5:13-18 In all circumstances, good or bad, we are to pray for self and one another because nothing happens without God allowing it to happen.
1) Suffering (hurting) – pray for yourself
2) Cheerful (feeling great) – pray and sing praises
3) Sick – ask others to pray for you (especially elders/leaders of Church)
4) Persistent – Elijah prayed for rain for 3 ½ years
5:15 I love this King James Version which is what I memorized as a youth, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person availeth much" KJV
This verse makes it seem like if we pray with enough faith, our bodies can be healed, but a closer look at the ESV version indicates that it "saves" and "the Lord will raise you up." Just because I believe will all my heart does not mean God's answer will be "yes." The promise of God is to save and raise me up to live eternally with Him. Of course, He can also save me from my ailments and heal me! However, God does the saving and healing, my faith does not. In addition, he raised up Lazarus from death! Just trust in Him to know what is best. Not only that, but my sins will be forgiven! Sometimes sickness is a punishment for sin and, therefore, physical healing and forgiveness go hand in hand. Still yet, there is power in fervent, serious, and persistent prayer of the righteous person. A righteous person is one that has faith because it is the gift of faith that justifies me as righteous.
What stands out to me in verse 16 is that we are to confess our sins to one another. It is so easy to confess to God in prayer in your thoughts who we know forgives instantly, but it is much harder to speak out loud to someone else and tell them how you have sinned. This is not merely apologizing, but actually stating sins. It does not use the word "against" as in only confessing to the person you sinned against. What a beautiful picture of fellowship among this community of believers. Some aspects of fellowship in these verses are listening to each other's confessions, singing praises together, and praying for each other. We need each other.
I should remember that even though I hear no answer to a prayer, which actually is an answer of "wait," that God wants to hear my prayers and does listen. A "wait" does not mean "quit praying." I should see a "wait" answer as permission to keep on praying with persistence. Maybe God is testing me.
5:19-20 James summarizes his entire letter by telling us we are to help each other remain faithful to God. This is another beautiful picture of fellowship among believers. We all need Christian friends we trust to let us know when we are wandering from the truth (right living) and what the Bible tells us. These verses seem to indicate helping someone who has really wandered far, far enough to have lost his soul. What a good feeling it would be for me to have helped someone totally lost find their way back to Jesus.
Note: Christians disagree as to whether one can lose their faith or not. I have personally seen it happen.