Jonathan (not his proper name) had been minister in the church some four years when I first knew him. He was truly the good shepherd and I was always struck by the humble, quiet way in which he went about his work, always putting God and his congregation first.
For a long time, only a few realised that he suffered considerable pain from his infirmity, for he carried his burden unknown to most, except that he had a limp as he walked to his place, or to the pulpit to deliver one of his gentle but telling sermons.
Each Monday evening, he would lead a group of about eight to twelve of us in the vestry in what was called 'Prayer and Praise'. Unaccompanied, we would sing hymns, unless of course one of our number had brought their guitar. After the songs there would be a Bible reading and then Jonathan would give us a little talk about it and then we would have a discussion. This was followed by prayers which he would start first and then we were at liberty to continue as each one of us felt moved.
But, there was one particular time that we all looked forward to each month. This was the communion service held in the evening of the last Monday of the month. We would gather in the choir stalls and the vicar would reverently take us through the Communion during which time we found ourselves being cleansed and uplifted as at no other time.
After we had received the sacraments, we would remain kneeling at the altar rail and Jonathan would ask for healing for each one of us as he laid hands on the head of each individual as he worked down the line of people, many of whom were in their seventies and eighties and one who was in her nineties. But above all, he had acted simply and humbly as an instrument of the Lord, and in doing so, never intervened between the Spirit and the recipient of the blessing.
I have been to other types of healing service, but this was one of the most wonderful of all. There was no sudden expression of awe from anyone that some great healing had taken place. Indeed, there are those who would decry such a ceremony, saying that it gives false hope to those who take part. At these little services, I don't think any of us ever physically felt anything, and it wasn't expected, and certainly we were never 'slain' by the Spirit.
But surely, the most important thing that happened in that service was that it allowed the Spirit of the living Christ access to us through faith, to be able to heal us in body or mind or spirit, in accordance to what He Himself considered were our proper needs. What these true needs would have been were probably not realised even by each individual. But we always went home that evening with a sense that it was our Lord who had rested his hands upon each one of us and had murmured - 'Be at peace my child, for I am always with you'. What better healing could there be?
Jonathan retired to prepare for his expected operation. True to the situation in the health service, he had to wait much longer and so his suffering was prolonged until finally, after much prayer by many people, he had his operation. Although many thought that his ministry might have come to an end, it turned out that the Lord had other work for him to do. He became full of life, having no pain and above all, he took part in an ecumenical service in which many Anglicans, Non-Conformists, and Roman Catholics all took part together each Sunday evening – and he often gave one of his telling and instructive sermons so looked forward to by the full church.
But above all, with the Lord providing Jonathan support in a wonderful way through healing after his operation, so he was enabled to be of even greater service in his work for our Lord, for healing can occur in many surprising and different ways - and never necessarily as we would expect.