Mother Elisabeth Sinclair
Oct 13, 2021
Are any among you suffering?
They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. ...
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. ~ James 5:13-16
Right before my husband and I left for a long-planned vacation a few weeks ago, I promised during a worship service that I would write an article addressing the passage above from the Letter of James. I had no idea at that time that Bryan and I would contract COVID-19 during our travels. We had both been double-vaccinated, and our travel group had all tested negative just prior to our trip. The country of Ireland has done an excellent job of making vaccines available to the general population, they require vaccination cards and masks for anyone to enter restaurants, etc., and we hand-sanitized frequently. So, the situation seemed relatively safe. Nonetheless, we got sick.
Sickness, suffering, and death are painful realities of human life. But the above section from Letter of James makes it sound like all we have to do is pray in faith, and possibly be anointed with healing oil, and we can be delivered from our troubles. As a hospital and hospice chaplain who has prayed with and anointed many sick and suffering people, I know firsthand that this is not universally true. So, what can James mean?
I wonder if he is pointing us to the healing power of a community’s love and intercession. Notice that James is concerned with more than physical restoration. He links the community’s prayers and a person’s confession to their forgiveness from sin, which appears to be at least as important as their deliverance from illness. Many of us like to keep our sufferings private. But James makes a case for sharing our burdens with each other and allowing each other to participate in our whole-person healing.
Hospital chaplains learn in our training that healing often refers to the intangible miracles of forgiveness, restitution, and peace, all of which contribute to physical restoration—in this life or the next.
If you are sick or suffering, can you let the community of Christ Church partner with Christ to raise you up? Bryan and I are grateful for the ways you are doing this for us as we recover. You are the ministering hands and feet of Christ to us. We pray to be the same for you.