Sickness, Prayer, Confession and Faith
James has been teaching us about how to act in times of suffering, frustration, trouble and joy (James 5:7-13). Sickness is one trouble that comes to everybody at some time. Many solutions are offered by family, friends and professionals, from evidence-based medicine to family remedies and tribal customs. Some even seek spiritual power without God's authority, but the Bible forbids that (Deuteronomy 18:9-13).
Although the Greek word for 'sick' has a core meaning in physical illness, it can also be used to describe any kind of weakness and weariness of body, mind, emotions or spirit - including the sickliness that stems from unresolved sin. All these have come following the Fall when sin entered the world, corrupting every human being from before their birth (Psalm 51:5). It will only be finally resolved when Jesus returns and ushers in the New Creation and disposes of what we know as the natural cycle of decay, disease and death.
As with every difficulty or excitement, James has taught us to bring all these matters to God in prayer (James 5:13). The afflicted person is instructed to invite the local church elders to pray for him/her (most unwell people find it hard to pray for themselves). The invitation to the elders is itself an expression of faith (and obedience to God's Word here), and a willingness to submit to God. Anointing with oil is a physical demonstration of faith in God who can restore health by His power. But healing is not an automatic result of a physical rite. Forgiveness and faith are needed too. It is God who gives both (Ephesians 2:8-9). Forgiveness also comes from God, but it cannot be granted until sins have been confessed in repentance. According to the gift of faith received by the elders, so they pray according to what they believe God is wanting to accomplish.
True disciples of Jesus understand that our relationship with Him matters more than anything else; even our feeling of wellbeing. So, the Lord sometimes allows suffering (in Old English, 'suffer' means 'to allow') so that we will trust Him more. It may be that the Lord, for His own purpose does not grant the healing we desire. That does not mean that He is powerless, or that we are faithless, or that our sin is too great for His mercy. And any healing is only temporary because we are all mortal, and death is inevitable for every Christian at some point; yet the Lord is often pleased to show His power in responding to our prayers, if we are willing to get right with Him. And many have given praise for God's remarkable healing power.
© Dr Paul Adams