Many nurse groups offer a “Blessing of the Hands” or “Anointing of the Nurse” during Nurses Week or to graduating nursing students, faith community nurses after training, and in other special times of commitment to nursing.
WHY an Anointing Ceremony?
The word anoint means to dedicate and make sacred to the service of God, most often in a ceremony that includes applying oil to the person or thing being devoted and offering prayers of consecration.
The idea of anointing, that is, “setting apart” people and objects for God’s sacred work, was done in ceremonies in the Bible with prayer and oil.1 Anointing also was a sign of hospitality,2 God’s care3 and illumination,4 and used with prayer for healing the sick.5 Jesus is the ultimate anointed one of God.6 When one becomes a follower of Jesus, God anoints them with the Holy Spirit.7
In the anointing ceremony, prayer and Scripture communicate our dedication to God with our thinking and words; anointing with oil expresses our commitment through a physical action. Thus, anointing with oil is an act of expressing a spiritual truth that we belong to God, trust him, and want to serve him.
Preparing for the Ceremony
Ask a nurse leader or faculty advisor to preside, or invite a spiritual leader such as a pastor, priest, or chaplain. Nurses also can bless one another or bless themselves.
Worship music playing softly in the background can help create a prayerful atmosphere.
Any oil may be used, but olive oil is customary. The olive tree and its oil are used as symbols of God’s people and flourishing in scripture.8
Some faith traditions bless oil before using it with a prayer.
The Anointing Ceremony
1. Open with a prayer expressing the purpose of the ceremony. For example, the leader can pray:
Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—we invite your presence with us now as we come to you to dedicate ourselves to your sacred work of nursing.
2. Express our commitment to follow and serve Jesus with our whole selves and in our nursing—body, mind, and spirit, with these scriptures and words, spoken out loud by the Leader with responses from participants:
Leader: Jesus, we acknowledge that you came and gave your life to save us and make us right with God.9 You have given us the Holy Spirit to be with us, and the Holy Spirit will teach us all the things you taught and want us to know.10
Participants: God, fill us with your Holy Spirit and teach us.
Leader: God, we want to love you with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind—the greatest and most important commandment. And we want to love our neighbor as ourselves.11
Participants: God, help us love you with all our strength, in body, mind, and spirit.
Leader: Holy God, help us keep our minds focused on You. You have told us, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. Trust in the Lord forever, because in the Lord, the Lord himself, is an everlasting rock!”12 and that “those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit.13
Participants: God, help us keep our minds set on you.
Leader: God, we acknowledge that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in us. We are not your own but were bought at a price by you, to know you.14 In view of your mercy, we offer our bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is our true and proper worship. We do not want to conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds”15 by studying your Word and spending time in prayer and fellowship with other Christ followers.
Participants: We offer our bodies and minds to do your sacred work of nursing. We commit to seek you in regular Bible study, prayer, and Christian community.
Leader: God, you have shown us what you want from us; help us as nurses, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you.”16
Participants: We commit ourselves as Christ’s nurses and with God’s help, to act righteously, compassionately, and respectfully towards God and others.
3. Anointing with oil: Each nurse extends both hands, palms up. With a small dab of oil on the thumb or a finger, the leader or person offering the blessing makes the sign of the Cross on each palm while saying:
(Name), I anoint you in the name of the Father who created, loves, and sustains you, the Son who redeems you, and the Holy Spirit who empowers you. May your words and actions always bring comfort and healing to those you touch, to the honor and glory of God.
Closing Prayer and Blessing
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.17
The challenges we face in our faith and practice are real. Receive more blessings by becoming a member of the NCF professional network.