Are we to understand from `James 5:14-16`, that it is possible for the “Elders of the Church,” at the present day, to heal the sick by prayer and anointing with oil?
<ANSWER>–The following is a more literal translation of the verses cited than that in the Authorized Version: “Is any weak among you (weak in the faith, morally and spiritually weak or ailing) 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 shall save the wearied one (weary in well doing; the one who is in a “backslidden” condition. The prayers and the words of exhortation and encouragement to righteousness on the part of the “elder” brothers in the church will have the effect of raising up, stimulating and reviving the spiritually weary and fainting one). And the Lord shall raise him up, and though he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him. Therefore confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Evidently the weakness and faintness are spiritual, and the restoration and healing also spiritual. There is no instance mentioned in the Scriptures of where the Apostles or their associates healed each other of their physical maladies or ailments. When Timothy was afflicted with indigestion, the elders were not called in to pray over him; but the Apostle counseled the use of a little wine for his infirmity. The Apostle Paul himself was afflicted with painfully weak eyes (a “thorn in the flesh”) and prayed for relief, but his prayer was not granted. From the foregoing, we conclude that Christians are nowhere authorized to practice “faith healing” amongst themselves.
Is it proper for Christians to pray for health?
<ANSWER>–A babe in Christ might pray for physical health in all good conscience and might be granted an answer as a reward for the faith and prayer. But an advanced Christian, who had proceeded from justification to sanctification–one who had consecrated life and health and all to God, and who, in return, had been begotten of the holy Spirit to a new nature–such a Christian should not pray for health. He should discern that his consecration includes his setting aside of all claim to earthly blessing, as an exchange for spiritual life, spiritual health, spiritual clothing, spiritual food, and by and by, in the resurrection–the spiritual body. His prayer should be, Thy will be done in me; give me today my daily portion, according to Thy Divine wisdom, of what would be for my best interests as a New Creature in Christ, a member of the Body of Christ, the Church of the First-born, whose names are written in heaven. He should remember the Lord’s words to the effect that after all these things–food and raiment–the Gentiles seek and are solicitous and inclined to pray; whereas those who have become New Creatures have higher interests and can fully trust the Lord to give what is best.
I have heard good devout Christian brethren praying to the Lord and pleading, during revival services, that sinners might be saved and that the sinners might not have rest day or night until they gave their hearts to the Lord. Also they prayed that God would stir up a great revival amongst the people and that sinners wold be saved from an awful hell. But I find that these brethren’s prayers have not been answered as only a few are converted and of these the most of them go back into the world again. Were these brethren praying right or wrong? You know it says, “Ask and I will give.” (G.C.)
<ANSWER>–The Lord Jesus and His Apostles never prayed for the conversion of sinners and they never authorized any one to do so. In that notable prayer of the Lord Jesus to the Heavenly Father as given in the `17th chapter of the Gospel of St. John`, the Lord said, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world (sinners), but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Here our Lord was praying for His Apostles, and in the `20th verse` of this chapter, He prayed for those who would believe on Him through their word, and ignored “sinners” completely. The reason why some good Christian brethren have not had their prayers answered is because they have asked amiss. (See `James 4:3`.)