“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.”
“Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.”
“Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.”
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
James 5:13-16 NLT
There are many responses to suffering. Some of us worry; some of us vow revenge against those who have caused the suffering; some of us let anger burn inside us. Some grumble. But James says the correct response to suffering is to keep on praying about it (see also Psalm 30; 50:15; 91:15). This is not necessarily a prayer for deliverance from the trouble, but for the patience and strength to endure it.
If we are fortunate enough to be happy, we should thank God by singing praises to the Lord (see also 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Because our praise is directed to God, singing is actually another form of prayer.
One characteristic of the early church was its concern over and care for the sick. Here James encourages the sick to call for the elders of the church for counseling and prayer. The elders were spiritually mature people responsible for overseeing local churches or fellowship in different homes. (see 1 Peter 5:1-4). The elders would pray over the sick person, calling upon the Lord, in our Lord Jesus Christ name for healing. Then they would anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. As the elders prayed they were to voice clearly that the power for healing resided in the name of Jesus. Anointing was often used by the early church in their prayers for healing. In Scripture, oil was both a medicine (see the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37) and a symbol of the Holy Spirit of God (as used in anointing kings; see 1 Samuel 16:1-13). Thus the oil may have been a sign of the power of prayer, and it may have symbolized the setting apart of the sick person for God’s special attention.
The prayer must be from the heart, sincere, with trust in and obedience to God behind it, and with no doubting, as in James 1:5-8. The faith is the role of the elders who are praying, not the sick person’s (nothing is said about his or her faith). It is possible that the sick person’s faith is exercised in calling the elders. Also, if there is need for confession, the elders will be able to minister to the individual. The process insures dependence of believers on each other.
Not the elders or the oil, but the Lord Himself does the healing. Does this mean that every prayer for healing guarantees that God will make the sick person well? It must be emphasized here that the prayer offered is a prayer offered in faith – not only the faith that believes God can heal, but also the faith that expresses absolute confidence in God’s will. A true prayer of faith will acknowledge God’s sovereignty in His answer to that prayer. It is not always God’s will to heal those who are ill (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). A prayer for healing must be qualified with a recognition that God’s will is supreme.
Sin may or may not be the cause of the illness, but an opportunity for confession is given, and the elders are there to receive it. No demand of confession is given, but the opportunity is given that anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. This condition is important because all too often we are prone to assume that sin is the cause of someone’s suffering. The Bible teaches that sin can cause sickness (see Mark 2:1-12; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:27-30), but it also notes clearly that this is not always the case (see John 9:2-3).
It is not God’s plan that His people be alone. Members of of our Lord Jesus Christ’s body should be able to count on others for support and prayer, especially when they are sick or suffering. The elders should be on call to respond to the illness of any member, and the church should stay alert to pray for the healing of any who are sick. But we are often not only guilty of hesitating to lean on each other in our sicknesses and weaknesses. We are even more liable not to confess our sins to each other.
The recent emphasis on small groups within churches or hoe fellowships has risen largely from a need to recapture some of these basic features of life in the body of of our Lord Jesus Christ that have been neglected. When Born-Again Christians are really working to “share each other’s troubles and problems,” the world does take note, and we come closer to fulfilling “the law of Christ” (see Galatians 6:2). Loving your neighbor as yourself does include, above all else, praying for him or her.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results because the person who is praying is righteous. The person is not sinless, but he or she has confessed known sins to God and is completely committed to Him and trying to do His will. Again, we can say that the righteous people get what they want in prayer because they want what God wants.
The Christian’s most powerful resource is communication with God through prayer. It is the instrument of healing and forgiveness and is a mighty weapon for spiritual warfare. Remember the movie, “War Room”. The results are often greater than we thought were possible. Some people see prayer as a last resort, to be tried when all else fails. Our priorities are the reverse of God’s. Prayer should come first. God is pleased to use our prayers to accomplish His purposes and He delights in answering our needs, but He is never bound by our prayers. God’s power is infinitely greater than ours, so it only makes sense to rely on it – especially because God encourages us to do so. Amen!
Have faith and trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We will continue and pray for healing of our families and loved ones, etc.
God bless you all.
Love God, Love People, & Make Disciples,
Elias A Busuego Jr PhD DTM
Founding Pastor – Home Fellowship Churches