Praying for healing
Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 NLT
The New Testament records the expression elder (or presbyter) soon after the founding of the church at Pentecost. In the early church in Jerusalem, the elders were the representatives of the believers (see Acts 11:30; 21:18). They were the men who exercised leadership in pastoral ministries of the congregation they represented (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1–4). From the text, James, encourages believers to seek out the help of the elders of the church by praying for them when they are going through illnesses that seemed to be incapacitating. The emphasis in the passage is in prayer. In the time and culture of James, olive oil was used as common medicine. Called to the bedside of the sick, the elders pour out their prayers in behalf of the sick. They depend fully on the Lord, who will grant healing and restoration. They offer their prayers in faith because they want to hold on to God’s promise that the Lord will heal the sick. Then James added the statement “if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven” indicating that there is a connection between body and soul. For instance, Jesus healed the paralytic spiritually when he said, “My child, your sins are forgiven,” and physically by saying, “Get up, take your mat and go home” (see Mark 2:5, 9–11). Jesus heals body and soul symbolizing wholeness. But the question could be asked, is illness due to sin? Not always. Let us take the life of Job as a case in point. Covered with painful boils, Job knew that his affliction had not come to him because of sin. God allowed his illness to test his faith. Even though his friends urged him to confess his sin, Job maintained his innocence and integrity (see Job 6:28–30). Yet, when we are afflicted, we ought to examine our spiritual life and have God “Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:24). God is ready to forgive sin we confess. There is no denying that God works healing miracles in the Christian community today in answer to the prayers of other believers. But what happens when God does not heal the sick? Is there a lack of faith? Is there unconfessed sin? Yes, but not always. Consider Paul, who had been given the gift of healing yet seems to have been unable to help his friend Epaphroditus from a persistent illness that almost caused his death (see Philippians 2:27). Likewise, Paul writes, “I left Trophimus sick in Miletus” (2 Timothy 4:20). No doubt, Paul prayed for his friends to be healed, but he learned from his own experience, when he begged God for the removal of the thorn in his flesh, that He does not always heal us as we wish. Instead of removing his illness, Paul heard God say to him, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).