“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick” (James 5:15, ESV)
James began his epistle equipping us in how to handle trials with faith. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2–3).
Trials prove our faith by showing it to be the product of the grace of God and they improve our faith by honing its focus on the living God as the object of our faith. Trials are the workstations by which the muscle of faith is strengthened, as God grows us to mature manhood, forming Christ in us.
Throughout his epistle James highlights genuine, saving faith compared with its presumptive counterfeit. Faith that works is faith that is effective because it belongs to the gift of salvation from God and is faith that effects new obedience as part of God’s handiwork of grace. Faith without works is dead, James tells us, because such faith does not exhibit the power of new life in Christ.
As he winds up his letter, James closes in prayer. Not that he prays but that he gives faith its voice. That voice is prayer.
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:13–18)
Prayer is mentioned in each of the six verses and is showcased with great promise and power, not by virtue of the prayer itself but because of the God prayer seeks.
James begins by calling us to prayer in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Are we at dis-ease? We are to pray, casting our cares upon our God. Are we at ease? Let us pray with a song of praise in our heart to Him. As John Calvin put it, “There is no time in which God does not invite to Himself.”
What James describes is life lived before the face of God, where we commune with Him and communicate with Him. Isn’t that what we would expect of faith? Faith is not something we pull from our emergency kit in time of distress. Rather, we live by faith, a faith that knows, trusts, depends upon, and seeks our Father in heaven.
1. In what way is prayer the voice of faith?
2. How do the psalms reflect the full range of life with God?
“Heavenly Father, grant me a vibrant walk with You.”