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Usually, most of the attention in this section goes to the healing, and especially with anointing of the sick (v.
15), the true theme of the passage is prayer (v.
The entire section is caught up by issues involving prayer, as prayer is mentioned in every verse and to include the allusions, James mentions prayer 9 times in the 5 verses.
James addresses the prayer of the individual (v.
13), the prayer of the elders (vv.
14–15), the prayers of friends and companions for one another (v.
16), and finally the prayer of the righteous prophet Elijah (vv.
So although we will discuss healings and the anointing with oil, just know that it is not the focus, or even the theme of this passage and to spend too much time debating these things takes away from the emphasis on prayer as James under the influence of the Holy Spirit intended for this section.
The exhortation to prayer (5:13–16a)
James instructs his dispersed brothers to pray and he starts by answering a preliminary question, namely, ‘when should we pray?’
A. Seasons of prayer (5:13)
When ought we to pray?
The shortest answer is: “always pray!”
From our perspective, life consists of two things: the bad things and the good things.
James has a word of exhortation for us no matter what we might be experiencing.
When things are bad, he tells us to pray.
When things are good, he tells us to praise.
In other words: in times of trouble & in times of triumph.
There are many responses to suffering.
Some of us worry; some of us vow revenge against those who have caused the suffering; some of us let anger burn inside us.
Some constantly complain.
But James says the correct response to suffering is to keep on praying about it (see also Psalm 30; 50:15; 91:15).
This is not necessarily a prayer for deliverance from the trouble, but for the patience and strength to endure it.
James counsels prayer in adversity, and he links this prayer to joy in the face of adversity as well.
At times our refusal to embrace pain and loss is understandable, for it is often difficult to discern God’s grace.
In scenarios such as a death of a loved one, we need to be honest and admit that God’s ways are often hard for us to take.
Not all suffering is as difficult to bear as a death, but to find joy amid any adverse situation is foreign to our culture.
We inhabit a social and cultural world in which a great premium is placed on the elimination of discomfort.
For example, our television sets advertise comfort in everything from leather car upholstery to sofa-recliners to lower house payments to searching for a dentist; such commercials demonstrate that Americans have an appetite for the elimination of stress and pain.
If we are fortunate enough to be happy, we should thank God by singing praises to the Lord (see also 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
Because our praise is directed to God, singing is actually another form of prayer.
Alec Motyer writes,
Here, then, in two words, are all life’s experiences, and each of them in turn can so easily be the occasion of spiritual upset.
Trouble can give rise to an attitude of surly rebellion against God and the abandonment of spiritual practices.
Equally, times of ease and affluence beget complacency, laziness and the assumption that we are able of ourselves to cope with life, and God is forgotten.
We can put it like this: Christians should find themselves naturally gravitating towards God in every situation of life.
With that in place, James turns to …
B. Reasons for prayer (5:14–16a)
1. Prayer will raise up the sick.
James offers a specific request of the sick
When a believer contracts an illness, he or she must take the initiative and contact the leaders of the church.
I would like to differentiate now that James is not talking here about a common cold.
According to Curtis Vaughan, the Greek word translated ‘sick’ refers to a sickness that incapacitates a person for work.
The Puritan Thomas Manton says, ‘The elders must not be sent for upon every light occasion, as soon as the head or foot acheth … but in such grievous diseases wherein there is danger and great pain.’
We should also take note here that it is the elders (elder is plural here) the elders are the ones who exercise pastoral oversight and spiritual leadership within the church.
Many churches tend to invest pastoral things in one man, but the New Testament ideal is a plurality of elders (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:4, 6; 20:17; 21:18; Titus 1:5).
Back to our passage in verse 15
The elders are to respond to the request of the sick person in two ways.
First, they are to pray.
Second, they are to anoint the sick person with oil.
We understand the importance of prayer.
Healing comes only from God.
So we must go to the source of it if we would have it.
Richard Foster tells the story of his first experience with healing prayer.
It involved a man who had led a mission of thirty-three men in World War II.
They found themselves pinned down by enemy gunfire.
He prayed all night for deliverance, but instead all but six men were killed.
This experience left him a confirmed atheist.
But since that day he had not been able to sleep.
Foster asked if he could pray for the man, who agreed.
The prayer was for emotional healing and included, as an afterthought, the ability to sleep through the night.
The man returned a week later with this report: “Every night I have slept soundly, and each morning I have awakened with a hymn on my mind.
And I am happy … happy for the first time in twenty-eight years.”
This experience convinced Foster that the healing ministry of Jesus is intended for the whole person—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Many in the conservative camp are skeptical of healing prayers— and for good reason thanks to deceivers like Benny Hinn.
Healthy agnosticism prevents us from also being deceived by antichrists, who also work signs and wonders.
But James says we are to be about the task of praying for healing all while believing YHWH will answer.
And no matter how much we hate TV preachers who abuse prayers for healing, the fact is YHWH does have the ability as well as the will to heal others and we are called here to take part in the privilege of praying for healing.
but some get the extra special privilege of actually witnessing these prayer answered with healing
The anointing with oil is the other part— Are we to be anointing today?
Well… who here uses Essential Oils?
I can guarantee that James is not advertising for dōTERRA®!
Question: "What is biblical anointing?
What does it mean to be anointed?"
For all you Essential Oil fanatics, like my wife, the oil from Bible times was from olive trees—olive oil
Answer: The origin of anointing was from a practice of shepherds.
Lice and other insects would often get into the wool of sheep, and when they got near the sheep's head, they could burrow into the sheep's ears and kill the sheep.
So, ancient shepherds poured oil on the sheep's head.
This made the wool slippery, making it impossible for insects to get near the sheep's ears because the insects would slide off.
From this, anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment.
The two New Testament Greek words for “anoint” are chrio, which means “to smear or rub with oil” and, by implication, “to consecrate for office or religious service”; and also aleipho, which just simply means “to anoint.”
In the OT, people were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing or call on that person’s life (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 40:9; 2 Kings 9:6; Ecclesiastes 9:8) that was chrio.
A person was anointed for a special purpose—to be a king, to be a prophet, to be a builder, etc.
Are we then, as some scholars suggest, to understand the oil as a symbol or emblem of divine grace?
If so, James was telling the sick to ask for prayer and to trust the Lord.
What about for the sick?
Could we take this oil to be medicinal?
After all, in Jesus’ parable of The good Samaritan, we recall,
This unlikely hero treated the wounded man with oil and wine—the oil likely to sooth and the wine to sterilize.
If this is the correct understanding, James is telling sick people to ask for prayer and go to the doctor.
Or are we, as some suggest, to understand the oil as a symbol or emblem of divine grace?
If this is correct, James was telling the sick to ask for prayer and to trust the Lord.
It is probably safe to say, as Alec Motyer does, that the sick and the elders would likely have both the spiritual and the medicinal in mind as they went through this process.
I don’t believe there is prohibiting anointing a person with oil today AS LONG AS We ensure that the purpose of anointing agrees with biblical reasons AND anointing should never be thought or used as a magical God potion.
The oil itself does not have any power.
It is only YHWH who can anoint a person for a specific purpose.
If we use oil, it is only a symbol of what our Father has already ordained.
2. Prayer will restore the sinner (5:16a).
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