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Prayer and healing (3)


Think about the implications of this. We know that it was God who ultimately did the healing of the overwhelmed and exhausted, but this passage tells us that He desired to do it through community --- people who cared for and were committed to them. What a glorious truth! And we don’t have to wonder how to apply it because James tells us in v. 16 when he encourages his readers to share their burdens of sin and to pray for each other so that they will be healed (i.e., not ground down by their shame and guilt). What happened with the elders and the exhausted person was a microcosm of what God desires for the community of Christ!

I think we see something of this in 2 Corinthians 2 when Paul brings up the situation of someone who has sinned (v. 5), been punished (v. 6), and now needed to experience complete reconciliation with the community there so that he would not be "overwhelmed by excessive sorrow," (v. 7). Perhaps of greatest importance, Paul says that a failure to forgive would play right into Satan’s schemes (v. 10-11).

Does it surprise us that Satan seeks to get involved after forgiveness has taken place? Remember the prodigal son’s older brother and his response when his brother came home? That is exactly what Paul and James are trying to prevent. They are both encouraging a climate of confession, forgiveness, prayer and burden-bearing. Whether it’s Corinth, the Jewish people James was writing to, or us today, we need to stand together or we will perish separately.

The final thing James mentions in v. 15 is that in addition to being healed, those suffering weariness/exhaustion would also be forgiven if they had sinned. It’s important to note that sin is not necessarily part of their condition. If they had sinned and we’re struggling with guilt or shame, then obviously it would be a contributing factor to their physical/emotional burdens (see Psalm 32:3-5). But by the use of the word "if," James lets us know that while this could be a factor in their condition, it wasn’t the cause and may not even be involved.
James concludes by encouraging his readers with the example of Elijah. Like them, Elijah went through some difficult times (1 Kings 17-18). Prayer helped him through it. And although God was the One ultimately responsible for both the drought and the rain, the story behind the story that we’re told here is that Elijah was praying about these things (see I Kings 18:42). Here was a man who hung in there with God (was righteous – v. 16), and changed things (through earnest prayer – v. 17). They can do the same thing for themselves and others (v. 19-20).
We can too!
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