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The Prayer of Faith (2)

FAITH AT WORK: Devotions through the book of James

“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick” (James 5:15, ESV) 

James has urged us to seek God in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Prayer is the voice of faith raised in praise, petition, lament, thanksgiving, and whatever other response there is to life’s vicissitudes and vagaries. 

But not only are we to pray for ourselves; we are to pray for others. God has given us the avenue of prayer to seek Him on behalf of the needs of others. Here, James speaks of those who are sick. “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” (James 5:14). 

While we can and should pray for one another, James’ focus here is on those who have a peculiar ministry of prayer in the community of God, the elders of the church. Elders who are those who are mature in the Lord, raised up by God to shepherd the flock of which He has made them overseers. They carry out their shepherding role primarily through ministry of prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4), and personal example (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2-3). 

In a sense, the elders are professional pray-ers, not in sense of pay but in the sense that it is their job. The prophet Samuel took his ministry of prayer and the word seriously: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way” (1 Sam. 12:23). 

James is highlighting for us how needs are dealt with in the community of faith. Prayer is not a last resort but a first recourse. God has appointed prayer as His means for His ends.

As we noted, prayer is the voice of faith. That’s why James calls it “the prayer of faith” (v. 15). The prayer of faith is not some separate species of prayer but prayer that knows, trusts, and expects God to hear and answer prayer in keeping with His perfect will. 

God extends great promises to believing prayer. “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” (James 5:15–16). This declaration echoes Jesus’s teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:5-15) as an exhibition of faith that knows God as Father. 

To illustrate the power of prayer, James holds up the Old Testament prophet Elijah. “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 5:17–18). Here prayer is featured as the means by which God acted. He attends to the prayers not only of celebrity saints like Elijah but believers just like us.

1. What is the prayer of faith?

2. Where does prayer get its effectiveness? 

“Father, may You be pleased to pour out upon me and Your Church a spirit of prayer and supplication.”

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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