In this section of James, we are going to talk about the most important and most powerful tool we have other than God’s Word. This tool is used in accordance with our relationship with God. How well we know God’s word, and how often we use this tool will determine how effective it is. Of course, we are talking about prayer. We are not talking about just any prayer; we are talking about the “Prayer of Faith.”
James used a series of questions followed by commands as an effective way of exhorting the congregation to prayer and worship. A fitting climax to James’ letter is his emphasis on prayer. The greatest assistance any believer can offer another is faithful prayer. Prayer is clear evidence of care. Prayer is the “hotline” to the One who can provide for any need no matter how complex or impossible it may seem. To share in prayer, a believer must have a sensitivity to someone’s needs, engage in diligent supplication for those needs, and recognize the significance of those needs.
- James asked if anyone was suffering. James wasn’t talking about suffering pain due to illness. We know this because of his next question. What James was referring to was a type of suffering caused by a bad decision concerning our spiritual life.
Jesus Christ bore the grief and sorrows of humanity as the culmination of the “sufferings,” which is “pathēma” in Greek, begun by Adam’s sin (1 Pet. 2:24).
Throughout the centuries Christians have referred to Jesus’ sufferings as His Passion. Before Jesus experienced His “passion,” He told His disciples that they would encounter many trials and sorrows for His sake (John 16:33). Paul taught that entrance to the kingdom of God comes with many tribulations (Acts 14:22), which must not shake a Christian’s faith (1 Thess. 3:3). They are to be understood rather as a finishing up of the remainder of Christ’s suffering for His body, the church (2 Cor. 4:10-11; Col. 1:24).
The Bible says affliction will grow more intense as “the end” approaches (Matt. 24:9-14; 2 Tim. 3:13). Don’t allow these sufferings and troubles to turn you away from God. I know several who hate God because of losing a loved one, they want to know why God killed their baby, He didn’t. They want to know why God allowed their spouse to die, He didn’t.
Many preachers who are not well versed in the bible, and teachers also, have given them this impression of God. God does not steal, kill or test anyone. We are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and God passed on to us His free will. As such, God cannot interfere with that free will. It is the wrong decisions we make that cause these things.
- Is anyone sick? Call the Elders. Elders, who functioned in various capacities in the early church, should anoint any sick person with olive oil and pray over him. Olive oil was considered a cure-all ointment in the ancient world, but for James, the real healing power is in prayer.
The prayer of faith echoes James 1:5-8. The word save refers to physical healing (Mark5:23,28,34; 10:52; John 11:12). The Lord will restore the person to health does not indicate that death is at hand, but that once healed by the power of God the sick person could get up and walk (Mt 9:5-7; Mk 1:31; 2:9-12; 9:27; Ac 3:7).
He will be forgiven indicates that perhaps the illness was connected with sin, such as drunk driving, and the prayers of the elders could bring spiritual healing as well. If the person confesses their trespasses as James indicates in verse 16 and repents of them, God will welcome them into the church.