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Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


Those afflicted should seek God’s comfort through prayer.

  • Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the LORD: Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the LORD.”
  • Psalm 55:22 “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
  • Jonah 2:7 “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: And my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”
  • Philippians 4:6 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
  • 1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 

This private prayer would keep them from public grumbling. This prayer of the sufferer should be a prayer for wisdom and wholeheartedly asking in faith.

Also, James asks is anyone merry? Normally a happy perky person would anger someone afflicted. The solution is to sing psalms. No matter the mood, singing praises together keeps harmony among believers.


James directs those who are “sick,” to call for the elders of the church for strength, support, and prayer. Those of these churches had the temptation to:

  • Show disdain for the poor.
  • Ignore their needs for food and clothing.
  • Threaten their physical survival by withholding their fair wages.

This is the same temptation to neglect fellow believers who are sick. Believers who are sick should receive special attention from the whole congregation. This verse presents a simple three-part pattern that can be followed on behalf of the sick.

  • First, the sick one should call the elders. The elders can’t help if they aren’t told! Also, the elders aren’t instructed to make the first move, the sick is.
  • Second, the elders anoint the sick with oil. Probably rubbing oil into wounds of those physically bruised and battered by persecution. Could be a reference to ceremonial anointing. Either way, the point is the elders would be encouraging, comforting, and strengthening the believer.

Does the oil heal?  Why then use it? Ceremony. Sometimes humbling oneself to the point of following a Bible ritual outwardly shows faith in God to heal and utter selflessness to help.

The elders do this. Elders? In the churches James is writing to this would have been those put in charge by the apostles. What about the modern church? Would this be Deacons, Stewards, Ordained, Leaders?

  • Third, they should pray over the sick for healing. During anointing, the elders should pray. Of course, regularly anyone in the church can pray for anyone who is sick. This should more often be the case. Rather than a healing line.

Some prefer to pray for healing, others prefer to pray for “God’s will”. In 4:15 James instructs to operate, “If the Lord will…”. “Lord, if it be thy will, heal….”. Being cautious of the fact we shouldn’t obligate God to do something he hasn’t promised.

This would all be done is who’s name? The name of the Lord. This explains the order of the process. If I go to a sick man and pray and he is healed, I may get some of the glory for going to him. However, if the sick comes to the church to pray and we pray and he is healed, God gets all the glory.

Prayer of faith

The prayer offered on their behalf by the elders. Save is very confusing in this verse. Sodezo, the same word is used here and in verses 5:20, 4:12, 2:14, and 1:21. Sodezo means save, heal, and preserve. Leaving a multitude of uses for this one word.

Some would argue that the author is saying that physical healing if off the table here and that the goal is to be sure a sick person is saved. Others would ignore salvation altogether here and deal only with physical healing.

Also, we have to notice there are two parts to James’ writing here, Prayer and Faith. We pray to be healed, we have faith for Salvation is another take on this verse. James answers both.

  • The Lord shall raise him up.
  • Sins shall be forgiven him.

The easy error to make here is elders can pray over you and forgive your sin. If you are healed your sin was also forgiven. The most effective application is we pray to be healed when sick. For this to be effective our sins must be out of the way first. Therefore, a sick person coming to be healed would also ask forgiveness for sin during the process.

Confess your faults

The “confessing” that James wrote about is done among believers. He was not suggesting confessing our sins to a preacher or priest. We confess our sins first of all to the Lord. We also confess them to those who have been affected by them. We should never confess sin beyond the circle of that sin’s influence. 

Private sin requires private confession. Public sin requires public confession. “It is wrong for Christians to “hang dirty wash in public,” for such “confessing” might do more harm than the original sin.”.

Mutual honesty, openness, and sharing of needs will enable believers to uphold each other in the spiritual struggle. Go to each other and confess faults.  This is a time to pray, not prey. “The confession of sin entails humble honesty about the fact of having committed sin, not a public retelling of the details of the act.”

Effective prayer comes via energetic and passionate prayers of godly people and can accomplish much.

Pastor Chance Strickland

Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN