Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. James 5:13-18
Ah! The power of prayer. How do you talk with the Lord? Is it a one way communication? To me, communicating with Jesus involves so many aspects that to do it just one way is limiting my experience with the Lord. The Lord uses so many things and so many different experiences and people to communicate with me. He will use absolutely anything to get my attention, to lead me into all righteousness and to conform me to His image. God is all powerful, everywhere present and timeless, how can I limit Him to a limited conversation where everything goes up and I never hear what comes down? I simply can’t.
For me, hiking in God’s vast creation is such a communion between myself and my God. I have had fundamental revelations while hiking. That is one of the more poignant ways for me to hear God. Driving is another one and in the middle of the night, when I should be sleeping are times when I am able to “let go of this world” and just listen to whatever He tells me and wherever He takes my mind. It is during the day, sometimes every second of the day that I constantly direct my thoughts upward. I barely have time to breathe when I’m emotionally distraught “talking to God,” and so have a more difficult time hearing Him.
I guess, what I’m really saying is that there has to be two way communication. I simply have to expect God at every corner, whether it is from a friend, a stranger or a foe. I must look for Him to answer from every nook, cranny and scrag that I encounter because God is limitless in how He can speak to me. When I’m not actively looking for God to speak to me, I’m self-absorbed. God, as God, should be my everything – my God, my friend, my father, my husband – by His very nature, He can satisfy me in every way. I am the one that don’t let Him do that because I limit Him.
This is what I believe prayer is in a nutshell. Lets see what my notes say about this scripture passage.
Notes on verses 14, 15
James is referring to someone who is physically ill. In Scripture, oil was both a medicine (see the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37) and a symbol of the Spirit of God (as used in anointing kings, see 1 Samuel 16:1-13). Thus, oil can represent both the medical and the spiritual spheres of life. Christians should not separate the physical and the spiritual. Jesus Christ is Lord over both the body and the spirit.
People in the church are not alone. Members of Christ’s body should be able to count on others for support and prayer, especially when they are sick or suffering. The elders should be on call to respond to the illness of any member, and the church should be sensitive to the needs of all its members.
Note on verse 15
The “prayer offered in faith” does not refer to the faith of the sick person but to the faith of the people praying. God heals, faith doesn’t, and all prayers are subject to God’s will. But prayer is part of God’s healing process.
Note on verse 16
Christ has made it possible for us to go directly to God for forgiveness. But confessing our sins to each other still has an important place in the life of the church. (1) If we have sinned against and individual, we must ask him or her to forgive us. (2) If our sin has affected the church, we must confess it publicly. (3) If we need loving support as we struggle with a sin, we should confess that sin to those who are able to provide that support. (4) If we doubt God’s forgiveness, after confessing a sin to him, we may wish to confess that sin to a fellow believer for assurance of God’s pardon. In Christ’s Kingdom, every believer is a priest to other believers (1 Peter 2:9)
Note on verses 16-18
The Christian’s most powerful resource is communion with God through prayer. The results are often greater than we thought were possible. Some people see prayer as a last resort to be tried when all else fails. This approach is backward. Prayer should come first. Because God’s power is infinitely greater than ours, it only makes sense to rely on it – especially because God encourages us to do so.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24
May God provide the increase.