James 5:13-20 Pray, Praise, And Speak The Truth.
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (v. 13 Cf. Ps. 50:15). Sweet words to live by. James just lays out matter-of-factly that if we are suffering we can pray with the faith to believe that God will help us. Perhaps some may think that this is the only time to direct our thoughts to God. But James also writes that if anyone is cheerful, “let him sing psalms” (v. 13b). Of course, we know that the words ‘psalms’ was also used to refer to “hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). When two or three agree on a matter, such as the church’s elders praying and anointing the sick with with oil, “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (vv. 14-15a). James does not say that all sickness is as a result of some sin, but he does say “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (v. 15b).
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (v. 16a). Roman Catholics take these words for support for the confessional. Still other evangelicals take this to mean barring all before one’s fellow believers. It is likely that it refers to neither. Rather, it would appear to be James telling the saints to go to a brother or sister who has wronged us or who we have wronged, and as Jesus instructed jus, first attempt to resolve the matter one on one, with forgiveness (Cf. Mt. 18:15-20). This is one example of where “the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (v. 16). James notes the example of Elijah, “a man with a nature like ours,” that is, frail and sinful in need of the Saviour. So a righteous man like Elijah does not imply sinless, but one redeemed (v. 17 Cf. I Kgs. 17:1; 18:1, 42; Acts 14:15).
We ought to be engaged in turning anyone we know in the faith back to the truth if they should wander off (v. 19 Cf. Gal. 6:1). In fact, James makes the point that we should encourage those who do so, letting them know that in doing so they are “saving a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (v. 20 Cf. Ps. 32:1; 85:2). Of course, it is never man who saves, but God uses people to speak the word to others that they might be saved (Cf. Rom. 11:14). The word declares that there is forgiveness of sins in the Lord Jesus Christ, and when one walks with Him there continues to be forgiveness, and ultimately less sins to be forgiven, as the Spirit enables us to be doers of the word and not hearers only (Cf. I Pet. 4:8). “The care of the souls of the community is a matter of concern for every member” (NGSB. P. 1966).