Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
James begins the final section of his letter with an emphasis on prayer. The greatest thing a believer can do for another person is to enter into prayer on their behalf. Prayer helps bring the power and resources of God, into the lives of those we pray for and on any problem we bring before the Lord. And for believers undergoing persecution and trials it’s especially important, because it allows us to participate in the kingdom of God on behalf of others. James is going to speak about suffering both through trials and persecution, as well as in sickness. In addition, the sickness spoken of in this passage can either be physical such as disease or illness, or from exhaustion as a result of the prolonged exposure to a severe trial.
In all these circumstances prayer is especially important. And for those going through trials our encouragement, support and understanding can help fellow believers bear up and make it through the trial at hand. Here in these passages, James is speaking of anointing as it relates to encouraging others. Lifting them up in both spirit and in prayer as well as the medicinal healing aspects of anointing. Given the context of the passage James is most likely thinking of the dressing and cleaning of wounds inflicted as a result of the physical persecution. Therefore, it’s important to understand that James is not speaking here about ceremonial anointing as we would see on some occasions. But instead James is speaking to a more practical purpose of supporting and encouraging others as they go through trials. Coming alongside those who are suffering and assisting them in any way possible and to do so through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.