By guest writer, Ellen Ceely
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 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. 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. 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 5:13-16
Where do you turn in every moment of life? Do you believe God cares for you and wants to help you and walk with you through both trial and triumph? Do you believe that your prayer is powerful and effective? It’s tempting to read these verses and decide that James is telling us prayer will cure any and all sickness. If it doesn’t, then it must be because we didn’t pray correctly or didn’t truly believe that God could and would save us. It’s also tempting to read these verses and decide that James must be inferring that people only suffer or get sick if they’ve sinned. So, once they repent of their sin, then it’s guaranteed they will be healed and relieved of their suffering.
But to assume either of these beliefs would mean ignoring much of Scripture. Jesus makes it very clear to his disciples that sickness is not a result of sin (John 9:2-3). Sickness just happens. We live in a fallen world and our bodies sometimes fail us. But in those moments of human weakness and frailty, we have a God who listens and heals and walks beside us through the trials. He may heal miraculously, or he may heal through the wonders of modern medicine. He might also heal us in the next life in his presence rather than our present life. But he always heals and never leaves us to suffer alone.
James instructs us even further, and this part is easy to overlook. We are to go to God in good times, too. If we’re cheerful and rejoicing and having a good time, we’re instructed to sing songs of praise! It can be so easy to only go to God when times are hard and not when we feel like we’re on top of the world. God wants all of us, every part of our life. He wants to walk with us through the trials and the triumphs.
But perhaps the most striking thing about this passage is about how much of our faith is to be lived out in community with one another. Are you suffering? Pray. Are you sick? Call your leaders to pray for you. What’s more, learn to confess your sins to one another so that the Lord can heal you of the things weighing on your hearts. You were not meant to bear your burdens alone and neither were your fellow believers.
Take a few minutes to meditate on what this passage means for your life. How does it challenge you? What parts of it do you struggle with? What parts do you feel you’re already doing well? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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