James 5:13-20 ESV
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James is wrapping up his letter to the church by grabbing the initial thought he wrote about at the beginning of the letter.
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
He starts out vs 13 with the same idea. Is anyone among you in trouble? James then walks down the same road to point us to the importance and effectiveness of talking with God. The end of James is less about deliverance and healing and more about prayer. The overarching idea is that consistent communication with God reveals the believer trusts God in the difficult times and gives God credit in the good times.
- In trouble
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.
James is not talking about self-induced trouble but trouble like he had described in chapter 1 - persecution or oppression. He wanted to remind the church that God was their deliverer. If you couple this with the previous verses about being patient, James wasn’t teaching the church to pray and then be frustrated with God’s timeline but to pray and be steadfast in their faith. Pray and be patient for the coming of the Lord.
Prayer reveals our dependance on God and moves us toward him. It is not the secret password for a genie in a bottle.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
13 ...Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.
When you communicate with God through praise during good times, you are acknowledging that He is the source of all that is good.
Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 95:1-3 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 118:29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Where does your joy come from? Where does your happiness come from?
14 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. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.
James keeps communicating the importance of prayer in every circumstance. If you are in trouble, pray, if you are happy, pray, if you are sick, pray. He is stressing the importance of a relationship with God in which there is regular communication. Now he introduces the importance of being in community with others. When things progress beyond your faith, include other people.
It is true that people can trust God on their own, but we were designed to be in community. If I’m sick, really sick, I need to know that there are others with more faith than me that I can lean on to petition heaven on my behalf. Being sick is one thing where being lonely is unnecessary.
James is not presenting a formula for healing, but what people do who are in relationship with God and each other. Do not ignore the medicinal part to prove you have faith. Do both. Go to the doctor and pray. Either way, it is the Lord who will lift us up.
16 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.
There are sins that lead to sickness. James is warning the church not to automatically dismiss the possibility that sin is the cause of some sickness.
In a safe and caring community, we should be able to be transparent with one another in a way that brings us to confession and healing. I’m not confessing to be condemned but healed. Don’t let past church experiences keep you from being healed. There is a safe community here focused on healing. If someone is confessing to you, you may be righteous but not perfect. These are 2 way streets. We are not setting people up as infallible for the purpose of other imperfect people confessing their sins.
Do you have safe people in your life that you can be open and honest with? Do you have people in your life that will be honest with you? If you have hypertension and it’s because of your anger… If you have liver problems because of drinking…. If you have heart disease and other health problems because of gluttony…
James is saying for healing to come, we have to be honest with each other about where the sickness could have come from. Don’t overlook the obvious sin. Don’t keep praying for healing and ignoring the things we do to keep causing it.
Now we are in community with God and each other at an intimate level. We are for each other. What if it takes more than one prayer or one confession? Am I committed enough to you to walk through the process with you?
17 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. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Elijah was a human like us, but his prayer was effective. You and I both can have effective prayers.
3. Keep Watch
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Community with God and community with each other. Confessing our sin and being healed creates an environment where we care about each other enough to confront and turn. This is not a confrontation to heap condemnation on someone but one to bring the person back into a right relationship with God.
Matthew 18:15-17 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Jesus lays out a lengthy process for the community of believers to do everything they can to convince a person to repent and turn back to God. This is not a quick three strikes. This is borne out of a relationship that puts the value on the person that needs to repent. Go out of your way to bring them back. Do everything you can.
I cannot be so wrapped up in my own sin that I don’t even recognize that you are in trouble. If I am in communion with God and with others and I am healthy, not sinless but healthy, I then can help others. We are for each other!
1. What stood out to you most from this week’s message?
2. Do you think it’s easiest to forget to talk to God when we’re in trouble, doing well, or sick?
3. What prevents us from keeping open communication with God?
4. How does thanking God regularly keep us in a grateful frame of mind?
5. What are the characteristics of trusting relationships?
6. What are some circumstances so severe that they cause us to question our faith?
7. How is the way you pray for someone you love different from the way you pray for someone you don’t know well?
8. How do we develop the kind of trusting relationships we can rely on when we need serious prayer?
9. How can honoring God with our health choices be part of healing our sickness?
10. How is it different when someone who loves you tries to help compared to when someone who barely knows you points out your imperfections?
11. How is being righteous different from being perfect?
12. What would you like to do differently because of this week’s message?