James 5:13-20 … This passage ends the book of James. It’s an important passage on prayer, on faith, and on the ministry of elders in the church. It begins by encouraging us to respond to our emotions (James 5:13) and both responses (to suffering and to cheerfulness) recognize the influence of God in our lives, which is a good place to begin thinking about prayer.
James 5:14-15 will deal with prayer for sickness and the role of church elders in bringing prayer in the difficult circumstances of illness. Not many churches do this faithfully, but it is an essential ministry of church leaders.
In that context, confession is mentioned in another way seldom practiced in our churches (5:16), confessing our sins one to another and praying one for another. Speaking frankly, I think one of the reasons for so little confession and mutual prayer is the lack of individual fellowship and close personal friendships within the church. That’s why small groups are important and why gathering together with others of like precious faith is important to spiritual growth. We should do more of it!
The striking conclusion should not be lost on us either (James 5:19-20). Believers gathering together for mutual strengthening is vital. It’s the meaning behind the Old Testament expression “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) and the even stronger Old Testament admonition to Ezekiel on accountability in handling God’s Word as a “watchman” (Ezekiel 3:17-21). The book of James is practical and encouraging. There’s much we can put to practice from this great book of the New Testament.
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