The purpose of the special cloth is to remind us of the power of prayer. As Christians, we do not worship “things.” We worship God. We acknowledge His power and His creations. We are called to love one another (John 15:12). We can find comfort in praying for each other. Although some religions believe anointing a cloth with oil and holding the cloth next to someone or placing the cloth on a person will bring healing, only God can provide that healing. Miracles are from God, not from humans. Scripture shares how God was the miracle worker, not humans (Acts 19:11-12).
People have traveled to foreign lands and returned home with water from a special river or oil from a special place. The prayer cloths may have been dipped in oil or water in hopes of drawing closer to God and His healing.
During my journey with a breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, and treatment in 2005, I was given a beautiful prayer blanket from church friends. Each time the women of the church gathered to work on the blanket, they prayed for me. When I was presented with the prayer blanket, I knew many prayers had been said for me and my family. The blanket did not hold magical healing. The special words the women prayed while creating the blanket helped bring comfort and peace. The healing from my cancer was given by God.
Having a prayer cloth, shawl, blanket, or pocket does not guarantee healing. Christians know healing is from God, whether that healing is here on earth or in heaven with Him.
Can We Find Anywhere in Scripture that Talks about Prayer Cloths?
Scripture shares a memorable story about a woman who had been afflicted with a blood issue for 12 years (Matthew 9:20-22). The powerful story of this desperate woman coming behind Jesus, and reaching to touch the hem of His garment is powerful. Can you picture the scene? Crowds of people, dust filling the air from the dry ground, and here was a woman whose faith was so strong, she felt that if she could simply touch the hem of His garment, healing would occur, and her years-long affliction would be gone. Songs have been penned about that story in the Bible. Imagine touching the hem of Jesus’ garment and being healed. Powerful.
Jesus instantly knew the woman had touched his garment. He did not become angry. Scripture tells how Jesus turned and saw her and shared how she would be made whole because of her faith. This woman who believed, trusted, and obeyed, was healed within the hour, according to Scripture.
Was the healing truly due to her touching the garment of Jesus? Her strong faith is what brought the healing. God provided healing for that woman.
In the Bible, the books of Numbers 15:38-40 and Deuteronomy 22:12 share that Moses wrote about God telling him to instruct the men to make tassels for their cloaks. Today, some Jews wear prayer shawls or scarves with tassels attached. Some Orthodox Jewish men cover their heads with a shawl while praying.
The Bible shares other times when people who were suffering wanted to travel to wherever Jesus would be visiting so they could simply touch the hem of His garment (Matthew 14:34-36). Many people believed if they could be closer to Jesus and tell Him about their illness, healing would occur.
This is another reminder that we are not to worship “things.” Worship God, not garments.
Why Do Most Christians Not Wear These Today?
Today, most Christians do not wear prayer cloths because of remembering the call to worship God, not material items. Even if those prayer cloths have been anointed with oil, and prayed over, most Christians do not wear them. Christians are not called to wear prayer cloths. Christians are called to share the love of Christ with others. We are called to love one another as God has commanded (John 15:12).
We can bring our concerns, worries, and praises to God at any time.
Prayer is the main focus of prayer cloths, shawls, and pockets. Each of these special items can help us to remember the need for prayer and sharing time with God. There is a definite power in prayer. God may answer the prayers in the way we desire, or He may answer in another way. We can be comforted knowing His answer and His way is always best.
Comfort, trust, faith, and hope are found in God.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for opportunities to pray for others. We find comfort in the healing You give. When we create prayer cloths, pockets, shawls, and blankets, help us to remain focused on You and not the item being created. Help us to remember You are the true healer. God, we are thankful for Your love, mercy, healing, and forgiveness. Amen.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/tomertu
Award-winning author Melissa Henderson writes inspirational messages sometimes laced with a bit of humor. With stories in books, magazines, devotionals, and more, Melissa hopes to encourage readers. Melissa is the author of Licky the Lizard and Grumpy the Gator. Her passions are helping in the community and church. Melissa is an Elder, Deacon, and Stephen Minister. Follow Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and at http://www.melissaghenderson.
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