Wednesday, October 6, 2022
The last section of James 5 contains some wisdom about prayer and healing. Like most everything else we’ve encountered in James, it is simple, but not easy.
“Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (James 5:14-16 NRSV)
God does heal, and when he does, we rejoice. We proclaim the wonders of how our good and faithful God answers prayer. But what about when the healing doesn’t come? In those times, there doesn’t seem to be much to rejoice about, and it isn’t as easy to truly believe that God is good or that he answers prayer.
When there is no healing, we want to know why. Did we mess something up? Did we not pray hard enough or with enough faith? Should we have gotten the elders to pray and anoint us with oil? Have our unconfessed sins gotten in the way? Were we not righteous enough for our prayers to be effective? Did we do everything right, but forces of evil sabotaged our prayers? Was it just not God’s will to heal? Is it not God’s timing to heal now?
There is no end to the questions we could ask about this, and to make things worse, there is a severe shortage of good answers. But, like in the book of Job, you can find lots of bad answers from people who mean well. I would just add to the bad but well-meaning category if I were to offer my own explanations.
Let’s get out of that rabbit hole for now and try to grasp James’ practical advice. We could zoom out and summarize it in two main pieces: Do your part, and ask God to do his.
Doing your part might actually mean seeking out the elders to pray over you and anoint you with oil. It could mean confessing your sins and asking for forgiveness. It could mean going to see a doctor and following their advice. Your formula may not look exactly like James’, but the important part may be that you do something, or whatever it is that you are able to.
While we are doing our part, it is important that we ask God to do his part also (remember the importance of asking from James 4?). We’re not going to be able to do everything ourselves, so asking God initiates our cooperation with him. By asking, we’re acknowledging that God has real power in our lives and that we’re receptive to it. It’s not a we-do-everything or a God-does-everything scenario. It’s a cooperation that requires both sides. It is a James kind of faith that is coupled with action.
After doing your part and asking God for his, the way forward may be to wait, or to keep doing and asking, all while hoping for the best.
1. What does your “formula” for healing look like? Is it anything like James’ formula?
2. How can you do your part for your own healing or for the healing of others?