Good Friday 19 April

 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

There is a danger in translating the first part of this verse. Most translations, like the NRSV, avoid the danger, others like the Good News Translation do not. The translators of the Good News New Testament chose to translate the first part of James 5:15 to read:

This prayer made in faith will heal the sick

The danger is obvious. If I am not healed, did I not pray enough? Was my prayer the wrong kind of prayer? Did I fail to have adequate faith to make my prayer effective?

Guilt and blame haunt the GNT translation. Many people claim to have lost their faith because they prayed and the person for whom they prayed died anyway. How do you continue to trust a God who promises healing in response to prayer and then fails to deliver?

This trap can easily be avoided. The word translated in the GNT as healed is the Greek word sozo. It can mean “healed” and at times in the New Testament the context makes clear that sozo needs to be translated as “healed.” But there are other equally good alternatives. Translators could use “saved” as in the NRSV. But, perhaps even more helpful if a little cumbersome, sozo could be translated as “made whole.”

This translation is supported by the next clause in which James asserts that, not only will the prayer of faith make the sick person “whole,” it will also be the means by which “the Lord will raise them up.” To be “raised up” is actually to be “awakened from sleep,” or “to be born.”

When prayer is prayed in faith, truth is revealed, eyes are opened, wholeness is born. The body may still be ravaged by illness, but the prayer of faith brings new light and inner life to the sufferer and the community of faith. That is what prayer does.

In Luke 11:13, Jesus says,

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

To know the presence of the Spirit in my life is to receive true healing. When I am conscious of the presence of love, I am made well.