James 5:13-20 | New Living Translation (NLT)
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.
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
We’ve come to the end of a very quick trip through the Epistle or letter of James. This is one of my favorite letters in the Bible. Perhaps because James continually reminds us that faith by itself is dead. Faith always requires action. Through our actions, people should see that we belong to Jesus. If they can’t, then something is wrong with our faith.
This section is even more powerful of late. We have had several sick in our congregation and it was just over a week ago, we found one of our congregation was in bad shape. It was this passage that I read to the family. It is the power of the church working together through prayer. We really learn that we are not lone rangers in our faith and our actions. Our faith and our action must be worked out in community. John Wesley is oft quoted saying, “There is no holiness without social holiness.” I’m not discounting the fact that Christ has told us to take care of the least of these, but the deeper meaning to Wesley’s quote is that our holiness must be worked out in community. That, in large part, is what James is getting at as we close out this letter. James really shows us the power of corporate prayer. As I think about the rest of the letter, James also reminds us of the power of the tongue. John Wesley wrote, “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise.” Here we are reminded the power of corporate prayer and worship. Are any of you? Several times, James asks that question. He doesn’t say are you…, but are any of you. It is faith being worked out in community. Paul talks a great deal about the the body of Christ – that when one part suffers, the whole body suffers. James encourages us to pray for those suffering hardships – to rejoice with those who are rejoicing – praying over and anointing the sick in the name of Jesus.
Our American Christianity is such a personal – rugged – individualistic faith. As James says, earlier, brothers and sisters, this ought not be. We are told to confess our sins to one another – This is not something we like to do…what will people think of me if I confess my sins? But it is the confession of sins that brings physical and spiritual and emotional healing.
We need each other. God has brought this so much to the forefront of my ministry over the past few years. Just imagine the power of the church at corporate prayer. What could we do for God by working together through the power of his Holy Spirit. Let’s work out our faith together — in community – the way it was designed to be lived out.