James 5 v 13 - 15

These are probably the most read of all the paragraphs in this letter and difficult to understand. In one sense they are straightforward: Someone who is ill asks for prayer from the church leaders and upon receiving them, gets better. Now we know evidentially that this isn't so. All Christians die just like any other human being who has lived on this planet and some believers die young and seemingly incomplete lives and sometimes in a lot of pain. So, what is it that this prayer of faith prayed by a group of church leaders coming together in someone's living room or bedroom does? I have prayed in this way for many people and some of you are reading this now. Glory be to God that some of you have got better, but some are now deceased. Is it some kind of divine lottery and if so, does that not take place anyway in what we can observe in the lives and deaths of those who do not believe in God? Firstly and absolutely, it is better to pray than not to: in prayer we bring ourselves to God, recognise His Almighty authority and trust that our lives have meaning to our Creator God. Whether we live or die, whether we get better or remain chronically ill we know that everything is in His hands, the hands of the One who loves us. Secondly, let us look at the wider picture given here: in contrast to the world, the Church is full of people who sing joyfully together to God-and aren't we missing that in this present crisis! The Church is a singing Church. Another great characteristic of the early Church was that it was a healing Church. Remember, as Luke wryly observed in writing about the woman with the issue of blood, that the Doctors were worse than useless! Read that in Luke 8 v 43-48 and possibly read the footnote. Great saints like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian in the second and third centuries make great mention of the healings that went on within the Church. The fact is that healings have always gone on in the Church-whether physical, mental or spiritual-and continue to go on. And I would say from my experience that universally the person who is anointed with oil and prayed over receives something from God, whether it is the grace to overcome all the various necessarily intimate operations by medical men and women or whether it is immediate and full healing. By asking for the church leaders to come and pray they have recognised the seriousness of their condition and the advantage of believing in loving Almighty God. The most recent person I have prayed with was going through a time of extreme mental despair and is now happy, healthy and a full believer in the God who intervenes.

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