Saturday 11 February 2017

Bible Book:

“The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (v. 16)

James 5:13-20 Saturday 11 February 2017

Psalm: Psalm 104:24-35

The Methodist Church's Bible Month this year focuses on theletter of James. It takes place in June, although churches andcircuits may choose a different time if that is more convenient.For more information (including training and resources), goto


In these last few verses of James, the author encouragesChristians to pray in all situations. Christians should pray intimes of blessing and of suffering, including sickness (verses13-14). In the only reference in the New Testament to the practice,James encourages elders within the church to pray over the sick andanoint them with oil (verse 14), a text that has shaped somecontemporary healing ministries.

James encourages Christians to trust that the prayer of faithwill "save the sick" (v. 15), though whether this is physical orspiritual healing is debated among commentators. The reference toforgiveness of sins that follows  may suggest that this is ahealing that at least included a spiritual dimension. James alsoencourages Christians to "confess your sins" to one another, andpray for one another (v. 16). Such prayer is powerful andeffective. As an example of such prayer, James points to Elijah, ahuman whose prayer for drought, and later for rain (1Kings 18:41-46), was heard by God. Such an example should giveChristians hope.

This is a challenging passage that raises a number of questions;what about the prayer or faith that doesn't bear any fruit? Shouldwe always pray for physical healing for those who are ill? Shouldthe elders of the church always be so involved? Rather thanproviding answers to such queries, James' aim is to encourage allChristians to persist in prayer, knowing that the Father hearsthem. Such an emphasis is also found in Jesus' teaching (Luke18:1-8).

In the last two verses of the letter, James calls Christians tolook out for those who might wander from the faith (verses 19-20).Those who 'save' them from such wandering have the honour of savinga "soul from death" (v. 20). The encouragement to look out forbrothers and sisters in the faith is a fitting end to thispractical letter of living out one's faith.

To Ponder

  • How can you best keep prayer central within your life?
  • Have you ever prayed for the healing of someone else? Whathappened?
  • How can Christians provide better support for those at risk ofwandering from the faith
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