Summary: Holistic Healing within the Church

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James 5:13-20

In the previous verses (James 5:7-12), James exhorted us to patience. The writer mentioned the sufferings of the prophets as an example of endurance (James 5:10). However, patience need not be passive: it will also see us engaged in prayer.


James 5:13. So, is anyone among you suffering hardships? This includes not only illness, but also the hardness of affliction in our Christian warfare (2 Timothy 2:3). Well, “let him pray.”

Is anyone in good spirit? This speaks of a state of heart, regardless of circumstances (Acts 27:36). Well, “let him sing psalms.”

There is a prayer for our every situation. Furthermore, when our prayer is answered we will be cheerful. We should return thanks in praise.


James 5:14. Not only should we be prayerful as individuals, but we should be prayerful as the church. There are times when we need to involve other people in our prayers. Specifically, James instructs the sick to send for the elders for prayer and anointing.

The situation is this: a person is conscious that they are unwell, and craves the prayers of the church. They are unable to attend church due to their sickness. They send for the elders.

The elders come and pray “over” the sick person. This seems indicative of the church’s authority over sickness and its causes (Matthew 10:1). The elders anoint the patient with oil.

The use of oil for healing is found in the mission of the twelve (Mark 6:13); and was also applied by the good Samaritan (Luke 10:34). However, the real source of the efficacy of these ministrations comes from Jesus Himself. The elders pray and anoint with oil “in the name of the Lord.”

James 5:15. We need not be ashamed that our faith alone is not sufficient to have the desired effect. We must not be too proud to call for the prayers of the church. This is not the only time in the Scriptures when the faith of someone else has benefited the sick (Matthew 9:2-7).

James speaks of the prayer of faith “saving” the sick: “and the Lord shall raise him up.” This is holistic healing. We cannot dictate to the Lord what form the answered prayer should take, nor when, but if we pray for a happy issue out of a person’s affliction we need to believe that that is what they will receive.

The writer also ties in the idea that illness does, sometimes, have its source in some specific sin (John 5:14). This is not universally the case (John 9:2-3), but it is a possibility. Let each person examine themselves before the Lord.


James 5:16. There is a need for us all, always, to be honest with one another. If we have sinned against a brother or sister in the fellowship, we need to confess to them that specific sin, and to seek prayerful reconciliation with that person (Matthew 5:23-24). Thus are we “healed” of sin.


“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

James 5:17. James tells us that Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and “with prayer he prayed” that it might not rain. This means that prayer was Elijah’s habit, not some last resort for emergencies. There are other examples of the prayer life of Elijah in 1 Kings 17-19.

James 5:18. Then Elijah prayed again, and he was able to muster the power of heaven to bring fruitfulness back to the earth. This is an example of mountain-moving faith (Matthew 17:20). It is the product of effective believing prayer (Matthew 21:21-22).


James 5:19. As James draws his letter to a close, he reminds himself that he is writing to brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. What are we to do if anyone among us is wandering from the truth? Well, James implies, we must strive almost as if it were up to us to bring back the wanderer.

James 5:20. Of course, conversion and salvation - and the covering of sins - are all God’s prerogative. Yet He uses his servants to minister to the wayward (2 Timothy 2:24-26); and Christian love is said to “cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Praying care will endeavour to expose those under our influence to the gospel; and caring prayer will faithfully uphold them before the throne of grace.

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