What’s Oil Got to Do with It?

Truth be told, I’m not comfortable with the whole idea of anointing people with oil. It’s a mysterious, wacky religious right practice that I just don’t understand.

It’s not a practice I’m very familiar with, having grown up with no religious upbringing in suburban America. And, frankly, my intellectual pride screams at the top if its lungs how ridiculous the person is who believes a dab of household oil can bless or heal someone.

Still, I’ve had a handful of experiences with anointing in my short Christian life. My children were both dabbed as babies when we dedicated them to the Lord. But I’m not sure why. I think it is a symbol of bestowing blessing on the child, but I’m not certain.

I’ve been anointed myself by a pastor when asking for healing of stubborn headaches.

To be sure, this practice is odd in our culture. And I’m not sure I’ll ever be entirely comfortable with it. But those to whom the Bible was initially written were completely comfortable with the concept.

The first mention of anointing with oil was when Aaron and his sons were installed as the first priests of Israel. Exodus 28:41 says, “…anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.”

To consecrate was to make holy – to set apart for the Lord.

I suppose that’s what we were doing with our girls on their dedication days.

Throughout the Old Testament, priests, altars, the tabernacle, and leaders were anointed in this fashion, as a symbol of their desire to purely serve the Lord.

The New Testament seems to use anointing in a different manner.

In Mark 6, the twelve disciples are sent out to do the same kinds of things they’ve seen Jesus do. “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them,” (Mark 6:13).

James also uses this concept of anointing in relation to health. He says, “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. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well,” (James 5:14-15).

I don’t know why oil is a big deal to God. I don’t know why He tells us to use oil to show holy intent or to invite divine healing. But He does. There are a lot of things about God I don’t get.

But that doesn’t excuse me from obeying Him.

Awhile back I told you about my daughter, Allie, and her on-going mystery back pain. Since then, she has met with a pediatric orthopedist who was perplexed and ordered an MRI. I was told after the fact that all the doctors were really worried, suspecting the worst.

But, praise God, the MRI was negative. We examined more urine samples and tested her blood for at least 10 different things. All is normal. She was sent to a pediatric rheumatologist in September who diagnosed her with discitis – a super rare inflammation of a disc between her vertebrae. She prescribed anti-inflammatories to alleviate discomfort. It didn’t help, so she prescribed a different one. It didn’t help either.

The prognosis is Allie will just have to grow out of the condition, which could take weeks or months. She’s been in pain for 6+ months. As she sobbed in my arms for over an hour on Wednesday, James 5 came to mind. It was time to give this wacky religious right practice of anointing a shot.

I took Allie to my favorite pastor’s house, a house she has spent much time at playing with his grand children, and, unbeknownst to Allie, we prayed over her. The pastor snuck a dab of oil on her head, and she smiled ear to ear. Then four of us prayed for healing and wisdom while Allie meandered around the house, playing and swindling a friend out of her fruit snacks with her sweet smile.

Allie was ok the rest of the day. This morning she cried a few minutes in pain. It remains to be seen if/how/when healing will come.

But obedience to the scriptures happened yesterday. And I know that pleases God’s heart.

 

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3 thoughts on “What’s Oil Got to Do with It?

  1. This is very special my sweet child, enjoyed it so much, just read about anoiting the other day. Praying for you and baby Allie.
    Love In Him
    Marilyn Flick

  2. It seems God uses a number of tactile/sensorial rituals in the lives of believers to encourage our faith. Baptism is one such ritual with very sensory experiences. Burning incense is another. And anointing with oil still another. Because we are spirit/body creatures the bodily sensations aid us in our worship of God. This is likely why different postures in prayer also help us.

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