My wife’s grandmother Sylvia became a nurse in the mid-twentieth century, training in the Swedish Covenant hospital system in northern Illinois. She tells how she and her colleagues would sometimes gather for prayer at the beginning of their shift, praying that their hands would be healing hands.
That beautiful image of prayer, mission, and healing has stuck with me. It provides a picture of how all of us—not just healthcare professionals—can think about the work day. Just as Jesus sent his disciples on a mission “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2 NIV), Jesus sends us into our neighborhoods and workplaces as ministers of God’s healing power. But that high calling can feel daunting. How can we learn to heal?
Learning How to Heal
Our capacity to minister healing at work is connected to our capacity to minister healing in general. So, if you feel unsure of how to go about the work of healing in your workplace, start by learning the basics. It can be helpful to find a “low-risk” place to practice the ministry of healing, like a small group of friends at church. When someone asks for prayer, do you respond by going around the circle and praying quietly? Or, do you lay hands on the person and pray for the Holy Spirit to move in them, in that moment?
Healing is a ministry that is more caught than taught. We need more experienced Christians to show us how to pray for others’ healing. Asking leaders and pastors you respect at your own church is a great place to start. Be on the lookout for those whose approach is rooted in faith, guarded by wisdom, and applied in healthy and thoughtful ways.
A basic training in healing prayer that Christians of many traditions and backgrounds have found helpful is found in the Alpha course. You can find a course near you and ask the leaders what they are planning for the Holy Spirit weekend and the teaching on healing.
Healing at Work: Open to Miracles
As you mature in your capacity to receive and exercise the ministry of healing, you can consider your workplace again with fresh eyes. What would it be like to bless your coworkers and customers with the same power you’ve found in Christian community?
It might seem far-fetched, but the first and most obvious connection we could make is this: Be open to miraculous healings in the workplace. In one the most poignant healing stories in the Gospels, the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak did not do it in a special or spiritual place. Jesus was on his way to work, so to speak, planning to go minister to a different family, when this woman interrupted him (see Luke 8:40-42).
At our workplaces, it’s unlikely for a stranger to seek us out because they believe they might receive a miraculous healing, but it’s not uncommon to learn of coworkers’ illnesses, injuries, and difficulties. When you hear that a colleague called in sick, take a moment to silently pray for their healing in Jesus’ name. If someone has a procedure coming up, let them know that you’ll be praying for them, and then put a reminder in your calendar to really pray for them.
We don’t know when God will miraculously do something in someone’s life. But as followers of Jesus, we’re the ones who can keep an eye out for the possibility of a miracle. Our openness to God’s work could open the door for someone else’s faith.
Healing at Work: Taking Appropriate Social Risks
Beyond a basic openness to healing and praying for our colleagues or customers, we can also find opportunities to pray with those who need healing at work.
Let’s start by stating the obvious: It is not typical to pray for people’s healing in the middle of the workday. But that doesn’t mean there’s never an opportune time to do so! Say you have a coworker you’ve gotten to know over several months, and they know you’re a person of faith. If they’re facing an illness or some significant difficulty, it would not be awkward for you to tell them that you’ll pray for them. That’s a start.
What might be more awkward is asking, “Could I pray for you right now?” You’ll have to feel out with each individual person how that would come across. But you might be surprised how open people are to a brief prayer in the moment. People are often deeply moved by a personal prayer for a particular situation of concern in their lives. For some, it may be something they’ve never experienced before.
I had an unexpected opportunity to pray for a colleague back when I worked at a mortgage company. I’ll call her Anne. Anne and I would see each other in passing almost every day of the week, and exchange the normal polite chit chat. One morning, when I asked her how she was doing, I could tell she was feeling something heavy. It turned out her mother-in-law was profoundly ill, and she was both anxious and unsure of what to do. I offered to pray for her and her family in the moment, which she welcomed. I prayed for her well-being emotionally and for her mother-in-law’s physical healing. Although there wasn’t a miraculous healing, Anne was clearly moved by the experience of prayer. I’m so glad I took the risk to pray with her, right there at her desk.
Even when you don’t have an opportunity to get all the way to praying with someone, your presence makes a difference. Jesus has given you the same Spirit of power that was present in his ministry. That Spirit is with you when you listen to someone tell their story. Listening with empathy and providing a validating human connection is the starting point of healing for many of the heart’s hurts. Your listening presence can be an open door to someone’s healing in that way, too.
Healing at Work: Telling Our Story
The most powerful healing ministry that we exercise usually comes from our own experiences of healing. Just as Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by two alcoholics, we minister as wounded sinners saved and healed by grace.
When we find the courage to tell the story of how God healed us, it opens the opportunity for others to investigate what Jesus offers. This may be one of the most natural ways to open a conversation about healing at work. When you’re getting lunch with a colleague, you can share your own story of how Jesus is making a difference in your life. We are not immune to the difficulties that everyone faces at work: fear, uncertainty, distraction, frustration, and more. But we have Jesus with us in the middle of it.
Your colleagues see the character that you bring to work everyday—including your flaws. But if the Spirit is helping you become more like Christ, they’ll see the genuineness of your life, imperfect as it is. They may not understand where it comes from. As opportunity arises, share that the power for healing in your life comes from God. Even more than dramatic moments of prayer together, who you are becoming as God heals you is a touchpoint for others at work to discover God’s healing presence.
Reflect and Practice
- How have you experienced God’s healing in your life? Consider each dimension of your experience: spiritual, emotional, physical, and social.
- How have you experienced the ministry of healing in Christian community? Is there a “low-risk” place you can practice this ministry?
- When have you had to grapple with the absence of healing?
- What would it look like for you to be open to miracles in your workplace?
- When is there an opportunity for you to pray for others in your workplace?
- How could you share your own story of healing with someone who is curious?
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