James 5:14-15 NIV

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.

Is it the prayer of faith or oil that makes the sick well in the above text?

  • Physical sickness requires physical treatment. See also Luke 10:34, with wine acting as disinfectant, and oil acting as balsam; or, within the same text, James 2:15-17.
    – Lucian
    Mar 7, 2020 at 7:05

3 Answers 3


What James does not say is, "Are any of you sick? Pray a prayer of faith and you will be healed".

Nor does he say, "Are any of you sick? Let them call for the elders and they will pray a prayer of faith and you will be healed".

The Rx that Dr. James prescribes is this:

[Jas 5:14-16 NLT] (14) Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. (15) Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. (16) Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

  • call for the elders
  • they will invoke the name of the Lord while rubbing oil on you
  • they will pray over you
  • that kind of prayer/ritual will result in your healing

James invokes the example of Elijah, suggesting it might take earnestness and persistence in prayer:

[1Ki 18:41-45 NLT] (41) Then Elijah said to Ahab, "Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!" (42) So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. (43) Then he said to his servant, "Go and look out toward the sea." The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, "I didn't see anything." Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. (44) Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, "I saw a little cloud about the size of a man's hand rising from the sea." Then Elijah shouted, "Hurry to Ahab and tell him, 'Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don't hurry, the rain will stop you!'" (45) And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel.

In the ministry of Jesus, he healed those who approached him for healing in the manner described in the prophet Malachi, which was to touch the hem of his garment:

[Mal 4:2 NLT] (2) "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings [IE: the fringes of his garment]. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

[Mat 14:36 NKJV] (36) and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.

[Mar 6:56 NKJV] (56) Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.

Does Mark 5:27-28 contain an allusion to Malachi 4:2?

So to obtain the healing prescribed by James one must comply with the ritual outlined. Faith, per James, is demonstrated in obedience:

[2Ki 5:1-19 NLT] (1) The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the LORD had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy. (2) At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman's wife as a maid. (3) One day the girl said to her mistress, "I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy." (4) So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. (5) "Go and visit the prophet," the king of Aram told him. "I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel." So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing. (6) The letter to the king of Israel said: "With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy." (7) When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, "This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he's just trying to pick a fight with me." (8) But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: "Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel." (9) So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha's house. (10) But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: "Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy." (11) But Naaman became angry and stalked away. "I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!" he said. "I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! (12) Aren't the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn't I wash in them and be healed?" So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. (13) But his officers tried to reason with him and said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn't you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, 'Go and wash and be cured!'" (14) So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child's, and he was healed! (15) Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant." (16) But Elisha replied, "As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts." And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused. (17) Then Naaman said, "All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the LORD. (18) However, may the LORD pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the LORD pardon me when I bow, too." (19) "Go in peace," Elisha said. So Naaman started home again.

So is there any significance in the anointing with oil? The oil being prescribed, I believe, is the balm of Gilead:


[Jer 8:21-22 NASB] (21) For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. (22) Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?

Modern science confirms that the balm of Gilead has bone fide healing properties:

Chios mastic gum (Pistacia lentiscus var. Chia, Anacardiaceae): A review:


Chios mastic's beneficial properties have been demonstrated in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, wound healing, skin inflammations, plasma lipid and blood sugar reduction and oral care. These properties are attributed to triterpenes and volatile compounds. However, because of the resin's chemical complexity and the lack of commercial standards for its main compounds, there is a notable gap in literature concerning the biological evaluation of CMG's isolated components. Therefore, future research should focus on the development of efficient extraction, isolation and analysis techniques in order to unravel CMG's full pharmacological potential.


So to answer the question, the prayer of faith involves obedience by both the petitioner and the elders to the details of James' words.

  • Personal note: Don't try this at home as it doesn't work, at least not in this age. Prayer, obedience, faith, clothing, oil... no one gets healed.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 5, 2020 at 2:55

It's neither the oil itself nor merely praying over the person, but observing an ordinance ordained by Christ entire wherein the efficacy is, otherwise either would have been prescribed on its own, and the other superfluous.

For example, will pouring water over someone (or having them immerse themselves in water) and invoking the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost cause one to be reborn alone? As though "baptism saves you ... by the removal of dirt from the flesh" and not rather because it is "the appeal for a good conscience before God," and has efficacy "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" for which faith is also a necessary element? (1 Pet. 3:21).

Thus all sacraments - Orders (a.k.a. laying on of hands), Marriage, Eucharist, etc. all have material elements, inasmuch as humans are body and soul composite (and not as Gnostics believed, a soul 'trapped' in a body), but materials are only used insofar as they concord with the spiritual effect of the sacrament - and do not themselves achieve the spiritual aspect.

So, for example, in Matrimony, a couple join themselves physically by a solemn vow and public witness, the exchanging of a ring, and a celebration, but this all outwardly declares the inward truth - that "God has joined" them, and not merely themselves (which is why it's not permissible to break this bond - "what God has joined, let no one put asunder").

So here, the oil symbolizes bodily ointment (but cannot heal every sickness), but accompanies the more important work of salvation - the forgiveness of sins, if he have any on his soul (5:15). Which is why the presbyter and not any person is called (since they alone have been given the authority to forgive and retain sins, according to the unanimous interpretation of East and West, Latin and Greek, before recently).


You're missing a key point between “Prayer of Faith” and “oil”. Please notice “elders of the church”

The question, “Prayer of faith or oil that heals the sick”; is like trying to jump from one mountain peek to the next. However it requires the hills and valleys to wend one's way through this great and precious promise.

Notice: elders of the church—prayer of faith —oil

Let’s break it down.

If one excepts this definition of Faith; Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see.

Then what we have is that the “true” elders of the church, are able to pray in such away of being sure of what they hope for and certain of what they cannot see.

This being said, the quality of the elders are apart of the equation. You may not want to go to just elders that are appointed but don’t match the biblical requirements of an elder because the chances are they are not sure or know what to hope for nor are they certain of what they cannot see. Therefore when those “fake” elders pray there is no prayer of faith and the oil is insignificant.

In this scripture the elder is a key part of this manifestation of healing. Particular words of faith made into a prayer is not what heals the sick. The spiritual depth of the man matters.

You need a God approved elders to pray. He directs us in scripture on the type of person he approves. The problem that we face is that we call many elders or appoint them as elders but they fail the biblical explanation of what an elder is or who can be an elder. Fake elders. So if you gather these “fakes” around you and they pray nonsense, and God does not consider them elders, then although the scripture is correct the manifestation of healing you're looking for in James 5 does not happen. Although there are other ways for the manifestation of healing to happen.

It may also be important to note that the Scripture says to call for the elders not to call for a elder. Then it goes on to say let them pray over him. But the astute reader will see that although there is more than one elder and more than one prayer that it is the prayer of faith that saves the sick.

In regards to oil. Simply because it would take much to write on the subject of oil.- oil is an outward sign of what takes place inside and represents the work of the holiness of Christ. Perhaps oversimplified it is the, “amen”.

So the question, “Prayer of faith or oil that heals the sick”; is like trying to jump from one mountain peek to the next. However it requires the hills and valleys to wend one's way through this great and precious promise.

In closing it would be prudent of the one who is sick to: Understand Gods heart and requirements for one that is called an elder. Then ask God to point out; however unlikely the individuals may be; ones He would consider as elders amongst them. Go to them and ask for them to pray and to anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.