The Book of James deals with genuineness in the Christian life. In his final instructions, James addresses three groups of people: the persecuted, the happy, and the sick (James 5:13-20).
The word translated “afflicted” refers to the hardship of persecution (v. 13). The apostle instructs the persecuted to pray. There is no promise that the suffering will stop, but as a saint prays, the persecuted receives new strength from the Lord to endure the hardship faithfully.
To those who are “happy,” James says they should “sing psalms of praise.” Notice that psalms are not “blue-bird-on-my-shoulder” songs, but songs about the faithfulness of God.
The word translated “sick” does not refer to colds or the flu, but to a disabling illness. Notice that it is the sick person’s responsibility to call the elders! The elders do not possess the gift of mental telepathy; they cannot read our minds! A literal translation of verse 14 is important: “having anointed him with oil, let them pray over him.” There are two different words often translated “anoint.” In this verse, the word refers to applying medicine. Taking one’s medicine precedes time spent in prayer! The results of healing are then left in the Lord’s hand.
Notice that healing in this passage is more than physical. It includes spiritual and psychological healing as well. Often there is a direct relationship between personal sins and physical diseases, e.g. smoking and lung cancer. The prayer of faith first of all cleanses one from sin within before healing.
James gives four principles for healing. First, confession of sin is healthy—do it. Only full confession can lead to full restoration. Second, praying for others is essential—practice it. Third, medical assistance is imperative—obey it. Fourth, when healing comes, praise God for it.