James 5:14-15 KJV
14 Is any sick among you? 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:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Now that James has finished talking to those who are afflicted or merry, James turns his attention to the sick. We all know who he is talking about when he talks about the sick, don’t we?. I thought I did until I looked up this word sick in the Bible lexicon and found out it takes in a lot more then what I was thinking it did.
Sick is the Greek word a s t h e n e o. This word describes somebody who is weak physically, emotionally, spiritually or morally and it’s typically translated either sick or weak. When we think of sick people, we think of someone who has a fever or cough and is not feeling well physically. But this word takes on a much deeper meaning and it really makes me think about how I should be praying for people. It does include the people we typically think of as sick, and we should make sure that we are always praying for them.
But there are others that are covered by this verse, and I think often we overlooked them. This word also talks about those who are weak. That weakness can take on many different forms and is used in different places to denote people who are weak in faith, meaning that they are doubtful that things are what God says they are. This weakness of faith will cause their prayers to possibly go unanswered and so they need others to pray with them in order to strengthen them. Some of the places we see this word with that meaning is in Romans 4:9 and Romans 14:1 where Paul talks about somebody who was weak in the faith Romans 14:1, and 1st Corinthians 8:12 talks about somebody who is weak in conscience and this can cause them to sin.
I realize that the translators decided to have the word here say sick instead of weak but we can transpose both meanings here and understand that there is a lot more to it then how we have simply taken it through the years. Would you agree with me that those who are weak in the faith needs the prayers of the elders to help them become stronger in their faith? And it is not up to us to judge those that are weak in the faith. It is up to us to pray for those who are weak in the faith. Not calling them sick, but people in need of a booster shot of faith.
The admonition is to call for the elders of the church. The person who is sick is the one who is told to ask for the elders of the church to pray over him. I know in my church we do not see this very often. Most often the pastor calls up to the altar those who are sick and the elders come and pray over him or her. But rarely have I seen somebody ask for the elders to come and pray over them. I think it would be good if we start to get this done the way James asks us to . And maybe in your church it is done that way . Getting back to the biblical pattern is important in our churches in my opinion . Now there’s nothing wrong with the pastor asking the elders to come, but I believe the prayer will be more effective if we follow the biblical example.
The second thing that James calls for here is the anointing of oil in the name of the Lord. Most of you probably know that the anointing oil signifies sanctification of the priests in the Old Testament. They had a special anointing oil that was poured over them to set them apart for service. The anointing oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and this is an important thing as we pray for the sick. I hope that your church uses oil and anoints people when they come forward for prayer. Again, following the biblical example is very important. It is given to us for a reason and we should not neglect what God has said.
Verse 15 goes on to say that the prayer of faith will save the sick. It is the faith of the elders, who have been called and have anointed the person with oil in the name of the Lord, that God sees. Remember the sick person might be one who is weak in faith and so God is listening to those that are praying for him and honoring their prayers. James said the Lord will raise him up. In my mind this means that God will make him stronger in his faith and pull him out of that area where he doesn’t have the strong faith that he should have. Answered prayer is one of the quickest ways to build our faith. So if somebody who is weak in faith or sick gets the answer to the prayer that is prayed over them their faith will most likely increase. What a blessing it is to have our faith increase.
The other result of this prayer says that sin is forgiven the person who is prayed for. I believe all of us want our sins forgiven. They were forgiven by Jesus on the cross and when we came to him to ask him to be our Lord and Savior we asked him to forgive us of all of our sins. But each of us most likely commits sin on a fairly regular basis. I’m not trying to put you down but it’s just a fact that human nature will do things that are against God. It may be a little white lie, swearing, gossip, backbiting, calling somebody a fool or not going the extra mile when we had the opportunity. It may be not visiting the sick or those that are in prison. It may be not giving that homeless person some clothes to wear when we have the opportunity. There are so many ways that we fall short of God’s holiness. So when this prayer of faith goes up to God any sins that had been committed are forgiven. When the healing comes, the Lord raises that person up. James has no doubt in his mind that God will forgive sins and neither do I.
Can you see now why it’s so important that we pray for those who are weaker in faith or are sick? There is so much that a person will gain besides just their physical strength back. I pray that we will get back to the biblical example in this verse and allow God to start working miracles in our churches. What a revival will sweep the land if we start to see this type of healing take place.