Art Toombs Ministries 

Online Bible Commentary

Effective and Powerful Prayer
James 5:13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 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. 15 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. 16 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. 17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (NKJV)


This passage concludes the book of James. It has been referred to as the prayer of faith. James began this writing with a prayer of faith (1:5-8) and concludes it in the same manner. 

James uses a series of questions to encourage his readers to pray (vv. 13-14a). He was writing to Jewish Christians, both in Israel and dispersed to other lands. His words are to all Christians of today. He calls for us to pray when “in trouble”, and to “sing songs” praising God. 

James also encourages us to call elders to pray over us and anoint us with oil when we are sick (v. 14b). Olive oil was considered curative at the time, but the real cure was in prayer. Christ is the Divine Healer, the Great Physician. 

Prayer will heal the sick, and “will raise them up”, allow them to return to their work (v. 15). “If they have sinned”, if the sickness was a result of sin, “they will be forgiven”, prayer will also heal them spiritually (v. 16a). That is because “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (v. 16b). This is a reference to the elders, as being righteous. This does not mean that only elders are righteous, but refers to any righteous person. 

James then gives us an example of the prayer of a righteous person, Elijah. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are”, (v. 17a). He was a prophet, a man used by God. He was righteous. We do not need to be prophets. We only need to be right with God to be righteous. 

Elijah’s prayers regarding rain were granted by God (vv. 17b-18). They were effective and powerful.  They were the prayers of a righteous person. Righteous people are not perfect. They are human beings, like Elijah, so they are flawed. However, they have a heart for God and a desire to always please Him. 

James concludes this writing with a call to pray for anyone who has wandered “from the truth”, which he refers to as “a sinner” (vv. 19-20a). This is a reference to a Christian who is not living according to the teachings of the Bible. It is a call to pray for this person to return to the faith. 

Prayers of the righteous will “cover over a multitude of sins” (v. 20b). When the wandering Christian repents and is forgiven his sins will be forgiven and forgotten, not only by God but also by his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 

So, we are called to pray for ourselves, and for others. Praying for others is called intercessory prayer. It should be part of our daily prayer regime. If we are in right relationship with God, our fervent prayers will be effective, and powerful. 

Our prayers can restore our loved ones to a right relationship with God. That is His desire for all of us, so it is a prayer that He will answer. Ours is only to be faithful, to pray. 

I pray daily for the physical and spiritual healing of myself and my loved ones, and I urge you to do the same. Prayer is effective and powerful, when it comes from a righteous person.