Chapter 5:13-18 (ESV) - 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. 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. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
Question to consider: Why do you think God has given us the church?
Today’s verses are a description of Christ’s body lived out in the church. We are there to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Above all, we pray for one another and encourage one another in the faith. As a church elder, I am happy to pray for those in need, but unfortunately, I don’t have many people inform me about what needs they have. When James wrote the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick,” he was referring to the physical healing of the sick and not merely salvation from our sins. We do well to remember that the object of our faith is Christ. Christ listens to the prayers of His church so it is good for the church to bring our requests to Him.
We don’t always get healed in this life, but we have been given the assurance that we are present with the Lord when we die. Heaven is not a consolation prize for those who die. It is the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls. Our prayer for healing in this case is realized when we are raised up on the last day, but in the meantime, our spirit finds its rest in Christ.
Just as Christ listens to our prayers for salvation from illness, so He listens to our prayers for salvation from sin. As a church, we gather and confess our sins before God and receive the refreshing assurance of God’s merciful pardon. We then participate in the body and blood of Christ in the same way those of Israel who ate the sacrifices were participants in the altar. In confessing our sins to one another, James was saying that we reconcile with our brothers and sisters in Christ when we sin against them. There is no room in the church for grudges or foolish pride. We ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we’ve harmed our neighbor so that we can humbly ask for forgiveness and be restored to one another.
We live in an odd time when some of our brothers and sisters in Christ have gotten used to watching church online and don’t see the need to physically gather together. Please listen to me when I say we need one another. Church is not a one-way transaction. Even if you think you don’t need the church, the church needs you. When all of us use what God has given us to faithfully administer His grace to our brothers and sisters in Christ, our churches thrive. All of God’s people made righteous in Christ praying for one another and serving one another is powerful. James gave the example of what God did through His faithful servant, Elijah, but imagine what would happen if all of God’s people were to faithfully pray for one another and serve one another as the body of Christ? We pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. The church is the means through which He does this.
Dear heavenly father, we ask that You stir up in us love for Your church as Christ has loved the church and given Himself up for her. Compel us to gather together and receive Your forgiveness and be renewed with the precious body and blood of Christ. Help us to reconcile with one another when a wrong has been done and to no longer let the devil get a foothold in our congregations. We lift up those who pastor our churches that they would faithfully preach Your word and administer Your good gifts to us as we bless and encourage them. And may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.