James: A Slave of Christ Day Seven: Chapter 5:13-19
As we near the end of the book of James, we see his call for us to remember the power of prayer. Whatever we are facing, we can confidently bring our needs before our all-powerful Father, trusting Him to give us what is best. Prayer is such a privilege, and one we should truly value, not taking the gift for granted. We can pray when we are suffering hardship. We pray our way through trials and temptation. We pray over sickness. We praise God over good things. As believers, we have been given such a powerful resource in communicating directly with Christ.
Some confusion revolves around verses 14 and 15. Many believe there is power in the anointing of oil, and that somehow elders hold a special gift for healing. All healing is from God—no one else. In the early church, God allowed His power to flow through other believers for the specific purpose of revealing Himself. But healing has always been the work of God, not man. Additionally, healing for the Christian does not always mean their sickness vanishes. Death for the believer also offers healing. We often become discouraged when we pray for a loved one who is sick and suffering, yet do not see God remove that sickness. What we fail to understand at times is that God heals when He takes them home—such a healing is no less miraculous.
Verse 16 directs us to confess our sins to one another as we pray for healing and forgiveness. The body of Christ is meant to be interactive; we are one body, and each part relies on the other parts. We cannot live a spiritually healthy life without the presence of other believers, along with confession of sin and prayer. We are reminded of the great power of prayer when it is taken seriously. We are also encouraged that with fervent prayer, wonderful results await. Does this mean we always get our prayers answered in the way we want? No, it does not. But it does mean we can always trust that God’s answers will bring about His purposes. James points to Elijah’s example: He prayed that God would withhold rain for 3½ years; then he prayed for rain and the rain came. If our prayers align with God’s will, we know He will answer affirmatively. There are times when we don’t specifically know what to pray for—His will is less clear. But we pray anyway, always asking for Him to answer according to His will. This is a good reminder to myself to pray just as Jesus prayed to His Father: “Not My will, but Thine.”
The book concludes with instruction in speaking truth to a wandering believer. It is our responsibility to watch out for a brother or sister who is struggling spiritually, and then be willing to step in and encourage, instruct, or speak courageously against sin or a personal struggle. The truth is that we all need each other—we need the help from our fellowship of believers. We all have seasons of discouragement, temptation, trials, or difficulties. Some of us will allow these difficulties to discourage us to the point of wandering from Christ. Let’s be alert to those struggling and be willing to get messy, stepping in to lend ourselves to their need. I cannot tell you how valuable it’s been in my own experience to have other Christians help me through personal difficulties. It won’t always be easy to step into these circumstances and say what needs to be said, but it is a very real responsibility of each believer within the body of Christ. By being willing to do hard things, we honor God’s Word and, at times, help lead the wanderer back to the fold.
**Thank you for following along in this brief study of James. It has always been a personal favorite of mine. In difficult seasons, I have found such comfort in these five chapters. I hope some of the thoughts shared in this devotional encourage each of you, and that you take the words of James to heart, allowing them to transform you spiritually.
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. (James 5:16)