READ: James 5:13-18
PERSONAL PRAYER: It is good to pray for one another but the first emphasis in this passage (v13) is that we pray for ourselves - and the significant thing is that the context for this personal praying is suffering. James is not trying to make us unhelpfully independent but suffering so often leads to complaining and prayer is by far and away the better solution. Let's begin by thanking God that prayer really is the solution. Let's praise Him that when we call on Him He answers.
LEADERSHIP PRAYER: If the first challenge James gives us is to pray for ourselves in the midst of suffering, then the second challenge is to call for the elders of the church to pray for us if we are sick (v14). Anointing with oil in the name of the Lord is an appropriate accompaniment to such prayer as it confirms the power of the Holy Spirit to move upon our lives when we are prayed for. Let's praise God for His outpoured Spirit and believe for even greater demonstrations of the Holy Spirit's power to accompany our prayers.
THE PRAYER OF FAITH: The effectiveness of the prayer of faith is spelled out uncompromisingly by James (v15). Let's ask the Lord to work in our lives so that our own praying will be marked by such uncompromising faith.
MUTUAL PRAYER: Having mentioned praying for ourselves and leadership prayer, James moves on to praying for each other (v16). It may seem strange that James should encourage such a high level of openness as to expect people to confess specific faults to one another but many commentators see this more as confession to those we have actually wronged. There is no doubt, though, that the Lord expects us to be open about our shortcomings in general. As we pray, if there are specific matters that we need to confess to others, let's do so in a right spirit.
FERVENT PRAYER: James uses Elijah as an illustration of a mighty prayer. The characteristics James highlights are Elijah's righteousness and his fervour (v16-18). Let's pray for these characteristics in our own lives.