The below information is provided as a proposal to churches looking for a protocol for praying over the sick. Christian Churches are hereby granted permission to use this outline, or adapt it to meet their congregational needs.
By Elder Jack Wellman
Is any sick among you? 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 sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James 5:14, 15).
“Let Him Call for the Elders of the Church”
The one who is sick initiates the call for anointing. The elder or church member does not coerce, require, or make compulsory the anointing. It can be suggested but the person must make the request themselves as James says, “Let him (or her) call for the elders of the church” The sick person takes the initiative, indicating faith. He or she calls for the “elders,” not special healers, nor does he go to healing campaigns, nor does he or she give themselves up to any auto-suggestive therapeutic influence, nor does he express belief in holy waters and bones and relics. They call for the elders of their own church who are representative of the universal Church of which Christ is the head.
These two verses should be seen in the contextual framework where they have been placed by their author in order to feel their own atmosphere. Before the anointing with oil, a reading of this scripture validates to those who are present, the church elders, and the one being anointed, that they are following biblical principles and guidance. Elders can include deacons, deaconesses, elders, priests, pastors, or associate pastors.
“Let Them Pray a Prayer of Faith”
James states “let them pray” which means those who are also at the anointing can pray along with the church elder and they are to pray the “prayer of faith.”
James asks the question, “Is Any Among You Sick?” This is addressed strictly to believers. James says “among you.” This means that the elders are not to anoint a non-believer because they are not “among you” in the Body of Christ. “Sick” is a strong word with primary reference to bodily sickness. No doubt psychosomatic difficulty would be included, but physical infirmity is not excluded.
“Let Them Pray Over Him, Anointing Him with Oil”
The oil has traditionally been olive oil for its significance during Old and New Testament anointings. It is symbolic of the anointing of God and there is no special medicinal properties in the oil but there is significance in obedience to the use of the anointing by elders and the use of oil. The anointing was to come first, then the prayer. The sentence can be correctly read, “Let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil.”
The Significance of the Anointing with Oil
Some students claim that the Greek word James used was purely a secular term. However a study of its use in the Old Testament leads us to accept James’ use of it as having sacred and ceremonial significance. The Old Testament was translated from the ancient Hebrew into Greek by about 200 BC. We can see how the Jewish rabbis used it in the following passages in the biblical tradition:
Genesis 28:18, 19 with 31:13 – The Hebrew word for anoint is the one from which comes