When to Use Anointing Oil in Christian Ministry

Christian ministries use oil to bless the sick and summon God's blessing.
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Although it is made from olives, anointing oil isn't a dressing for your salad but one of the many tools of the Christian ministry. Ministers anoint people and things to symbolize the request for divine influence. Anointing oil is used for a number of purposes under various circumstances. Parishioners can request an anointing ceremony from their minister or church elders.

1 Healing the Sick

Most Christian ministries engage in anointing ceremonies in which they attempt to heal the sick through “the laying of hands”-- a ceremony that often includes anointing with oil. When a sick person is anointed, the minister will typically smear or drop oil on the person’s forehead and pray. Anointing with oil was commonly practiced in the Bible’s New Testament, specifically in Mark 6:13 when Jesus deployed his 12 disciples and they “anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.” In many Christian ministries, church elders are called to anoint the sick if the minister is not available.

2 Anointing the Dying

When someone is on his or her deathbed, the church ministry is often called to anoint the dying person. The purpose of anointing dying individuals is to give them spiritual aid and strength while they pass. This specific anointing ceremony takes place when a person is in close approximation of death. Ministers will often go to hospitals to perform this ceremony, but sometimes people make arrangements to die at home in which case the minister or church elders make a house call.

3 Exorcisms

A priest or minister uses anointing oil when they are attempting to cast out the devil or an evil spirit. According to William Saunders, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Sterling, Virginia, a priest offers a prayer of exorcism and anoints the possessed on his chest with oil. The priest then says, "We anoint you with the oil of salvation in the name of Christ our Savior; may He strengthen you with His power, who lives and reigns forever and ever.” Anointing oil in the context of exorcisms is also mentioned in the Bible. Mark 6:13 states that, in addition to the disciples anointing the sick with oil at Jesus’s request, they also “cast out many devils” with the oil.

4 Baptism

Church ministries will use anointing oil in baptismal ceremonies. In the Lutheran Church, evangelical baptismal rites demand the minister makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the baptized person with the anointing oil while announcing, “Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” In many Christian faiths, church ministry dictates that infant baptism be conducted, in which the child’s forehead is anointed with oil. In Christian faiths that don’t believe in baptizing infants, they instead perform confirmation ceremonies in which a prayer is made asking that the child grows to follow Jesus while the minister anoints the forehead.

Jen Saunders is an entrepreneur and veteran journalist who covers a wide range of topics. She made the transition to writing after having spent 12 years in England where she studied and taught English literature.