Prayers of Faith Part 1
Book of James • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 51:21
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Reading 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
We are coming to the end of James. We have two more weeks and we will cover the last section of James’ teaching. Throughout the book we have seen James focus on a couple themes. We have seen that he had been encouraging and correcting the Christian believers that have been dispersed due to the heavy persecution that has come to the church. People are attacking the church and the believers find themselves away from home, maybe in a foreign land or scattered in the pagan culture. His teaching has focused on enduring these trials, having a living and active faith, controlling their speech, and submitting to the will and plans of God. In the center of all of this is his teaching to humble themselves and submit to God and he will give grace.
7 Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
He comes to the end of the book with a very important aspect of the Christian believer’s life. This aspect is fundamental to living a life that is in line with his teachings to this point
This aspect is the aspect of prayer. In chapter one he teaches that if a believer is lacking wisdom, that they should ask.
5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.
But gives a condition.
6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
James will point the struggling believers to the power of prayer to help them with their current trials. Stand with me in honor of God’s word as we read James 5:13-20
13 Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. 17 Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit. 19 My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
These are the words of the Lord.
You may have noticed that James repeats the words “Is anyone among you?” Each time he does this he starts a new idea. Today we are going to look at the first couple of these and next time we will finish James with the last one.
Verses 13-18 are all about prayer. The word prayer is in every one of these verses and is the central idea of this section.
Before we dig into this there is a challenge that we need to bring up. Theologians and scholars have continued to disagree with the exact meanings of this section of scripture. There are many religions and sects that have used these verses to defend their beliefs without support from the rest of the bible. The Roman Catholic church have taken them to support extreme unction of anointing or the sick and dying. Faith healers have used them to convince people that if you just pray enough, if you just have enough faith, God will heal any sickness at your request.
My goal today is to go through these and teach what is does say, explain the differences in interpretation that people have, and for us to have confidence in the intent of the scriptures.
Let us begin in verse 13
Prayers of Individuals
Prayers of Individuals
13 Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.
James starts with these two book ends of life. suffering and being cheerful.
When we read this it is common for the reader to put themselves immediately into the text and then come to conclusions from that. This is the first argument that comes.
What suffering is James talking about?
The word used kakopatheia - Kakos “evil” - pathos “to suffer”
This same word was used in verse 5:10
10 Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience.
If you remember James was and has been speaking of the suffering that comes from dealing with people. This was tied long - anger, patience. So in context of chapter 5 which tells the believers that even though the rich are persecuting and abusing you , that you are to wait patiently during this time as you suffer these things. It is a strong argument that due to the common use of the word kakopathia in both sections that this is not referring to physical suffering from diseases and illness but from being abused by the persecutors.
Who is he writing too? he is speaking to the twelve tribes dispersed abroad. There are many that will focus on physical sickness and it cannot be definitively stated that he is not talking about physical suffering as these are connected many times. But the suffering that the church is experiencing is a spiritual attack with physical consequences.
But that isn’t the main point James is making in this verse. He is pointing the believer back to the source of power in dealing with life and that is prayer. If anyone among you is suffering. He should pray.
What a simple concept. but how often do we find ourselves wading into the deep end of the pool and almost drowning before we look to God. Before we see him and his comfort. Paul and Peter tells us this is our God
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. 8 Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.
Why does James point them to pray because it is what God has given us to deal with suffering to be healed from suffering. The verb pray is in the present tense which can be translated as “let him keep on praying”. How a believer overcomes the sufferings that are caused by people of this world is by continually praying to our God and Father. this is the key to dealing with this type of pain.
He then speaks of those that are cheerful should sing praises. The word for cheerful here is to have good spirited happiness. (on account of encouragement).
16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
There is a very close connection between singing praises to God and prayer. We sing to God in gratitude for the blessings that God has given us. Those blessings can be correction, teaching, or other encouragement that he has bestowed on us. Worship singing is not ment for God to give to us, it is for us to give to God. In praises and lament. on the peak and in the valley.
He continues into what is a single section all pointing back to the prayer for the sick.
14 Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.
Is anyone among you sick? This another word that lead people to different conclusions. The word here is asthereo and it can be translated as sick. Which it is multiple times in the Gospels and acts. In the writings of the epistles it is primarily used to refer to the results of suffering.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (CSB)
10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul uses this word in weakness and when he is weak. Paul refers to weakness as the result of things like insults, hardships, and difficulties as a result of following Christ. He says take pleasure and that he is strong when this weakness is happening.
It would appear that James is speaking of the same results of the trials that have come on the believers. This means it is likely that James is speaking of the emotional and spiritual weariness that the church was experiencing.
14 And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
As we move forward though this section we will be using this as the framework for the type of sickness that James is speaking of. These verses have been used by many to speak of physical healing and what I will say is yes all aspects of what James is speaking of does correlate with dealing with physical healing that is taught in other scriptures like
40 Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.
2 Kings 20:1–5 (CSB)
1 In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’ ” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly and have done what pleases you.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Isaiah had not yet gone out of the inner courtyard when the word of the Lord came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the Lord’s temple.
So be careful in using James to define all of what the bible teaches on prayer with relation to healing but that it teaches about prayer that the church needed at the time of his writing of the Epistle.
Prayers of Elders
Prayers of Elders
These people who are emotionally drained. They are emotionally weakened. They may be ready to just give up. They may be having thought like. “I can’t do this anymore”, “Is it ever going to get better”. Maybe they have lost their strength to believe that prayer is effective, that God is listening. These people are to call on the elders of the church. Those that are spiritually strong to help those that at this time are spiritually weakened by suffering.
14 Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
When we come to that point that we just need the support of the leaders that God has given to the church, we need to call on them and they are to come and pray over the sick over the weary and tired.
14 And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
The weak and discouraged should call and the elders should come along side them and intercede for them and encourage and support them in prayer. We see throughout scripture that God’s leaders prayed and interceded for the people in their care. We see them pray over the group of believers and over individuals. We see God’s work through those prayers.
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
The elders are to come and pray and anoint the person in oil. Here is another one of the tricky parts of this section. The first thing we must consider is the hierarchy of what is important here. The primary teaching here is that the elders are asked to come and pray for the weak and they do. The method is secondary but still recorded in scripture for us.
The second thing to consider is that not all anointing is equal. There are different words that are translated into anointing. There is a religious and sacred anointing that we see in the anointing of sacred objects. There is also a common and mundane one. The common and mundane anointing is used here. This is not some sacred religious act. In their time they would anoint their heads with oils for grooming, to give a guest with honor, corpses for burial.
There was a belief that some oils were medicinal and aided in healing. Sheep would have oil poured on them to kill bugs that were common back then. The oil here is a symbol and action of the prayer that is going on. The oil itself has no power as we see many prayers answered without oil but James teaches that this is what they were to do.
If I can ask, I am curious if anyone here has been anointed with oil before? I asked a pastor this week if they do this and the do anoint people in oil when praying over them in certain circumstances. That even though there is no power in the oil, following the example of this scripture is something their elders follow.
But, it is the prayer in the name of the Lord, that is the primary focus of the teaching here.
Their prayers will lead to the following
15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Once again the word sick is tricky. This is a different word than the last one that was used, however the only other place in the NT it is used it is translated grow weary.
Faith is necessary for these prayers to restore or to save and lift up the worn out individual. It isn’t long winded or elegant prayers that will restore, it is the prayers of faith that do the work. It isn’t the elder that raises the individual up from their current state it is the Lord and only the Lord.
Many times when a believer comes to this place of weakness sin is involved. Either sin has lead the person to despair and grief and needs to work through that or the trials of life have worn down the person and they have fallen into sin. As the elders come along side the individual to restore them back to spiritual health, confession and repentance of sin may be necessary.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
13 The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.
Many times we need people to walk with us when we are weak and tired. When we need to walk through those thing which we seem to be powerless to deal with ourselves. In the end it is the restoration of the person though the prayers of his people that James is speaking of.
This also points to the idea that James is not speaking of physical sickness which would lead people to believe that a prayer of an elder can heal any sickness out there and two that there is a direct correlation between sin and sickness. which is not taught in scripture. We know that at times God has brought disease and sickness to people for his purposes but it isn’t a direct relationship like they thought back in the day. If you sin you would be sick.
but this just isn’t the case. We must pray for the healing but we must be willing to accept what blessings He decides to give. Just like Paul who prayed for his afflictions they were not always healed. We are going to stop here for the day.
James has started his section on prayer with respect to persecution and he started with the prayers of individual and the church elders. Next week we will look at the prayers of the congregation and a final charge to the church.
When we look at these scriptures we seeing the words of God through a man who believed in prayer and the power of prayer. He was a doer of these words.
Prayer was a very central part of James’ walk with God. James was known and “James the Just” but he was also called something else.
Eusebuis the historian detailed the death of James he used the writings of Hegesippus which align with Clement and Josephus even though there were not as detailed.
You see James was also known as Old Camel Knees
6. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.
Historians record that he spent so much time on his knees praying that they had become calloused and hard like the knees of a camel. They also record that that at the end of his life he was asked to renounce his faith in Jesus and when he would not they threw him off of the pinnacle of the temple. When that did not kill him they started to stone him and he started to pray for the people stoning him until he was hit in the head with a club.
When persecution comes, when we are worn down, tired, ready to give up, when we are spiritually struggling we are to ask for help. As I have conferred with pastors it is not uncommon for the pastor to be one of the last to know when someone needed help. there are times in our lives that we need the strength and support of the strong. When our spirits are weak God can use the spiritually strong for support.
We have not experienced the persecution that the church in Jerusalem was going through. This has made the need for prayer to be diminished in the modern church. The lack of the church disciplining men and women to maturity as lead to a void of spiritually strong leaders for people to call on. What areas of prayer do each of us need to grow in.
Jesus is the best example, the perfect example, who continually sought out time and quite to pray and while dying on the cross he was in prayer. We see Stephen and we understand that James were both praying as they were being martyred. Spend some time in scripture this week seeking biblical council on prayer. Let us move to our knees in humble faith as we speak to God this week.
Let us pray.
I am going to ask the worship team to come up an play for a little while. I would ask that you spend some time reflecting on today's message. Write down your final thoughts, sit in prayer of worship and repentance, fill out a connection card if you would like to speak with me more.
Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.