Jas 5:14-16 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (15) And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
In looking at this passage, there are basically two ways you can look at this. Well, three if you simply want to say that both options are under consideration. The first is to think of this as a physical healing and from a physical sickness. The second is a spiritual healing from a spiritual sickness. It obvious that we are to pray for the sick and we know that God does intervene from time to time (In His time) to heal people in ways that we are amazed at.
We know even in the Scriptures that sickness is not always taken away. Paul suffered the thorn in the flesh and God did not heal him. Paul had faith. One of the things about Biblical interpretation is that the easiest answer is most likely the right one. Unless the context clearly says it is spiritual or physical we are left drawing conclusions from what is said.
There are some difficulties either way. Still, I will suggest that this is a spiritual illness and what may be most likely under consideration is some of the ‘illnesses’ that James has been rebuking them for. One cannot assume that the whole church was the way James was describing it but certainly enough of them were that James wanted to put a stop to it. What would/should a person do who sees himself in the descriptions that James is bring out? This is scripture from an inspired man, a leader and elder at Jerusalem. As the audience listens to it, some of them (the humble ones) would be thinking “Ouch, you are stepping on my toes. I need to fix that.” Some might even be having a David moment: “Thou are the man” and responding “I have sinned”. Such humbleness would lead to many actions of repentance but one would certainly be the confessing of that sin.
Who better to confess it to than the Elders. Spiritually mature men who can help others (Gal 6:1-2) and asking for them to pray for their infirmities of the soul.
Think for a moment! If you begin to realize you are greedy and covetous, or envious and boastful, do you think such a flaw in character can or will disappear in a night and a day? Each person is different. Even Abraham told the same lie about Sarah on two different occasions and Isaac did the same thing with Rebekah (but that was a full lie since she was not even a 1/2 sister). Common sense and our own experience recognizes that some sins keep coming back (or do we keep going back?) and one of the best ways I know of to remove the power of a temptation is to tell someone else you are suffering with that issue.
Pornography, sexual activities before marriage, adultery within marriage, covetousness, greed, jealousy, thoughts that make you ashamed, etc, etc. When another knows, there is help, there can be accountability but there can also be prayers that will help you fight and protect you against the temptations. The promise is that God will heal you, raise you up and that your sins will be forgiven you. The forgiveness of sins is of great comfort but the being healed of any of the maladies I mentioned in this paragraph or many that I did not mention, is a load of the mind and spirit. It will help you to be more productive in the Kingdom of God.