Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.James 5:13-16
Seeing people miraculously healed was not a “charismatic” thing for the early church. It was simply a part of what it meant to be a normal Christian. It was one of the fundamental basics of what it meant to follow Jesus. It’s strange that today it is seen as something “extreme” or “strange.” Praying with faith to see the sick person get well is Christianity 101. We should expect to see people get healed in our churches, and we should expect to see it regularly. If it’s not happening, it is an indication that something is wrong with our theology, our faith, or our church culture.
James also indicates the importance of the confession and forgiveness of sin. James helps us understand that unrepented sin can be a hindrance to physical healing. It becomes an area of our lives that is unyielded to the Spirit which can dam up the flow of the Spirit and the gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9).
We also learn from this passage of scripture that living a righteous life is important in becoming a conduit of healing. James says that the prayer of a “righteous person” is powerful and effective. Yet, while many of us long to have prayers that are powerful and effective, many of us don’t want to examine whether we are living a righteous life.
The righteousness that James is talking about here is not the imputed righteousness that we received from Jesus at salvation. In one sense, all Christians have been made perfectly righteous because of Jesus. Our own good works could not save us. Only the righteousness of Jesus that was given to us could save us. We are clothed in His righteousness. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “…you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Romans 5:19 says, “…through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
But this isn’t the righteousness that James is talking about in this passage. It wouldn’t make any sense if it was. If James was talking about the imputed righteousness of Jesus, then all prayers from all Christians would be equally powerful and effective. If that was true, there would be no point in saying “the prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.”
No, what James is talking about is our response to being made righteous. He’s talking about the person who is actually living out righteousness in their lives. James is talking about the person who actually lives out their new identity as new creations in Christ. We must put on the new self and leave the old self behind. Ephesians 4:24 says, “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
When we live the righteous life, when we choose holiness over sin, when we live out what Jesus made true about us, our prayers gain power and effectiveness. We become a conduit of the Spirit’s power and grace. Just as some conduits have less blockages, less rust, less things in the way that dampen the flow of water or electricity, so too a righteous life clears away things that would otherwise block the flow of the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Righteous living comes from ongoing and increasing intimacy with the Lord. That intimacy creates and establishes a trust between us and the Lord. He’s able to trust us with more (more power, more gifts, more healings, more miracles, more revelation, etc.), and we’re able to better hear His voice and yield to His direction. This is another reason the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. There is a closeness between that person and the Lord, a trust that’s been built over time.
If we want to see more healings in our churches, we need to become the kind of people who can be trusted with more. We need to become the kind of conduits that allow the increasing flow of the Spirit without the dampening effect of sin. We need to become the righteous people who have powerful and effective prayers.