James is not an easy letter to read. The Apostle has our number. He corrects, rebukes, and admonishes his readers by naming specifically some our favored sins. And yet there is also deep encouragement in the letter that we must not fail to learn from. The closing section is one example of this encouragement. And like the rest of the letter, James’ method is practical and specific. As if to match the seven calls to patience in verses 7-12, there are seven calls to prayer in verses 13-18. In those situations which call for patient endurance, the way forward is, at least in part, the way of prayer.
Patient endurance also calls for the help of the body of Christ; the church. James places a remarkably high value on the ministry of elders. In this section he highlights their ministry of prayer. Indeed, so important is prayer to the work of the elder that the office of deacon was established specifically for the purpose of ensuring that the apostles – and the elders after them – would “devote” themselves to prayer and the ministry of God’s Word (Acts 6:4).
All of this is connected to how we care for one another in the church. And let’s face it. Life in a fallen world requires care. It requires that, if we are to continue to walk faithfully after Jesus, we will need the ministry given uniquely to the church of Jesus Christ. This care involves such ordinary acts as the sick calling upon the elders for prayer, the elders carefully fulfilling their calling, and the church dutifully restoring those who wander.