Mikel Del Rosario is a friend of mine and part of a group of Christian bloggers that I am part of. I asked him to do a guest blog post on here as part of my effort to introduce you to other great Christian bloggers. Here is a great article he has written for you. I found it quite interesting.
Prayer and Oil – Spirituality and Health in the Bible and Today
By Mikel Del Rosario “The Apologetics Guy“
“Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord,” writes James (5:14), the brother of Jesus, and the leader of 1st century Christianity in Jerusalem.
But why would James write this? what’s so special about oil? In this post, I’ll share how oil was viewed in the ancient world and why early Christians in Jerusalem seemed to link it with praying for the sick.
In the ancient world, people used olive oil as both a medicine and skin conditioner. In Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, He says the Samaritan put oil on the guy who got beat up (Luke 10:34). The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, taught people to use olive oil to help heal minor skin abrasions. But does anyone do this today?
While I was browsing at my local bookstore, I discovered that many people actually use olive oil as alternative medicine. In a book called, The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Cal Orey suggested treating minor burns with extra virgin olive oil. She even says it can lighten stretch marks and help fight hair loss.
Later, at the grocery store, a copy of Spirituality and Health magazine reminded me that many people who need healing turn to both alternative medicine and spiritual means as well. In fact, Dr. Anne McCaffrey of Harvard Medical School says that about a third of Americans still rely on prayer for physical healing. Despite the popularity of scientific naturalism in the United States, she wrote that “Doctors need to realize that we don’t have the market on what people are doing to make themselves feel better.”
So maybe it shouldn’t strike us as odd that the 1st century church used both olive oil and prayer. Even unbelievers seem to recognize the health benefits here. But I wonder how many people realize that early Christians seemed to link the two—that they used oil as medicine while relying on prayer for physical healing.
At home, I grabbed a commentary called The Letter of James off my bookshelf to figure out the Biblical link. According to New Testament Scholar Douglas Moo, James taught that sick Christians should call the elders to their bedside. And the elders were armed with both spiritual and natural help—They would show up with both prayer and oil. Why oil? Because oil was was considered the best medicine of their time. I recently learned that Greek Christians had a practice called the Euchalion, which is a combination of the Greek words for “prayer” and “oil.” The purpose of this practice was to strengthen the body and soul of the one suffering from illness.
Still, I think James’ main focus was on prayer: “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:16). There’s nothing magical about oil. Even though 1st century Christians might have used olive oil as medicine, they appealed to God for physical healing. And whatever happened would ultimately be attributed to the sovereign will of God. Pastors, elders and other believers do the same today when we go to the hospital and pray for people, or when we give our children cold medicine and pray that God would heal them.
Whether or not we literally annoint people with oil like the 1st century church, we share their confidence in the healing power of God.
Mikel Del Rosario is called “The Apologetics Guy.” Mikel Del Rosario helps Christians defend the faith with confidence. Mikel is an Apologetics Professor, Speaker and Trainer who specializes in making apologetics accessible to the local church. He teaches Christian Apologetics courses at Western Seminary and William Jessup University. He is also an adjunct professor of Religion at University of Phoenix. Mikel is the author of the Accessible Apologetics curriculum. He holds a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics with Highest Honors from Biola University. Find out more about Mikel’s ministry at The Apologetics Guy. You can connect with him on Twitter or on the Apolegetics Guy Facebook Fan Page.