Vol. 6, No. 5
~ Page 14 ~
A well-meaning, prayerful church bulletin editor has cited two verses to encourage every reader to "Start Your Day the Right Way... PRAY:
The prayer of faith will cure the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous has powerful results (James 5:15-16 FHV).
Encouragement for daily praying is good advice, as Paul's example shows: "Fervently we are praying night and day to see your face" (1 Thessalonians 3:10), and Paul's instruction, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But the citation of James 5:15 as being applicable today is an example of not "interpreting correctly," of "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
We cannot say today that "the prayer of faith will cure the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up" (James 5:15). Sadly, some good people in our time do not realize that miraculous praying and healing ceased after the death of the last person died who had received the gift of healing by the laying on of an apostle's hands (1 Corinthians 12:9; Acts 8:18; Romans 1:11). Today, in the 21st century, no apostle is available for hand-laying, and consequently all miraculous healing by prayer ended near the end of the first century.
The right application of James 5:15 has to come from James 5:14: "Is any sick? Let him invite the congregation's elders, and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord." We would be misleading a sick man today if we call the elders of a congregation to come with oil to anoint the sick man and to pray, and to assure the sick man that "the prayer of faith will cure the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."
Thus the "prayer of faith" of James 5:15 had to do with the statement of James 5:14, and was true only in the first century when some elders had the hands of an apostle (Acts 8:18) laid upon a sick man. But certainly the next statement after James 5:15 was not limited to the first century, and, thank God, is still true today, as seen in James 5:16-18. Today, as "Elijah was a man whose nature was like ours," as his fervent praying achieved results without any anointing with oil, so Christians today and in all centuries are to pray fervently with the inspired assurance that "the prayer of the righteous has powerful results" (James 5:16).