P6 A study of God’s provision to heal in James 5:13-16 – Persist in prayer after being anointed with oil

James 5:13-16 (NASB) “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. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

Introduction:  As a pastor I often experience the direct impact illness and suffering has in the lives of church members, my own family and in my own life. The subject of God’s healing power and will to heal has been an issue that I have found to be both encouraging and mysterious. Oftentimes when reading anything on the subject, one will encounter one of two extremes: either God wills all Christians to be healed or He is in a general sense no longer performing miraculous acts of healing in the church. To offset these two extreme positions, this blogger has found James 5:13-16 to be very helpful in shedding light on this very personal, emotionally charged and what can be spiritually liberating subject.

We have considered thus far in this study:

1. The need for prayer when seeking God for healing

2. God’s concern for those who are physically ill in the church.

3. We looked more closely at the act of anointing with oil and the manner in which God promises healing in James 5:14-15a.

4. We then focused attention on the spiritual benefits that are offered by God in the act of anointing with oil in the name of the Lord in James 5:15b.

5. In the last post we studied James 5:16, with particular interest in why practical, pastor ministry need to emphasize God’s provision and power to heal.

Today’s post continues on our study by noting the importance of persisting in prayer following the act of anointing with oil in the name of the Lord. Oftentimes when I have been involved in an anointing with oil of a fellow church member, there have been no visible healing effects. Why is that? Below will answer this question and suggest why persistent prayer must continue following the event of anointing of oil in the name of the Lord.

James 5:13-16 (NASB) “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. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

Introduction:  As a pastor I often experience the direct impact illness and suffering has in the lives of church members, my own family and in my own life. The subject of God’s healing power and will to heal has been an issue that I have found to be both encouraging and mysterious. Oftentimes when reading anything on the subject, one will encounter one of two extremes: either God wills all Christians to be healed or He is in a general sense no longer performing miraculous acts of healing in the church. To offset these two extreme positions, this blogger has found James 5:13-16 to be very helpful in shedding light on this very personal, emotionally charged and what can be spiritually liberating subject.

We have considered thus far in this study:

1. The need for prayer when seeking God for healing

2. God’s concern for those who are physically ill in the church.

3. We looked more closely at the act of anointing with oil and the manner in which God promises healing in James 5:14-15a.

4. We then focused attention on the spiritual benefits that are offered by God in the act of anointing with oil in the name of the Lord in James 5:15b.

5. In the last post we studied James 5:16, with particular interest in why practical, pastor ministry need to emphasize God’s provision and power to heal.

Today’s post continues on our study by noting the importance of persisting in prayer following the act of anointing with oil in the name of the Lord. Oftentimes when I have been involved in an anointing with oil of a fellow church member, there have been no visible healing effects. Why is that? Below will answer this question and suggest why persistent prayer must continue following the event of anointing of oil in the name of the Lord.

Persist in prayer for the sake of receiving your healing, whether immediately, in the near future or ultimately in Heaven. 

So then, why would James be speaking of continual, ongoing, fervent prayer?  This third question requires connecting James’ final set of commands in 5:16 to his illustration of Elijah in 5:17-18. The final clause of James 5:16 reads: πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη (“the personal prayer of a righteous man has abundant mighty effects that continue working”). John Calvin in his commentary on James 5:16 notes regarding this clause: “For James uses the Greek participle ἐνεργουμένη, which means “working”. And the sentence may be thus explained, ‘It avails much, because it is effectual.” Calvin later adds: “(F)or our prayers may properly be said to be ἐνεργουμένη, working, when some necessity meets us which excites us in earnest prayer.”

It is at this point that James consults the life of Elijah the prophet in James 5:17-18 as an example of a man who persisted in prayer. It is in 1 Kings 18:42-46 that we read of the Prophet Elijah and his assistant atop Mount Carmel after the mighty defeat of the prophets of Baal. No rain had fallen on Israel for over three years, and now Elijah was telling his servant to scan the horizon. Seven times he told his servant to go while he crouched on the ground with his head between his knees.  Despite seeing a cloud “the size of a man’s hand” on the first scan, Elijah told the servant to keep looking. After the seventh time, 1 Kings 18:45 states that: “In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower and Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.”  

So then how do the commands pertaining to effectual fervent prayer in James 5:16, the illustration of Elijah in 5:17-18 and the verses on healing fit together? This writer suggests that the emphasis on persistance in prayer may be given in instances where instantaneous healing does not take place. That is, when a person is anointed with oil as prescribed in James 5:14-15, three outcomes are possible: instant, later or ultimate healing. I glean this point from the simple fact that if James 5:14-16 was guaranteeing instant healing 100% of the time anyone was anointed with oil, then there would be no need for “ongoing, fervent prayer”.

There could be those instances where for reasons only known to God, the timing of the healing may not be in the event of the anointing. God may very well have additional purposes such as working forth a prayeer life in the life of the sick person or the church members. Does a delay mean a denial? No. Because the text never leaves in doubt whether or not God wants to effect a healing. The only detail that is uncertain is whether the healing will take place in the anointing, at some point and time after the anointing or ultimately after the person has went on to be with the Lord. The point of the Elijah illustration is to underscore the need for persistent prayer, and to not give up on God nor His word.

More next time…

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About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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