When you are sick, you call the doctor. When your pipes spring a leak, you call the plumber. If your lights don’t work, you call the electrician. Who do you call when you have spiritual needs? In James 5:14 we are told to call “the elders of the church.”
We can certainly pray by ourselves when we are facing trouble. This is what verse 13 tells us to do. But sometimes our problems are so great that we need the prayer support of others. The specific example James gives is that of illness. The fact that the elders must be called may indicate that the one who needs prayer is too sick to go to them. Verse 15 shows that prayer can make a difference in such circumstances. We pray for the sick because God is able to “raise them up.”
James also says that God will forgive in response to prayer, indicating that sickness is sometimes a consequence of divine discipline. But his conditional language makes it clear that sickness is not always a sign of divine judgment. In addition to prayer, the elders are to anoint with oil. This act symbolizes the role of the Spirit in healing. It is God who saves and raises up. The oil has no inherent healing power. Indeed, James does not even say what kind of oil should be used, nor does he prescribe a particular form of prayer except to say that they should do so “in the name of the Lord” (v. 14).
Humility is a prerequisite to effective prayer. Those who pray in the manner James prescribes should confess their sins to each other and pray for one another. Far from being an empty ritual, prayer for others is “powerful and effective” (v. 16).
>> Like Elijah, the great prayer warriors in the church’s history have only been ordinary people who believed in the power of prayer. This same power is available to you today.
“Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all” (1 Chron. 29:11).