A classic Christian prayer for healing reads: “O Lord God of our salvation, to whom no sickness is incurable, we pray that in your compassion you will drive away from your servants, who look for your heavenly medicine, all illness; show forth in them the might of your healing power, and make them whole both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Mature faith prays boldly within the will of God (see 1 John 5:14–15). The questions and answers that open today’s reading convey the tone that this is the right and obvious thing to do (vv. 13–14). When we’re in trouble, we should pray. When we’re happy, we should sing. When we’re sick, we should call the elders to pray and anoint us with oil.
In that context, oil had both a practical medicinal and a spiritual symbolic value. While in our culture we tend to separate the physical and the spiritual and thus see sin and sickness as separate issues, Jewish culture did not. From a biblical perspective, the two can be intermingled (see Mark 6:13; 1 Cor. 11:29–30). James has in mind here a situation in which an illness may have been caused by sin, though this does not imply that all illness is caused by sin (vv. 15–16).
In such a case, sins should be confessed. God will forgive, and healing may take place in response to the prayer of faith if God so chooses. The spiritual principle at work is that the “prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” As one study Bible puts it: “Prayer is not a magical incantation or a guarantee of healing, but when offered fervently by a righteous person, God will respond in a way that best fits his good purposes.”
“Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise” (v. 13). If you’re in good spirits today, let music be part of your praise! You might choose to sing a hymn or worship song, or listen to some praise music on the radio or recordings. Use this time of playing, singing, or listening to music as an intentional offering of thanks and praise to the Lord.