More than Rescuing

We have been considering the inquirer’s responsibility. Helping them to pray and encouraging them to take the initiative leads to the third issue in the James 5 passage. “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (vs. 16). Notice that the admonition to pray for one another comes after the suffering person has prayed, taken the initiative, and confessed their sins. Observing the order of Scripture is critical if we hope to be effective.

Suppose a person has been sick for some time and calls the church, asking for the ministry of James 5:13-16. Let’s assume the elders are responsible and even agree to fast for a day before they go to this person’s home. They read Scripture, anoint the person with oil, and petition God for healing. Days later it was reported that there was no change, and they wonder why. Then they discover that the person is deeply in bondage to bitterness, and has many other unresolved conflicts. Is it realistic to expect God to answer their prayers for physical healing?

Credit the elders for being willing to make the effort. It demonstrates that they care for those who suffer, and have a desire for God to be glorified. However, such attempts can be more like rescuing than redeeming. If we really loved this person shouldn’t we help them resolve their personal and spiritual conflicts and be reconciled to God? Then our prayers for others will be much more effective.

Before I spoke at a camp and a family shared their testimony. The mother had 200 certified allergies, and her children had a hundred. There was food they couldn’t eat, clothing they couldn’t wear, and places they couldn’t go. They had tried every medical treatment known, but to no avail. They attended the Freedom in Christ discipleship course in their church, not expecting it to have any impact on their health, but it did. Removing the barriers to our intimacy with God allows the life of Christ to flow through us in an unhindered way.

The passage in James is not addressing broken bones from car accidents, the ravages of old age, or flu epidemics that affect us all. He is addressing psychosomatic illnesses that can be resolved through genuine repentance and faith in God. There is a health benefit for living a righteous, responsible, and balanced life.

Dr. Neil

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