“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven." — James 5:13–15
We’ve all been there. Someone we love is sick or it might even be us. We are not talking about a cold or the flu. We are talking about a “life changing” event, maybe a “life or death” event.
What do we do? If we are a Christian, we have been given some direction from the Word of God to guide us. I want to focus on what James teaches us about Divine Healing.
Q: What are Some of the Steps to Find Divine Healing?
We Need to Pray…
This seems basic but it is essential. James tells us to begin with God and seek Him in those challenging times of life. But what type of prayer should we offer? James instructs us to offer a prayer of faith, not unlike the prayer of Elijah. If you’re like me, you know you’re no Elijah. But what was it that made Elijah’s prayer signifiant? Simply this, he offered his prayer in Faith.
Some see this as the key to healing. You must offer an unfaltering faith-filled prayer if you want to be healed; any wavering at all will jeopardize your chances of being healed. I have seen this teaching play out only to discourage hurting people who are looking to God in good faith. They are told that they just didn’t have enough FAITH! Talk about kicking a person when they’re down! But, is this what James is saying?
A man came to Jesus asking him to heal his little boy who was demon possessed most of his life. Here is his encounter with Jesus.
“A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” — Mark 9:17–24
Notice the last words of the father, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” That’s a prayer of faith! Is it perfect faith? No. But, did Jesus heal his son even though he had imperfect faith? Yes. You see, if we are honest, we all have a wavering faith. It’s not the strength of our faith, it’s the place where we rest our faith. The father had placed his little faith in Jesus, and that was enough.
We Need to Ask for Help…
God never meant for us to do life alone. He created us for community. Here, James tells us that Christians are connected to a community and they can call for help. In this case, he instructs the sick to call an Elder and have them pray over them. We believe that the prayer of a community is critical for healing.
We often pray over people who are sick, asking God to heal them. There is something about experiencing people circling around a person in need, praying for them, connecting with their struggle and pain that makes the church of Christ beautiful. We do this in the Hope Church community on a regular basis. We circle the sick and pray over them.
We Need to Take Advantage of All Healing Avenues…
James talks about anointing the sick person with oil. I have been puzzled about this for most of my time as a Pastor. Is James saying pray over people, but when you REALLY need healing get the oil out? When the oil comes out, the healing is On! Is that what he’s saying?
I think we often spiritualize the oil too much. The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, that there is some special spiritual power in the oil. But is that what the New Testament is teaching? Look at the passage of the Good Samaritan.
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” — Luke 10:33–34
Notice the Samaritan used the oil and wine as his medicinal tools for the beaten man’s healing. It seems like the oil and wine were being used as the best medical tools of that day. Look at Paul’s advice to young Timothy.
“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” — 1 Timothy 5:23
Here’s the point. I think we should find the best medical treatment we can for our healing. Go to the doctor, get the procedure, take the medicine. God can use the technology of today to heal us. Why can’t God sovereignly heal us through the use of modern medicine?
We often think that if we use modern medicine, we aren’t trusting God for our healing. But I believe that God has given doctors, nurses, surgeons, researchers and technicians the ability to heal.
People often go to one of the extremes. Either we are all prayer and no medicine because we want God to heal us in the most miraculous way, we want to show God we trust Him to heal us. We don’t need no stinking hospitals, or doctors or medicine. Or we use ONLY medicine and never pray, we never seek God, we never ask Him to help us or heal us.
I believe we should pray hard AND seek the best medical help. It’s not “either-or”, it’s “both-and”. Who cares if it’s 50% prayer and 50% medicine? God still healed in His Divine way. Who cares if it’s 30% prayer and 70% medicine? Hopefully, you get my point. In the end, it’s ALWAYS God who heals us.
Sometimes Sickness is Tied to Sin…
We need to be careful here. But James is bringing sickness and sin together in this passage. He seems to be saying that sometimes, our sickness is tied to our sin. Now there are times when we see this played out pretty clearly.
For example, if you are sexually promiscuous, your chances of getting an STD is much higher. Can God heal you? Yes. But You need to see that your sinful behavior may have led to your sickness.
Anther example is in the book of 1 Corinthians 11. Paul seems to tell us that sickness was connected to sin in the church at Corinth.
“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [Fallen Asleep = Dead].” — 1 Corinthians 11:27–30
This seems to be tied to the abuse of the Lord’s Table. Some were even dying due to their blatant abuse of the Lord’s Table. This might have been isolated to Paul’s day but I think there is still a good chance that sometimes God allows sickness into our lives to Wake Us Up!
God doesn’t always heal us this side of Heaven. We all have experienced this sad fact. But God doesn’t refuse to heal us because we can’t muster up enough faith. We often wonder, “Why did God heal them and not me?” That’s a question for Heaven and I believe our perspective will be quite different then and there.