13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
Prayer. I feel this concept gets distorted amongst the different churches and among people. For me, it is simply a word to describe our conversations with God. Whether it is in thanking Him, asking Him for something, or just expressing ourselves to Him. My study bible offers two explanations on this passage. It outlines how this could apply to spiritual sickness or physical illness. Either way, we know that God can heal all, so to me it doesn’t really matter. I believe James was of the same mind. We are led to believe this because in verse 15 James mentions healing in both instances.
Sin is offered occasionally throughout the bible as a sickness or affliction that affects us. In my recovery I have realized that the burdens of sins I have committed, when I hold onto them instead of letting them go, asking god for forgiveness, afflict me. They consume my mind, they destroy my psyche, they distract me from my purpose that God has revealed to me.
The big point here that is sticking out to me, however is the beginning of verse 15, prayer offered in faith. Remember all the times that Jesus healed someone, He always said, “your faith has made you well.” Let’s dig into that. Their prayers, (Jesus heal me from this affliction) were answered because they believed He could (that’s why they asked in the first place). It was quite easy to believe back then, I think, because people actually saw it happening! “Seeing is believing.” Certainly, many who saw, even those that did not follow or believe in God, believed Jesus could heal people because they saw it with their own eyes. But what about today?
I have seen people debate the difference between God healing someone physically or it just happening and we give credit to God. As a side note – it kills me that people blame God for allowing bad things to happen on earth but don’t give Him credit for the good things that happen on earth at the same time. Anyway, not to detract from the point – in these instances, it is an example of where our heart is and a reflection of our faith. If we have faith that God can heal and that he wants to heal us physically, then we will believe so. If we do not, then we won’t. However, let’s look at the spiritual side of things.
I mentioned before about sinful burdens. Focusing on my own recovery, I know that God has changed my heart. Why? Because some of the things about me that have changed recently I didn’t even want to change! I’ve heard of people “changing their ways” and by all means, we can make a conscious effort to change the ways we act and even take steps to change how we think. However, how can we explain the instances when people change, drastically and seemingly overnight, without any forethought or motivation? I believe this is evident in different cases. From my perspective, I’ve only experienced it once I began my relationship with Christ. However, what about those who suddenly believe in Him? It’s not that they want to believe in Him, but rather it kinda just happens. Their heart changes and they justknow He is real. It’s not about thinking he may be real, or agreeing with an alignment of evidence or a convincing argument, rather it’s God changing our hearts to believe. THIS is healing! Healing from our worldly views, healing from the lies we have been convinced to believe and follow, healing from our current mode of self destruction.
That being said, once we have been gifted with faith, we must use that faith in our prayers. This is a concept I am trying to grasp fully myself. If we pray for something, in this case, healing, then why shouldn’t we expect it to happen? If we truly believe God is God and He is capable of healing of all kinds, why do we pray out of ritual or because it’s “the thing to do?” Why don’t we pray expectantly, faithfully, looking for the answer?
Another point of prayer that isn’t necessarily spelled out in this passage is our prayer in accordance with God’s will. I believe these things all work together in a harmony that produces powerful and successful prayer. If we pray for God to reveal His will to us, once we receive it, we will know what to pray for! Praying for a million dollars so you can buy a nice car isn’t quite in order with it. God’s will is for us to worship and praise Him. So then, if we ask for things out of selfishness, well…we probably won’t get it. We set ourselves up for failure when we do this, which in turn, removes a little of our faith from the next prayer. We teach ourselves to pray without faith until it becomes a ritual, even though we don’t expect them to be answered. I believe this is part of our walk with God and the maturing of our relationship with Him. As our faith grows, realizing His will, we can have more confidence in our faith that will help us in our prayer life. As those prayers are realized and answered/granted, our faith grows a little more and our understanding of His will increases, making for an even more powerful prayer and answer the next time! It’s part of the building process and I believe it is the result, as Jesus told us, of having faith the size of a mustard seed moving mountains. We use this as a metaphor but I truly believe that if God calls us to pray about moving an actual mountain and we believe it’s going to happen because we know God can do it, then it will happen. Imagine how Moses felt when he had the urge to part the Red Sea. Crazy as it was he listened to God’s will and it happened. I wonder how much Moses’ faith grew at the end of that day!
How much faith fuels your prayer? Have you asked God for more faith? Do you believe He can grant it?