Prayer makes a difference in our lives. It brings a sense of peace. It relieves stress. It focuses the mind. It taps into the supernatural power of God. Though any type or method of prayer can be helpful, there are some principles of prayer in James 5:13-18 that can help us find more spiritual power through increased effectiveness in prayer. This article will look at each verse in that passage and draw some ideas from it that will help our prayers be more effective.
Verse 13 – Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.
It is interesting to note that the book of James opens with an emphasis on dealing with suffering and it closes that way too. This is because the world we live in is under the curse of sin and is filled with suffering. A significant part of the Christian life is learning how to deal with suffering in our own lives and the suffering we witness in the world around us. Our very first response to suffering should be to pray mud ink . Far too often that has become our last resort instead of our first response. Prayer has the capacity to change our attitude and lift our spirits. Prayer often produces cheerfulness, even in the midst of difficulty. When our hearts are cheered, even in the midst of struggle, we can give praise to God. Praise turns our minds away from the negative and refocuses our hearts on the positive. The power of positive thinking may be limited, but the power of positive praising is unlimited!
Verse 14 – Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord.
Though there are many different types of suffering, one that we all face in our lives is sickness. While this might be referring to any type of sickness, the context of suffering seems to indicate that it is a serious sickness, not just a common cold or a headache. Though doctors and modern medicine are very important, and should not be neglected, Christians should also look to the Lord for help when we face serious physical challenges. If a person is sick, he or she should call for the elders of the church. This is an indication that in most cases the sick person should initiate the request and the elders go to the person who is sick, probably in their home or the hospital. That does not mean that public healing services are not appropriate. It simply means that the primary place of healing is private. A sick person should call the for the elders to come pray with them and anoint them. The elders of the church are those who have been given the responsibility for leading the church and teaching the Word. This does not mean that people who are not elders cannot pray. It just means the elders definitely should be part of the process because they can rally the entire church to prayer if needed. While praying, the elders anoint the sick person with olive oil in the name of the Lord. Olive oil is not magic. Olive oil has been symbolic of the Holy Spirit throughout the scriptures. Therefore, when a person is anointed with oil the person is symbolically asking the Spirit to be poured out on them and to fill them up so they may be closer to the Lord. We anoint a person not in the name of the church, or in the name of the elders, but in the name of the Lord. This is important because healing power belongs to Christ alone. Neither the church nor an individual controls God or His healing power. What James is telling us to do is to submit ourselves to the Lord and trust in Christ alone. When we are willing to do that with a sincere heart of faith, we remove the barriers inside our hearts that have held back the Spirit and quenched His power in our lives. Freely flowing faith has great power.
Verse 15 – The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
James makes a connection between healing and forgiveness. We find this unique relationship between healing and forgiveness frequently in the Bible. Psalm 103: 2-3 says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.” This verse says that if a person has sinned, they will be forgiven. Clearly some sickness is a result of sin. But not all sickness is a result of sin. It is easy for us to directly connect certain sinful behaviors with certain physical illnesses. Other sicknesses have less direct connections to sinful behaviors and some have no connection to sinful actions. Some psychological conditions can manifest themselves physically. In some (but not all) cases, a healing of the body also involves a healing of the mind. Putting the past behind us and experiencing the unconditional love and forgiveness of God is sometimes the first step to physical well-being. Forgiveness may be needed to purge us of psychological poison and restore wholeness to our whole being.