A Brother’s Wisdom 87

JesusJames*.jpg James explores healing through prayer and anointing. What he urges, and here we clearly hear resonances of faith in James 1:6-8, is to pray in faith — to pray trusting that God can heal and that God will heal.

Here are James’ words:

And the prayer offered in faith will make them well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so
that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful
and effective.Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it
would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half
years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

To be sure, there is some wandering from one idea to another in this text, but it coheres: pray in faith and that raises that some sickness comes from sin and so confession is important. But the person must ask in faith, like Elijah.

Some struggle with this: people closer to God have more prayers answered. I believe that, not just because it is in the Bible, but from experience with the folks in the church who are devoted and who pray and who are known for God hearing their prayers. There’s no one-to-one correlation, and that’s the hitch: godly people have unanswered prayers and some scoundrels have their prayers answered. But the point for James is clear: if you want God to hear your prayer for healing and forgiveness, then (1) you will have to trust God and (2) you will have to have a heart turned toward God. I don’t think he’s offering magical solutions or inevitable formulae.

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  • RJS

    The problem is, of course, that the passage reads as though it is a guarantee. If you are close to God, if those who pray for you are close to God, you will be healed. Don’t we have to turn to other parts of the NT to justify reading this as less than a guarantee?

  • PJ

    I believe that James injunction to pray for healing must, like all of Scripture, be taken within the Scriptural Canon. Jesus tells us that when we pray we are to pray for His will to be accomplished through us. That being said, we are still called upon to come before the church with a faith that believes that God will heal our sickness. This must be a faith without doubting.

  • Rodney Reeves

    I’m a new comer to your blog. Have admired your work from a distance.
    As you wrap up your compelling dialogue with James, I make this observation: if the number of comments by posters is any indication, wisdom isn’t worthy of our time. Only the more provocative/controversial posts seem to receive the most attention.
    I hear echoes of Paul: “Where is the wise man? . . . Where is the debater of this age?”

  • Dana Ames

    Scot, I think it’s interesting that from your last comment you take “righteous” to mean “close to God”. That seems to imply distance from God. But if “in him we live and move and have our being”, there is no “distance”. To me, that is not helpful. To be sure, there are people who are seem to have God’s ear, so to speak, but the word I would use to describe them would be “holy”… Sometimes these holy people don’t look like what we expect… I wonder if this aspect of the meaning of “righteous” -that which enables a good person to be good- is skirted because it’s so subjective.
    Oh well.
    Thanks for the series; interesting angles not previously considered.

  • Peter

    Dear Rodney Reeves (#3),
    Difficult to know how representative I am as a follower of this blog site, but I may have read every entry re: James but I do not remember commenting once. Why? I find the material too dense, too practical, too convicting for the terse comments that I think are appropriate to this mode. On the other hand, if the next time Scot is in Massachusetts he wants to bring the Cubans, then I’ll supply the Merlot and comfortable chairs (see his essay above) and we’ll chew it over thoroughly!

  • angusj

    Like RJS, I think it’s hard to ignore James’ strong conviction that repentance and faith will produce healing. Of course other parts of the Bible don’t support this apparent guarantee of healing. As an example, Paul (2 Cor 12:7) wasn’t healed of his affliction even though he prayed for this, and few would suggest that Paul was hampered by unconfessed sin. It seems to me that James is overstating the expectation of healing by failing to mention that, apart from lack of faith, there may be other reasons for God choosing not to heal (as is the case in 2 Cor 12). Since I’m not an inerrantist, I have no problem with this. I still appreciate James’ inspired wisdom in encouraging the sick to exclude spiritual causes of persisting maladies.