Anointings, Blessings and Prayers

Anointings, blessings and prayers are part of many religious and spiritual traditions.  I’d like to share a few examples of anointings, blessings and prayers I have participated in.

The first example involves my mother.  In 2003 she had been receiving dialysis for four years and became increasingly weak and weary of it all.  She wanted to stop dialysis but wasn’t sure of her decision.  Her local (Catholic) priest came to her home and offered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  My mother and her priest were alone for some time discussing her current situation.  The following is a quote from a journal entry I wrote several weeks later.

“Father arrived and sat with my mother for over a half hour in private.  He then invited those of us at home with her to join him in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  We followed him back to the living room.   We prayed out loud, he read scripture and anointed her head with oil.  He invited us all to anoint her and bless her in our own words.  Two of my sisters, two of my brothers, my niece and myself took part in this blessing.   I prayed silently that the Holy Ghost would be present and that my mother would feel peace and know what to do.    The feeling in the room was powerful, at least for me.   Several of us were crying.   My mother sat in her favorite chair while each of us placed oil on her forehead and blessed her with peace and love.  She said that it was just what she needed, and she felt good.   Father stayed for lunch and visited for a while.   After he left, she told us all she had decided to stop the dialysis.  He had told her to feel peace with her decision and not doubt her own mind.  He told her God was talking to her and helping her with her decision.   We were all supportive of her decision.”

My mother stopped dialysis that very day and died four days later.

The next examples of anointings and blessings involve our temples.  The ordinances of the Initiatory are one place where women serve one another through the laying on of hands, blessing, anointing with oil and sealing of blessings.  I participated in over a thousand initiatory ordinances during my service as an ordinance worker. Despite the troubling language there was a degree of peace and comradery in the initiatory booths.  After several years I came away from the experience imagining the blessings being bestowed by our Heavenly Mother and other women, as they prepared each child to receive her physical temple.  I pictured a heavenly being blessing each one of us as we prepared for our life on earth.  Blessings of health, wisdom and strength were abundantly offered.  I particularly liked the anointing portion of the initiatory because the blessings were useful and thoughtful.  I liked being part of a triad where one woman received and two women anointed, sealed and confirmed the ordinance.

Another example of a blessing or mighty prayer occurred approximately fifteen years ago.  I was attending Girl’s Camp as a leader.  One of the other leaders experienced a bee sting but did not have her EpiPen with her.   She and I were alone, near our cabin, but at some distance from the Thursday night testimony meeting camp fire.  We could hear the group in the distance, but they could not see or hear us.  We had no cell phone reception in our specific location.  She began to panic as her face, tongue and throat swelled.  I sat her down at a picnic table, ran into the cabin and grabbed the children’s liquid Benadryl bottle.

I told her chug it, not even stopping to check the dose.  In that moment, I wanted to place my hands on her head and invoke a blessing.  I didn’t however.  I didn’t know if it was appropriate. Instead, I held her hands as I voiced a strong impassioned plea demanding help.  We prayed directly to God that her throat would stay open, that she would breathe, and we would know what to do.  Part of the prayer also included a request for the priesthood holder to find us.  Within a few minutes the man assigned to camp came upon us.  I explained what had happened and implored him for a blessing.  He prompted gave her a blessing and went on his way.  In that moment I thought him a callus ass for leaving us, seemingly unconcerned for the seriousness of the situation.  I stayed with her at the picnic table watching as the color returned to her face.  Her breathing became less labored.  She became tired.  We went into our cabin and she fell asleep.  I then checked the dosage for the Benadryl bottle.  She had most likely taken 150 mg, which was a large dose, but not life-threatening. (Don’t try this at home).  I watched her sleep from 8 PM until 10 AM the following morning.   She awoke hungover but fine.

What do these examples of participating in anointings, blessings and prayer mean to me today?

I look back on the situation surrounding my mother’s death and see a beautiful, but suffering, elderly woman who was conflicted about living and dying.  She was ready to die in so many ways but feared that her decision to stop dialysis would be considered a type of suicide.  The local priest understood her fear and validated her decision to stop treatment and let nature take its course.  I thank him for his understanding and his open heart in including us in the anointing blessing. We felt welcomed and included in the blessing of our mother.  We, her family, those that knew her best, were offered an opportunity to participate in that sacrament to bless her with the tender feelings of our hearts.   At the same time, we were receiving blessings ourselves of peace with her decision.  We were part of the process.

My time spent as a temple worker will always be special to me.  I have not attended the temple in the past 16 months.  I’ve heard about the changes but do not have a desire to participate at this time.  There is too much conflict within me.  I do occasionally rehearse the words of the initiatory in my mind.  I picture my Heavenly Mother, my earthly mother, my grandmothers, aunts, sisters, friends and others pampering children ready to receive their bodies…each one receiving a unique blessing tailored for them like a set of clothes.   I see the women administering.  I was the woman administering.  I was blessed in the process.

As for my friend with the bee sting allergy; she carries an EpiPen regularly.  I thank God for Benadryl and other medications.  I thank God she didn’t die or overdose on Benadryl. I thank God she wasn’t alone when she was stung. My words could not have been more direct, strong, or demanding if I had my hands on her head, or if I held her hands, as I did.  I suppose God would have heard the sincere desire of our plea regardless of how it was administered.  I know that I can call upon the powers of heaven when I need them, regardless.  I was blessed in the process of administering to my friend.  We were together in that moment of distress.  We made it through.

Blessings and anointings are tools to communicate with God and the Christ-essence. Christ offered peace to my mother and our family.  Christ offered me a new way to visualize the Initiatory.  Christ offered healing to my friend in that dire moment.  Participation in the anointings, blessings and prayers was and is meaningful to me.   It’s been nice, as a woman, to have an active role in the processes described.  The blessings of Christ are available to everyone.  I choose to believe God will work through me, and each of us, whenever necessary to bless the lives of others, in whatever way is needed.

Questions for discussion:

How have you participated in anointings and blessings?    How did you feel about your participation?

Would you like to participate more fully in anointings and blessing than you do right now?

How can we as women call upon the powers of heaven, collectively or individually?



Allemande Left

Allemande Left lives in the eastern US with her guitar-strumming husband. Allemande Left refers to the beginning steps in a square dance. Dancers turn to their corner partner, clasp left hands as they glide past each other, then clasp right hands with the next person as they weave through the square of dancers--half going clockwise and half counterclockwise. It is a way to loosen up and meet the other dancers. As the caller sings, "Allemande Left and Away We Go."

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11 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    Last fall, my family was separated for several weeks in the logistics of moving. I asked my husband if I could bless him before he left. I wasn’t sure what to do with my hands, and I absolutely felt I had to have my eyes opened. I think I ended up placing my hands on his face, looking into his eyes. I pulled down whatever divine blessing I could reach, and laid it on him. It was awesome, and he thanked me many times over the weeks for the blessing. He loved it. He sincerely felt it helped. (I love that he was willing to set any priesthood pride aside and let me do it.) I also blessed my children. I held them on my lap, snuggling them against me, rubbing their backs, as I called down divine words for them. For each I chose an essential oil to apply on a particular place of their body – my anointing.

  2. Miriam says:

    Thank you, Allemande Left for sharing such beautiful experiences. All three instances invoke the powers of heaven, and I so agree with you that those powers come to everyone who seek, knock and ask, regardless of age, gender or title.

  3. Allemande Left says:

    Thanks Miriam,
    I often ponder the phrase we recite at the veil. What else could it mean!

  4. Arganoil says:

    If women would be allowed and get used to invoke blessings like this, what an amazing source of power would that add in the world (and in the church). Can’t wait for that moment to arrive. Such a shame
    the church is denying itself this great source of power and ministering.

  5. Chiaroscuro says:

    thanks for sharing. I especially loved hearing about how the priest included your family in this rite and made it a beautiful memorable experience for you that helped bring peace

  6. DT says:

    I no longer attend the temple, but I love the imagery of the blessings given to a child by women before they come to earth.

    As a single mom, I place my hands on my son’s head as he leans his head against my torso when we pray in the morning. I have also held him in my arms and prayed over him when he was profoundly despairing (like when his father left him behind and moved to another country). We also sing a lullaby that my mother composed for her children every night before bed that is a mother’s blessing for protected which my son has added a verse to. He is a teenager and we still sing it if we are together.

  7. Allemande Left says:

    DT, thank you for sharing your experiences. Your son is experiencing your strength and witnessing your power and love. It is in sharing the blessings and prayers and or anointing that we are also strengthened as we administer. That is one of the points I was hoping to make. All my best to you.

    • DT says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I struggle with outside validation, but I am working on shifting that need to solidarity. Examples like yours help so much.

  8. mrskandmrsa says:

    I am the sister of Allemande Left and was present at the anointing and blessing ceremony for our mother just before her death. When it was our turns to talk, many of us children said the same thing, namely, that we supported our mother’s decision to stop dialysis. With each affirmation, Mom seemed more secure.

    Without the priest present to begin this rite, I doubt we would have started it on our own. In the Catholic Church, priests lead all anointings and blessings. I am grateful that he was there and that he included my siblings in the event.

    A little later that day, my mother said that she felt so happy. She added that she didn’t know why she felt so happy–after all, she was about to die–but she felt at peace. Her decision made, a burden was lifted from her. She never looked back.

    The nnointing and blessing were important. Mom was no longer able to go to church for a formal mass or sacrament. The anointing and blessing were the next best thing, or in some ways, an even better thing because many of the people she loved best took part. Sometimes an event like that gives us permission to say what we might want to say but which might seem inappropriate. In the context of an anointing or blessing, we have permission.

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