If you, or a loved one, are struggling emotionally, relationally, or financially—or if you are physically sick—you consider these prescriptions from the Bible book of James for healing. Let’s read the whole passage then we’ll reflect on some of the key thoughts within it.
James writes, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make them well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:13–16)
Here are some of the keys thoughts taken in the order they appear.
“Is anyone among you suffering?” Suffering here has to do with experiencing evil, afflictions, and hardships especially in ways that affect our emotions, inner peace and well-being. Far from being ashamed or apologetic for sufferings, Paul grew to rejoice in them saying, “When I am weak I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
“Let them pray.” The old poem states, “Loneliness is the voice of Jesus saying, ‘My child come unto me.’” Prayer is having a conversation with God. The Lord coaxes us to sharing with him, by promising, “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you” (James 4:8)
“Is anyone happy?” It’s easy to stray when all is well. It is healthy to focus our happiness toward praise and thanksgiving.
“Let them sing songs of praise.” This doesn’t mean that you have to know a song from the hymnbook. We can make up the words and sing a little ditty of delight. For sure some form of praise-song is recommended.
“Is anyone among you sick?” Sick means to be “without strength, powerless; to lack strength, be infirm, weak, or feeble.” Sick covers all sorts of weaknesses of body, soul, or spirit.
“Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” I think this is one of the least used yet most powerful health prescriptions in the whole world. Why? Maybe the forces of evil try keep us from it.
“The elders.” Who are the elders. One view has them as church officials. Another view considers them respected fellow-believers. Either way, the command is to call them and I often wonder why we don’t.
“Anoint.” We are not told where to anoint with oil. Perhaps on the forehead because it is the mind’s place or our crown. We may also anoint on the area of suffering if appropriate.
“Oil.” Some would say the oil must be blessed. Others are okay using oil straight out of the pantry. Missionary C.T. Studd was in the middle of Africa when he got deathly ill. He asked his assistant to anoint him with the kerosene lamp oil since that’s all they had. He was soon healed.
Following is Part 2 of 2 columns:
Last week’s column ended with comments about using oil to anoint the sick and weak. Here are thoughts on the phrases and words from the rest of the passage.
“In the name of the Lord.” The anointing of oil is to be administered in the name of the Lord. While most New Testament passages read, “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” James uses just the “name of the Lord” twice: here and regarding the “prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:10)
James appreciated the Jewishness of Christianity. Perhaps he wanted to emphasize healing in the Hebrew name of the Lord—“Yahweh Raphah”— meaning “The Lord your Healer.” (Exodus 15:26)
“And the prayer offered in faith will make them well; the Lord will raise them up.” Faith is exalted, embedded, and exercised in the actions of anointing and prayer. Nothing fancy—no special effects needed—just faith. Obeying this prescriptive scripture gets the job done.
“If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” Forgiveness may be automatic based on the anointers’ prayer or it may involve active confession on the part the anointee (recipient). To cover both bases, I usually ask the anointee if they can think of any thing that may have brought on the infirmity, especially any unforgiveness, for there is often a connection of forgiveness to healing. The Bible says, “The Lord…forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:3)
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” The anointers and the anointee both have and opportunity for confession here. Thank God for the anointer who finds ways to confess their own weaknesses with the anointee who is confessing to them. This lets the anointee know that the anointer is not magical, special, or superior, but simply a human who believes, just like they do.
“And pray for each other” when we anoint it is fine to ask the one we are praying for to pray for us too. Again, this keeps the “playing field” level. There are no greater or lesser, more righteous or unrighteous, people in the kingdom of God—“for there is no difference…” (Romans 3:22)
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Our righteousness is in “the name of the Lord.” We have none of our own. We claim healing through his might name: Yahweh-Raphah!
“Let’s Giv’m heaven!”—John Parker