James 5:13-18 – “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” NKJV
There are some words, in the Greek, translated into our English that is confusing and this passage seems to contain some of those. I only say that because I have dealt with the philosophy in Christian conversation that this passage makes no reference to Divine Healing but Salvation which, the argument is that it represents ULTIMATE HEALING. I agree about Salvation but disagree on the context and content of this passage. Otherwise, unless we are making this entirely spiritual and eliminating the physical totally, it is dealing with both the Spiritual and the Physical.
The more I have studied this passage and recently with the battle my wife and I are fighting for her health, I have asked the Holy Spirit to illuminate my understanding regarding the intent and content of this passage more fully and clearly. One of the immediate things that came into my consciousness was the question, “Who initiates the CALL FOR PRAYER?” That, in my mind, is a very important question and one I will attempt to expound upon momentarily. But first, let’s walk through this passage and see if its light will illuminate our path in the desire for healing and health.
James begins asking numerous questions and offering specific instruction. If one is SUFFERING, the prescription is PRAYER. If one is CHEERFUL the prescription is SINGING PSALMS. If one is SICK, the prescription is MAKE THE CALL. Who makes the call for the Elders of the Church? The one who is sick! The first responsibility of the person suffering any sickness is CALL FOR PRAYER. That means you cannot remain in the shadows but must reach out for help from those who are charged with your spiritual care. The Elders have a specific duty, according to this directive, to do two things: Pray over the sick person and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. Both are incredibly important and while the latter may be somewhat symbolic, representative of the Oil of the Holy Spirit and invoking His Power and Person into the situation, it is significant. No, I do not adopt prescriptions that become formulas in God because that tends to diminish our dependence on Him and transfer it to a formula. God does not work in magic, He responds to faith, not a formula.
The Elders fulfill their duty and charge by PRAYING and ANOINTING with oil and then James reveals what happens or is expected to happen. The Prayer that they Pray is identified as THE PRAYER OF FAITH. What is the expected result of that prayer? HEALING. Before you challenge me and say, “it does not say healing it says, save the sick,” I ask that we go to the Greek. The word translated save is “sozo” which means heal, preserve, save, do well, be whole. It conveys the idea of a hedge being built around something and its imagery is that of a deliverer coming to the rescue and protecting or setting free. James continues saying, “…and the Lord will raise him up.” That word in the Greek is “egeiro” and means to awaken, lift up, rise, stand, take up. The picture is that of being roused from sleep and the understanding is that the sick person is being raised up from their disease and it no longer has power over them.
Then James takes us another step and connects the physical and the spiritual or the body and the soul, saying, “And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Wait? Up to this point, we have not heard the instruction to repent which is required for forgiveness of sin and salvation, only calling for the Elders to pray when suffering and sick. There is Spiritual Healing here but that is not the only provision. Because the person calling the Elders of the Church is likely a believer this is not coming for salvation but calling for the Prayer of Faith for Healing and a side benefit is forgiveness. Jesus frequently connected healing physically and forgiveness spiritually. NO, I am not saying if you are sick it is because you have sinned but I am saying that sickness exists in the world because of sin and God deals with both.
James continues in instructing and encouraging believers to become transparent to the point that we do not pretend to be flawless or faultless. He says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed.” The Greek word is “iaomai” which means to cure, heal, make whole. Why does so much of the Church today not believe in Divine Healing? That is a mystery to me when I examine passages such as this, read the words of Jesus regarding healing, consider the provision of the Atonement in Isaiah 53 and numerous other biblical passages.
James concludes saying, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” All of us desire our prayers to be effective and if we are consistent we should acknowledge that our prayers should also be fervent “energeo”. Our prayers should weigh heavy enough on our hearts to be offered in passion and energy. NO, I am not saying you must shout at the top of your lungs and work yourself into a frenzy but your heart should burn within as you pray. The need you are focusing on HEALING should compel you to fight passionately for the answer. Jesus even identified healing as the children’s bread in Matthew 15:26 and we are His Children, therefore we can expect to eat of His bread.
If you are sick – CALL for Prayer and if you are suffering – Pray yourself. We should enter each day with Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord! We enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His Courts with Praise. He is the same Yesterday, and Today, and Forever!
I am praying for your healing and hope that you pray for my family as well. God, bless you richly is my prayer and desire!