Prayers for the sick
Apr 19, 2012
Writing a verse-by-verse commentary has one serious disadvantage. It is inevitable that at some point a commentator would come upon a passage that he cannot teach from experience. I always try to teach what I have learned by experience, and not merely by Bible study and revelation. If I have "walked it out," then I can teach with confidence, because I then believe that my view has been confirmed by the double witness and proved by experience.
Today, I have come to James' teaching on prayer for the sick. I have some experience in this matter, but not enough to truly speak comfortably on this topic. It is something that I am still learning, and I am waiting on the Lord to see more divine healing in my ministry. Since our last conference in Manassas, VA a few weeks ago, I have been encouraged to see some movement in this area.
I understand that certain people have special spiritual gifts in this area (1 Cor. 12:9), but I read in James 5 that the elders of the Church are also called to pray for the sick. It is hard for me to believe that elders must all be endowed with the special gift of healing. It seems to me that their authority over sickness is more general and yet obviously includes the call to pray for the sick and expect to see people healed.
James 5:13-16 says,
(13) . . . Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises. (15) Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, (15) and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
In June of 2004 a woman came to my office who was oppressed by evil spirits. These had caused many physical and psychological problems, dating to her early life when her parents had dedicated her to Satan as part of a high-level Masonic ritual. When I took authority over that evil spirit and cast it out, a great weight lifted from her shoulders. Then I prayed for her healing as well. Her deaf ear was healed, and she was suddenly no longer color blind.
She had had these problems for 27 years, but went away rejoicing. Later that day, after she had eaten supper, I learned that for the first time in 27 years she was able to eat normally without spilling food everywhere. She showed me her heavily-stained placemat with the round clean spot in the middle where her plate would sit. No longer would they have to sweep the floor after each meal, for now she could put the food in her mouth without spilling.
When people have sickness that is caused by spiritual forces, it is quite easy to heal. All one has to do is to cast out those evil spirits, and the diseases easily leave with them. I have seen this other times in the past. But to pray for healing from a disease not caused by an evil spirit is something that is largely beyond my experience.
I recall once being engaged in spiritual warfare for nearly a full week. This did not involve demonic possession per se. I was out of town during that time, and did not realize that my wife back home had become very sick as soon as the warfare began. When the warfare was complete, and the battle was won, my wife was suddenly healed completely. She had borne the main burden of the battle without my knowledge, and this ended the moment the battle was won. This could be seen as an example of healing that I have seen personally, but it, too, was through extraordinary circumstances.
I have yet to see a personal example of clear and dramatic healing apart from group prayer. Though I expect this to change at some point soon, I would appreciate your continued prayer for me and this ministry, that we would be fully equipped to do the work that lies ahead.
Certainly, I have seen people healed when they called for the elders of the Church to pray for them and anoint them with oil. I have even participated in those group prayers. Such examples are important and helpful, but it is not the same as seeing results from one-on-one prayer.
James 5:15 says that the prayer of faith will not only restore and heal the sick but also "if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him." What is the connection between sickness and sin? Once again, we must turn to the Gospel of Matthew in order to understand what James meant. We read in Matt. 9:2-7,
(2) And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven." (3) And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." (4) And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? (5) For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'? (6) But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--then He said to the paralytic--"Rise, take up your bed, and go home." (7) And he rose and went home.
There is little doubt that James had studied this passage many times and that his words in 5:15 were his own commentary on the Gospel account. All sickness is rooted in Adam's sin, and the world condition has only gotten progressively worse since then as unforgiven sin has accumulated over time. Christ's death on the cross resolved this root problem, for we read in 1 John 2:2,
(2) And He Himself is the expiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
Isaiah 53:5 prophesied,
(5) But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
Peter, who was James' close associate, wrote in 1 Peter 2:24,
(24) and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Jesus healed on the basis of His own death on the cross--even before He went to the cross. We look back on that historic event, and this is the basis of our call to pray for the sick. In other words, His death on the cross paid the penalty not only for Adam's sin, but for all the sin of the world, as John tells us. This gives believers authority to heal the sick.
As agents of Christ in this world, we also have the authority to forgive sin. It is not that we ourselves forgive sin, but rather that we do what our Father does, and we speak what our Father speaks. If we are spokesmen for Him, then we are called to give voice to His verdicts that come from the throne of God. If we have the ability to hear His voice, then we not only have the right, but also the responsibility to speak what we have heard.
This responsibility is mandated in the law itself, which commands witnesses to testify in the divine court (Lev. 5:1). It is the same law by which the apostles overrode the injunction of the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:15-20. Thus also, in this matter of healing and forgiveness, as well as in any other matter where we have truly heard the voice of God, we are required to bear witness to Him by speaking His words and doing what we see Him do. I have experience in this area of law, but less experience in its application to healing. Nonetheless, I know that it is applicable.
The key seems to be that the words we speak cannot be our own words, nor can the deeds be our own. They must be the words and deeds of Jesus Christ Himself operating through us by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Stephen Jones