James now concludes his letter with his bottom line – encouragement after challenging:
“Is anyone of you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Jam 5:13-15).
The pronouns in these three verses are important and powerful, teaching yet another shade of perfect unity with the Lord and with each other. If someone is suffering, that someone is to pray faithfully. If anyone is sick, he or she is to call the elders of the church, but then let the elders pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of Jesus.
These prayers, some offered by us and some by our biblically selected leaders, James call the “prayer of faith.” Not “prayers” of faith. The process described is knitted together in unity with Christ. At the first sign of suffering, we must pray earnestly. If the matter goes away, we are to sing loudly songs of praise. And if the situation worsens, we are to call the elders who will make sure the person is saved from all sins and completely forgiven by Christ.
The Prayer of Faith, then, is the prayer of ultimate salvation and assurance that we will live forever with Christ, forgiven of all our sins.
Having established this process, James concludes by speaking directly to the church at Jerusalem, and by extension, to you and me:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (Jam 5:16).
The message here is that we should not wait until we are in crisis to pray, but rather we should start praying the moment we sense trouble and invite others to join us, especially elders. James offers an odd illustration, but his point is that each of us has great power through prayer, if we start early and stay late in unity with the Lord and with each other by confessing our weaknesses:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed frequently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (Jam 5:17-18).
Our salvation ultimately depends on Jesus, who died on the cross for us. But we can live happier lives through this kind of unity with each other, constantly, intensely:
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings him back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jam 5:19-20).
As James said at the beginning of his letter, “Consider it all joy,” referring to steadfastness. He concludes with nailing down the process of a steadfast faith, pleasing to God.