Monday, August 13, 2012


     Is any one among you afflicted-ill treated, suffering evil? He should pray. Is any one glad at heart? He should sing praise [to God].
14 Is any one among you sick? He should call in the church elders-the spiritual guides. And they should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord's name.
15 And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him that is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
16 Confess to one another therefore your faults-your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins; and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored-to a spiritual tone of mind and heart. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available-dynamic in its working.
17 Elijah was a human being with a nature such as we have-with feelings, affections and constitution as ourselves; and he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and no rain fell on the earth for three years and six months.
18 And [then] he prayed again and the heavens supplied rain and the land produced its crops [as usual]. (James 5:13-18). [Amplified Bible].

     This passage on prayer falls into two sections. Verses 13-16 constitute a call for prayer in every circumstance of life; vv.17-18 illustrate the effectiveness of sincere prayer.

13 One circumstance that calls for prayer is the experience of being "in trouble." When such an experience comes, Christians need patience. They are not to grumble in bitter disgust (v.9), nor are they to express themselves in oaths (v.12). Instead, they "should pray." Patience comes from God, and prayer is an effective way to obtain it. James also urges anyone who is in good spirits to "sing songs of praise." This too is prayer.

14 Sickness is another circumstance where prayer is needed, and concerning such prayer James gives detailed instructions. The sick person "should call for the elders of the church" (cf. Tit 1:5, 7; Acts 20:17, 28). In Acts 20:28 the elders are instructed to shepherd the church of God, i.e., to do the work of a pastor (cf. also 1Pet. 5:1-4). Thus, the sick person is to call the pastors of the church "to pray over him and anoint him with oil." Prayer is the more significant of the two ministries performed by the elders, for the overall emphasis of the paragraph belongs on prayer. There are a number of reasons for understanding the application of oil as medicinal rather than sacramental. The word "anoint" is not the usual word for sacramental or ritualistic anointing. Furthermore, it is a well-documented fact that oil was one of the most common medicines of biblical times (see Isa. 1:6; Lk 10:34). Josephus reports that during his last illness Herod the Great was given a bath in oil in hopes of effecting a cure. It is evident, then, that James is prescribing prayer and medicine.

15 The assurance is given that prayer "will make the sick person well." In the final analysis, this is what effects the healing. In answer to "the prayer offered in faith," God uses the medicine to cure the malady. The statement "the Lord will raise him up" means that the sick man will be enabled to get up from his sick bed. If it was sin that occasioned his sickness, "he will be forgiven." This suggests that possibility that, because of persistence in sin, God sent sickness as a disciplinary agent (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30). The conditional :if he has sinned," however, makes it clear that not all sickness is the result of sin.

16 From the promise of v.15 James draws an inference. Since confession of sin and the prayer of faith bring healing, Christians should confess their "sins to each other and pray for each other." It is not merely the elders who are to pray here, but Christians in general. If a person has sinned against a fellow-Christian, he or she should confess the sin to that person. This will no doubt result in mutual confession-"to each other." Then the two believers should "pray for each other." If the sin has caused sickness, healing will follow confession and prayer. James proceeds to add the assurance that prayer "is powerful and effective." The "righteous man" here referred to is the one whose sins have been confessed and forgiven. His prayer is fully able to secure results, such as healing of the sick.

17-18 James now offers illustrative proof that a righteous man's prayer is "powerful and effective." "Elijah," he says, "was a man just like us." He had no superhuman powers; he was by nature a human being and nothing more. However, when he prayed "that it would not rain . . . it did not rain" (cf. 1 Kings 17:1; 18:42-45). The explanation of his power in prayer is twofold: he was a righteous man, and "he prayed earnestly." So James assures his readers that such answers to prayer are within the reach of any believer. It is true that 1 Kings 17-18 does not explicitly say that Elijah prayed, but this may be assumed from 17:1 and especially from 18:42. The three and one-half years is a round number based on 18:1.
[NIV BIBLE COMMENTARY Volume 2: New Testament].



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