“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 6:13-16
James is talking about the importance of prayer. When should we pray? When we are suffering, when we are joyful, when you are sick and at that time you should call out to others for prayer too. And when you do that, not only should you pray but you should do medicinally what you can do to get well. That is what “anointing him with oil” means. The people thought that anointing with oil was medicinal, so James is not saying just pray, he is saying get medical attention as well. James promises that the prayer of faith will save the sick. This does not necessarily mean that all that are sick will be healed on earth and if not, that you didn’t have enough faith. It means we pray and we leave in the Lords hands how the healing will come.
But the focus verse for us today is this:
“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 at it is working.” James 5:16
They say confession is good for the soul. I think “they” are probably right. What I get from this, and reading in other versions as well as commentary supports, is that if we have unconfessed sin in our lives it can stand in the way of our prayers being heard and our ultimate healing. I also think James may mean spiritual healing and not just physical healing. If we have something that is unconfessed between us and God then it will stand in the way of our communication with God. I think when he says confess your sins to one another, he is not necessarily meaning that we have to go to a leader in the church, but that we should find a confidant, someone we can trust and I will take that a step further to say that if we have something between us and another person, it can stand in the way of communication as well. Think about it, when there is something that is standing between you and another person, a hurt, or an argument, the communication is strained. It is quite the same with God. When we have unconfessed sin, it’s not that God doesn’t want to listen, it’s a strain on the relationship.
The second half of this verse, “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” does not mean that a righteous person is someone who will do everything right, but it means a person who is trying, who is confessing when they do get it wrong, is trying to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in their lives! When that person prays, there is power that comes down from heaven on their behalf! And my favorite part is “as it is working.” When you pray the work begins right then and there. We may many times feel like our prayers are not going past the ceiling and sometimes I am not sure they are even reaching the ceiling. But that’s just not true, all we have to do is follow the Holy Spirit’s lead, try to do the right thing and really confess when we don’t get it right and our prayers are heard and the power is released to work on our behalf.
James gives an example of our friend Elijah from the old testament.
“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.” James 5:17-18
Did you catch that, Elijah was a man, he was just a man and look at the great power that his prayers exhibited. Do you stop and realize that the people in the Bible are just people, just flesh and blood people like me and you. We have the benefit of being able to read the end of the book, they didn’t. They were just people who had to exhibit faith. Just like us!