Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.
Everything we do should be done under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. James looked at every aspect of life through the lens of faith and submission to God. That’s one of things we love about this epistle and maybe what makes James so challenging for us. How we speak, how we manage our finances, how we treat other people, how we plan for the future, how we respond to difficulty and temptation, even our emotions – all of it should be brought into submission to Christ. That is the high spiritual and moral standard of the Christian life, and we can’t argue against any of it, even if we know we’ll never perfectly meet that standard on this side of heaven. These verses reassert this great calling to submit all things to God. When life is hard, pray to God. When life is good, give praise to God. When you are in need, invite other believers to pray to God for you. Bring it all to God through Jesus our Lord.
James also believed in the redemptive power of sharing life with other believers. As we submit our needs, hopes and hurts to God, we should lean on the collective strength and wisdom of our church family. Bringing every aspect of life to God includes trusting his people to love and care for us. This encouragement to ask for prayer from church leaders gives us a beautiful picture of how God can provide through the faithful service of others. When one person is in need, the church should join together to lift that person up, and when we hear of someone hurting, we should reach out with compassion. In these ways, we can become the hands and feet of Christ to one another. In his great wisdom, God has ordained that prayers offered by the gathered church carry special weight, unleashing his mighty power in extraordinary ways. When the leaders of the church gather to pray in Jesus’ name, they are following our Lord’s example of praying with and over his disciples. This sacred ministry invites the Spirit to heal, to restore and to comfort. In a similar way, anointing with oil symbolizes our submission to God’s power and grace. Oil has no magical or medicinal benefit, but the act of anointing a sick or needy person gives action to our faith. The gathering of church leaders and the anointing with oil give substance to the words of our prayers, showing in tangible ways how we are surrendering everything to God’s grace.
These verses are as simple and helpful as any passage in James. When you need help, pray. When you feel good, praise. That should cover just about every moment of your life, so you should always have prayer or praise in your heart.
Thank You, Father, for listening to my prayers and for receiving my praise. You are good, and I trust You with everything in my life. Help me to lift others up when they are hurting and to join with Your people in praising the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian