“Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working” (James 5:16, ASV).
James begins by speaking to us of the prayers of the elders of the church; but here he addresses all believers in saying: “Pray one for another that ye may be healed.” Having already spoken of confession and pardon, he still adds: “Confess… your sins one for another.”
This shows us that the prayer of faith which asks for healing is not the prayer of one isolated believer, but that it ought to unite the members of the body of Christ in the communion of the Spirit. God certainly hears the prayer of each one of His children as soon as it is presented to Him with living faith, but the sick one does not always possess such faith as this. Therefore, that the Holy Spirit may come to act with power, there must generally be the union of several members of the body of Christ unitedly claiming His presence.
This dependence on our brethren should be exercised in two ways. First of all we must confess our faults to any whom we may have wronged, and receive pardon from them. But besides this, if one who is sick has been brought to see in such or such a sin which he has committed the cause of his sickness, and to recognize in it a chastening of God, he ought in such a case to acknowledge his sin before the elders or brethren in Christ who pray for him, and who are thus enabled to do so with more light and more faith. Such confession will be also a touchstone which tests the sincerity of his repentance, for it is easier to confess our sins to God than to man. Before he will do it, his humiliation must needs be real and his repentance sincere. The result will be a closer communion between the sick one and those who intercede for him, and their faith will be quickened anew.
“Pray one for another that ye may be healed.” Does not this clearly answer that which one so often hears said: What is the use in going to M. Zeller in Switzerland, Dr. Cullis in America, or to Bethshan in London? Does not the Lord hear prayer in whatsoever place it is offered? Yes; without any doubt wherever a prayer in living faith rises up to God, it finds Him ready to grant healing; but the Church has so neglected to believe in this truth that it is a rare thing in the present day to find Christians capable of praying in this manner. Thus we cannot be too grateful to the Lord that He has inspired certain believers with the desire to consecrate their lives, in part, to witness to the truth of divine healing. Their words and their faith awaken faith in the heart of many sick ones who, without their help, would never arrive at it. It is precisely these very people who always say to everybody, “The Lord is everywhere to be found.” Let Christians learn not to neglect the least part of the marvelous power of their God, and He will be able to manifest to all that He is always “the Lord that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26). Let us take heed to obey the Word of God, to confess one to another, and to pray one for another that we may be healed.
James notes here still another essential condition to successful prayer: it must be the prayer of the righteous. “The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.” The Scripture tells us that “he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He [(Jesus)] is righteous” (I John 3: 7). James himself was surnamed “The Just,” on account of his piety and the tenderness of his conscience. Whether an “elder” or a simple believer, it is only after one is wholly surrendered to God and living in obedience to His will that one can pray effectually for the brethren. John says as much: “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His Commandments, and do the things which are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:22). It is therefore the prayer of one who lives in intimate communion with God which “availeth much.” It is to such prayer that God will grant the answer, which He would not be able to give to such other of His children.
We often hear these words quoted: “The prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” but very rarely is it taken in connection with its context, or remembered that it is most especially divine healing which is in question here. Oh, may the Lord raise up in His Church many of these righteous men, animated with living faith, whom He can use to glorify Jesus as the divine Healer of the sick!