Last night I joined about 30 people in a home to pray for a young mother with cancer. After the first round of treatment a few months ago, the cancer seemed to disappear, but recently it has returned. So she and her husband gathered with many of her friends to pray and encourage each other. We sang, then someone read a series of Scriptures about God's promises to his children. Her husband gave the latest medical update. Then I read James 5:13-16 and anointed her with oil in the name of the Lord. We gathered around both of them, laying our hands on them as we prayed. Because we met in the living room, not everyone could reach them so people touched the person in front of them, and we were all joined together in an ancient biblical symbol of unity. The prayers were deep and heart-felt, and you could hear the sound of quiet crying. We prayed for healing, we prayed that God would give both of them faith and strength, we asked God to protect their two young children, and we prayed that God would be glorified no matter what happens. After the time of prayer, we sang the Doxology read together a paraphrase of Psalm 139. Then there was an announcement about preparing meals for the family because she begins five weeks of radiation therapy a week from Monday. The treatment will be difficult to endure and it is not without risk. But it is also her best hope of beating back the cancer once again.
Then the young mother spoke up to thank us. She seemed remarkably composed given all that she has been through and all that lies ahead. The ultimate outcome rests in God's hands. Wiping away her tears, she said, "I thank all of you. We couldn't have made it without you." Last Sunday was the first time in a month she had been able to come to church. "It was so good to be there. I felt peace in my heart."
No one wanted to leave. One by one people came up and hugged both of them. There were words of affirmation and encouragement. A few more tears. Some gentle jokes. I told her, "Your faith helped all of us tonight."
As I drove home, I thought to myself how simple it all was. We met in a home as believers did in the beginning. We sang, we prayed, we read the Word, we encouraged each other, and we all left stronger than when we came. This is what the church was meant to be. Everything else is just details.
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