by Violet Nesdoly (reprinted from Friday, December 10, 2010)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: James 5:1-20
TO CHEW ON: “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. 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.” James 5:14-15
Chances are you know someone who is sick. Perhaps you are sick yourself. Problems, issues, pains, and malfunctions of the human body are everywhere.
When we are sick, we desperately want healing. When our loved ones are sick, the pursuit of their health turns our lives upside down as well. So it’s not surprising that our chosen verse today is one of the most well-known and often quoted sections of James.
In it the author suggests a way for Christians to confront sickness. Let’s look at these verses closely to gain insight on how to deal with sickness in our own lives and the lives of those we love.
1. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call …” (vs. 14).
Here we see that the sick person takes the initiative to call for prayer. When you think of it, this makes sense. Remember the last time you were in the middle of an illness and faith for even the next breath was hard to muster. Summoning someone to pray whose faith is not hampered by physical illness and weakness is a good place to start.
2. “Let him call for the elders of the church…” (vs. 14).
Elders are officers of the church. The qualifications of such officers (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) ensure that they are men and women of personal integrity and character, full of discernment and (though not specifically named) people of faith and prayer.
3. “…let them pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord” (vs. 14).
The oil isn’t medicine or magical. Rather it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It can symbolize the consecration of the sick person and, as my Bible’s footnote expresses it: “the joyous presence of the Holy Spirit, in this case to bring healing in response to the obedience and faith of the elders” (New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1757).
4. And the prayer of faith…” (vs. 15).
We think of the gift of faith Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12:9. Here that faith is for the healing of the sick person prayed for.
5. “…will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven“ (vs. 15).
According to the study notes in my Bible, when James says “save the sick” and “he will be forgiven” he doesn’t mean that the prayers save the sick person from sin. Rather, “save” here refers to physical restoration and the “sins … forgiven” refer to sins that may have contributed to the illness. Although not all sickness is caused by sin, sometimes there is a connection (Mark 2:5-11; 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
6. …and the Lord will raise him up…”(vs. 15).
“James stresses God’s healing power through prayer that accompanies the anointing” (NSFLB – p. 1757). In the final analysis, healing comes, not from the oil, or the floweriness of our prayers, or even the robustness of our faith, but from God.
It’s hard to understand why God steps in with supernatural healing at some times and not at others. We will never have the answer to such questions on this side of heaven. But we do know that God has, through Bible writers, told us to bring our requests to heal sickness to Him. Let’s do that, and then continue to depend on Him to work all things together for good in the realm of physical wellness as in other areas of life.
PRAYER: Dear God, I know that the power to restore health is in Your hands. Please keep faith for my ill loved ones alive in me as I continue to pray for them. Amen.
MORE: Smith Wigglesworth on this passage:
“We have in this precious Word a real basis for the truth of healing. In these verses God gives very definite instructions to the sick. If you are sick, your part is to call for the elders of the church; it is their part to anoint and pray for you in faith. Then the whole situation rests with the Lord…”
– Smith Wigglesworth, from Smith Wigglesworth Devotional, p. 130.