(Vs. 13.) "Is any among you afflicted?" The people of God generally are poor and afflicted. Those whom the Lord loves, as he loved Lazarus, are not free from sickness, sorrow and trials (John 16:33; Heb. 12:5-8). Times of affliction and trial are times to pray (2 Cor. 12:7-10), not to murmur or despair. Let us then pray for patience, wisdom and deliverance (James 1:5, 6).
"Is any merry? Let him sing psalms." As afflictions ought to stimulate us to pray, prosperity and blessings ought to lead us to praise God. Let us be thankful to God for his many mercies, temporal and spiritual. Such is the perverseness of men that times of blessings and prosperity find them forgetting him who is the source of all blessings (James 1:17).
(Vs. 14.) "Is any sick among you?" The bodies of believers (is well as others) are liable to a variety of diseases (Phil.2:25-27; 2 Tim. 4:20). "Let him call for the elders of the church." This may mean those who hold that office by the authority of the church, or the older men of the church, sound in faith, men of gravity and long experience. "And let them pray over him." Let them pray for his comfort, his recovery and the grace of God to strengthen him in his need. "Anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." Some suggest that this means to use ordinary medicine, as well as prayer. Some suggest that this ought not to be done today because the extraordinary gift of healing in the church has ceased (Mark 6:13). Others say that the oil is symbolic of the Spirit of God and should be applied as this scripture commands. Whether we anoint with oil or whether we pray for them without the anointing, let all be done in the name of, for the glory of, and according to the will of our Lord Jesus (John 14:13, 14; Heb.4:16; 1 John 5:14, 15).
(Vs.15.) James emphasizes the importance of faith in praying. He calls it the "prayer of faith", faith on the part of the elders and on the part of the sick brother. When we doubt God, we close the door of prayer (Heb. 11:6; James 1:6, 7; Matt. 21:22). We cannot say that God will heal everyone for whom we pray. It may be his will for that one to die or to bear an affection longer, for his good and God"s glory, but we can certainly say faithless prayer will not be heard or answered. "If he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." No man lives without sin; but the sense is that if this brother has been guilty of offences which God has taken particular notice of, and on account of which he has brought him down, in order that he might acknowledge them and repent, God will heal him and forgive him (Ps. 51:3, 4, 7-11).
(Vs. 16.) It is not profitable to us, nor to anyone else for us to name, number and confess all our sins to one another. Only the Lord is to hear our confessions, and only before him are we to expose our hearts. But we are to acknowledge together (mutually confess) that we are sinners, that we are not without fault or the potential to commit sin. When we have openly offended a brother, confession and repentance are in order, that we may be reconciled. Pray one for another that we may be healed, not just in body but in Spirit, fellowship and attitude.
"The effectual, retreat prayer." That is, the prayer that is put up with power, energy and life, that is truly from the heart, put forth with ardour and importunity, from a man who by faith is justified and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, avails much. God hears not cold, formal prayers from profane and false professors.
(Vs. 17, 18.) Elijah was truly a human being, born in sin, by nature no better than others, subject to like passions (both in soul and body) as we are. He was not free from sinful passions, such as impatience, fear and unbelief. Yet he prayed to God in earnestness, with his understanding; heart and spirit engaged therein, that it might not rain; and he was heard. He was also heard three years later when he prayed for rain. The point is that we are not to imagine that Elijah was heard by God because of his own merit or goodness, but because of the grace of God and the merit of Christ. We must not imagine that men like Elijah and Moses were half-gods or that they had a peculiar, personal line to God; they were men like you and me, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
(Vs. 19, 20.) "Brethren, if any one among you strays from the truth of Christ and falls into error, and another believer (by prayer, teaching and solemn warning) is the means the Holy Spirit uses to bring the fallen one back to God, let that faithful witness understand that when he preaches, teaches and faithfully witnesses to sinners, he will be the means of turning them from eternal death and procuring the pardon of all their sins" (1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 10:13-15).