Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn’t rain on the earth for three years and six months. He prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.
Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
I want to be part of a body of believers who practices the disciplines James lays out here at the end of his letter. I want to pray for the suffering—and have my brothers and sisters pray for me when I’m suffering. I want to sing when I’m cheerful. When those among us are sick, I want the elders of this body to pray over us and anoint us with oil—and when they’re sick, may we do the same. May we pray KNOWING that God will hear our prayers! May we confess our sins to one another and pray for each other. May our body be marked by insistent prayer of righteous people and may our prayers be known to be powerful and effective. When one wanders from our body, may we all mourn and seek to restore the wanderer. And may every wanderer know that they are loved so much—by God and by his family—that they absolutely want to be restored to that fellowship. That sounds like a real church!
- Do you pray when you’re suffering?
- Do you sing to God when you’re cheerful?
- When you’re sick, do the elders of your assembly pray over you, anointing your head with oil in the name of the Lord?
- Are the prayers of the elders in your assembly effective?
- Do you confess your sins to your brothers and sisters? Does the thought of that scare you to death?
- Can your prayers be described as insistent, righteous, and powerfully effective?
- Are your prayers answered?
- Do you try diligently to turn those who wander back to the truth?
- Maybe I’ve got it all wrong—maybe what James is describing here is culturally important to his circumstances and not important in our own. I can concede that. If that’s the case, what in this passage can we pull out and apply in our own generation?
- Can the prayers of our generation be described as powerfully effective? Can you give some examples?
I grew up in a place where elders did come and pray over the sick and would sometimes anoint the sick with oil. Sometimes those people got better. Sometimes they didn’t. Occasionally, God has put me in the presence of people who I would describe as powerfully effective when it came to prayer. These people usually weren’t in what I would call a mainstream denominational relationship with God. They were pretty intense. You could tell that their relationship with God went much deeper, was much more meaningful to them, than your average Christian. I think it’s time for God to raise up some more of those wild-eyed Christ followers—the ones who are totally sold out. I wouldn’t mind being one… I just don’t know how to get there. But I am going to keep pursuing God with everything I’ve got and let the chips fall regarding how he shapes me. Care to join me on the journey?
Father, forgive me for my mainstream pursuit of you. The life laid out in this letter to James is a radical approach—a life that flies in the face of my culture, including the standard church culture. I pray that I will pursue you and you alone. And if that alienates me from my fellow countrymen and the people I attend church with, I’m ready to pay that price. I pray, Father, that it won’t be the case, though, if possible. I pray that what you build in me will be so powerful, so loving, so self-controlled, so attractive, that people will instead say that they want some of this. And when and if that time comes, Father, may I take ZERO of that glory, but instead let me smile, point to the sky, and reply, “You want some of this? You want the power of God inside of you? You can have this! Simply wholly devote your heart to God, and he will grant you all your heart’s desires!” Amen!