The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5:15, 16b (NIV)
Read: James 5:13-20
Consider: The final section of James’ letter deals with the very practical issue of prayer and particularly the prayer of faith.
In James 5:13-14 he asks three rhetorical questions of his readers and in each case provides a very straightforward answer. Firstly he asks: Is any one of you in trouble? and responds with the exhortation: He should pray. He then asks: Is anyone happy? which is met with the encouraging words: Let him sing songs of praise. Lastly he asks: Is any one of you sick? and responds with the words: He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
It would be easy to concentrate on the message of this part of James’ letter as being about healing. Of course it is about this and anyone in a believing church who is ill should not be afraid to ask for the elders to pray for their healing. I have recently read some commentators whose opinion (as cessationists) is that healing of this sort doesn’t take place today. Personally I can see no reason why God would inspire James and others to talk about miraculous healing if believers today should not expect it to happen. I know that whether or not the spiritual gifts should be seen and exercised in the church today separates believers and can cause division. It is not my aim (nor James’) to incite heated debate on the subject. So let us return to the main theme of this section of James’ letter.
The main thrust of this part of the letter is prayer. How do we know this? We know that prayer is in James’ mind because the example he uses is of Elijah and he says in James 5:17-18 – Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Prayer is so much in James’ mind that he mentions the words ‘pray’ and ‘prayer’ seven times in this section. Prayer is essential in the life of a Christian. Remember that James has been exhorting and challenging his readers to ensure that the profession of their faith matched their lives in terms of what they do, what they say and how they use their money. Here he is adding the additional mark of the Christian – someone who takes prayer seriously and is unafraid to pray in faith.
James’ final words are a reminder that sometimes people wander from the truth and we have a responsibility to endeavour to bring that person back on to the right path. Let me leave you with James’ own words: My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).
Pray: Father, help us to take prayer seriously and to be willing to spend time in prayer with you. Give us courage to pray boldly for people in need and give us a burden for the lost and those who have wandered away from the truth. Amen