Faithlife Sermons

9-17-2017 Greasy Prayers James 5:13-18

James Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:35
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Introduction:
James 5:13–18 ESV
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 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. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
Usually, most of the attention in this section goes to the healing, and especially with anointing of the sick (v. 15), the true theme of the passage is prayer (v. 16). The entire section is caught up by issues involving prayer, as prayer is mentioned in every verse and to include the allusions, James mentions prayer 9 times in the 5 verses.
James addresses the prayer of the individual (v. 13), the prayer of the elders (vv. 14–15), the prayers of friends and companions for one another (v. 16), and finally the prayer of the righteous prophet Elijah (vv. 17–18). So although we will discuss healings and the anointing with oil, just know that it is not the focus, or even the theme of this passage and to spend too much time debating these things takes away from the emphasis on prayer as James under the influence of the Holy Spirit intended for this section.

I. The exhortation to prayer (5:13–16a)

James instructs his dispersed brothers to pray and he starts by answering a preliminary question, namely, ‘when should we pray?’

A. Seasons of prayer (5:13)

When ought we to pray?
James 5:13 ESV
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
The shortest answer is: “always pray!”
From our perspective, life consists of two things: the bad things and the good things. James has a word of exhortation for us no matter what we might be experiencing. When things are bad, he tells us to pray. When things are good, he tells us to praise. In other words: in times of trouble & in times of triumph.
There are many responses to suffering. Some of us worry; some of us vow revenge against those who have caused the suffering; some of us let anger burn inside us. Some constantly complain. But James says the correct response to suffering is to keep on praying about it (see also Psalm 30; 50:15; 91:15). This is not necessarily a prayer for deliverance from the trouble, but for the patience and strength to endure it.
James counsels prayer in adversity, and he links this prayer to joy in the face of adversity as well. At times our refusal to embrace pain and loss is understandable, for it is often difficult to discern God’s grace. In scenarios such as a death of a loved one, we need to be honest and admit that God’s ways are often hard for us to take.
Not all suffering is as difficult to bear as a death, but to find joy amid any adverse situation is foreign to our culture. We inhabit a social and cultural world in which a great premium is placed on the elimination of discomfort. For example, our television sets advertise comfort in everything from leather car upholstery to sofa-recliners to lower house payments to searching for a dentist; such commercials demonstrate that Americans have an appetite for the elimination of stress and pain.
If we are fortunate enough to be happy, we should thank God by singing praises to the Lord (see also 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Because our praise is directed to God, singing is actually another form of prayer.
Alec Motyer writes,
Here, then, in two words, are all life’s experiences, and each of them in turn can so easily be the occasion of spiritual upset. Trouble can give rise to an attitude of surly rebellion against God and the abandonment of spiritual practices. Equally, times of ease and affluence beget complacency, laziness and the assumption that we are able of ourselves to cope with life, and God is forgotten.
We can put it like this: Christians should find themselves naturally gravitating towards God in every situation of life.
With that in place, James turns to …

B. Reasons for prayer (5:14–16a)

1. Prayer will raise up the sick.

James 5:14 ESV
14 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.
James offers a specific request of the sick
When a believer contracts an illness, he or she must take the initiative and contact the leaders of the church.
I would like to differentiate now that James is not talking here about a common cold. According to Curtis Vaughan, the Greek word translated ‘sick’ refers to a sickness that incapacitates a person for work. The Puritan Thomas Manton says, ‘The elders must not be sent for upon every light occasion, as soon as the head or foot acheth … but in such grievous diseases wherein there is danger and great pain.’
We should also take note here that it is the elders (elder is plural here) the elders are the ones who exercise pastoral oversight and spiritual leadership within the church. Many churches tend to invest pastoral things in one man, but the New Testament ideal is a plurality of elders (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:4, 6; 20:17; 21:18; Titus 1:5).
Acts 11:30 ESV
30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
Acts 14:23 ESV
23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Acts 15:4 ESV
4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.
Acts 15:6 ESV
6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
Acts 20:17 ESV
17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.
Acts 21:18 ESV
18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
Titus 1:5 ESV
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—
Back to our passage in verse 15
James 5:15 ESV
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.
The elders are to respond to the request of the sick person in two ways. First, they are to pray. Second, they are to anoint the sick person with oil.
We understand the importance of prayer. Healing comes only from God. So we must go to the source of it if we would have it.
Richard Foster tells the story of his first experience with healing prayer. It involved a man who had led a mission of thirty-three men in World War II. They found themselves pinned down by enemy gunfire. He prayed all night for deliverance, but instead all but six men were killed. This experience left him a confirmed atheist. But since that day he had not been able to sleep. Foster asked if he could pray for the man, who agreed. The prayer was for emotional healing and included, as an afterthought, the ability to sleep through the night. The man returned a week later with this report: “Every night I have slept soundly, and each morning I have awakened with a hymn on my mind. And I am happy … happy for the first time in twenty-eight years.” This experience convinced Foster that the healing ministry of Jesus is intended for the whole person—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Many in the conservative camp are skeptical of healing prayers— and for good reason thanks to deceivers like Benny Hinn. Healthy agnosticism prevents us from also being deceived by antichrists, who also work signs and wonders. But James says we are to be about the task of praying for healing all while believing YHWH will answer. And no matter how much we hate TV preachers who abuse prayers for healing, the fact is YHWH does have the ability as well as the will to heal others and we are called here to take part in the privilege of praying for healing. but some get the extra special privilege of actually witnessing these prayer answered with healing
The anointing with oil is the other part— Are we to be anointing today? Well… who here uses Essential Oils? I can guarantee that James is not advertising for dōTERRA®!
Question: "What is biblical anointing? What does it mean to be anointed?" For all you Essential Oil fanatics, like my wife, the oil from Bible times was from olive trees—olive oil
Answer: The origin of anointing was from a practice of shepherds. Lice and other insects would often get into the wool of sheep, and when they got near the sheep's head, they could burrow into the sheep's ears and kill the sheep. So, ancient shepherds poured oil on the sheep's head. This made the wool slippery, making it impossible for insects to get near the sheep's ears because the insects would slide off. From this, anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment.
The two New Testament Greek words for “anoint” are chrio, which means “to smear or rub with oil” and, by implication, “to consecrate for office or religious service”; and also aleipho, which just simply means “to anoint.” In the OT, people were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing or call on that person’s life (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 40:9; 2 Kings 9:6; Ecclesiastes 9:8) that was chrio. A person was anointed for a special purpose—to be a king, to be a prophet, to be a builder, etc.
Are we then, as some scholars suggest, to understand the oil as a symbol or emblem of divine grace? If so, James was telling the sick to ask for prayer and to trust the Lord.
What about for the sick? Could we take this oil to be medicinal? After all, in Jesus’ parable of The good Samaritan, we recall,
Luke 10:34 ESV
34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
This unlikely hero treated the wounded man with oil and wine—the oil likely to sooth and the wine to sterilize. If this is the correct understanding, James is telling sick people to ask for prayer and go to the doctor.
Or are we, as some suggest, to understand the oil as a symbol or emblem of divine grace? If this is correct, James was telling the sick to ask for prayer and to trust the Lord.
It is probably safe to say, as Alec Motyer does, that the sick and the elders would likely have both the spiritual and the medicinal in mind as they went through this process.
I don’t believe there is prohibiting anointing a person with oil today AS LONG AS We ensure that the purpose of anointing agrees with biblical reasons AND anointing should never be thought or used as a magical God potion. The oil itself does not have any power. It is only YHWH who can anoint a person for a specific purpose. If we use oil, it is only a symbol of what our Father has already ordained.

2. Prayer will restore the sinner (5:16a).

James 5:16 LEB
16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much.
Our sin usually ends up being against one another. What are we to do in such situations? James tells us to confess such sins and to pray for one another
A twofold promise
Having laid out the procedure to be followed, James promises healing for the sick and forgiveness for sin.
James was not saying that each and every sickness we experience is due to some sort of sin. But he was saying that some sickness has sin as its root. In such a case, the Lord will give the sick person the awareness that this is the case, along with forgiveness for the sin.
The promise of healing as a result of ‘the prayer of faith’ is much more complex. The promise seems to be a blanket guarantee that healing will be granted each time the process is followed.
The problem, of course, concerns those many times when the process has been followed, and there has been no healing. When such instances occur, the usual explanation is that we have failed to have faith. We assume that faith is ours to work up and that we should be able to do so at any moment. If healing does not come, it is our fault. We haven’t worked up the faith.
But the Bible says faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). (italics are his).
Ephesians 2:8 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
When it is his will to heal, the Lord grants the persuasion that he will grant the healing and enables the elders to pray ‘the prayer of faith’. Kent Hughes explains: ‘… the prayer of faith is not something we can manufacture by saying “I believe, I believe, I believe, I really believe, I truly believe, I double believe!” It is a gift from God’
It comes down to this: the sick person is to call for the elders, the elders are to anoint and pray, and God will do as he pleases.
James also gives us …

II. The example of prayer (5:16b–18)

First, it’s works!
James 5:16 LEB
16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much.
Bob Utley does a wonderful job bringing out all the questions that we can ask about this verse:
1.How is the term “righteous” to be understood?
a believer (position in Christ)
a church leader (position in the church)
a godly believer (Christlikeness)
2.How is the term “effective” to be understood?
all prayers are positively answered
if we pray in God’s will, all prayers are answered
offer up our human hopes, dreams, and desires, but trust God is giving His “best,” His will for those believers in need (physical and spiritual)
3.How is this statement related to time?
the truly righteous pray consistently over a period of time and many times during that period (persistence and repetition)
time, persistence, and repetition are not the determining factors
4.If prayer is not answered, who is to “blame”?
the person prayed for (lack of faith or sin)
the intercessor (lack of faith or sin)
God’s will (not always God’s will or the right time)
a combination of all three (the mystery of unanswered believing prayer)
And finally he adds:
5.Is it possible that this is a proverbial statement which was not meant to be analyzed in detail?
I’m not going to answer all of these right now because I want you to think through them yourself and study it for yourself; however, I do want to answer this one:
When do we confess and when do we not?
Roger Ellsworth answers this well:
Confession should always be as widespread as the sin. If we have sinned secretly, we should confess it to God. If we have sinned against someone else, we should confess it to God and to the person whom we have wronged. And if we have sinned publicly, we should confess it to God and in public.
Furthermore, if a fellow-believer comes to us to confess that he or she has sinned against us, we must always be willing to grant forgiveness. Only in this way can we be ‘healed’ or reconciled.
A righteous person’s prayer is both powerful and effective—in other words, it’s pragmatic!

A. The Power (5:16)

Too many times, we are guilty of either saying or thinking, “Well, all we can do now is pray” and what we are communicating through this statement is that we’ve tried everything else and exhausted all our efforts and so our last ditch effort is to pray for our hopeless situation. I can tell you this is wrong and backwards thinking. James is trying to show us that our first thing we ought to do is pray because it is so powerful and it does work.

B. The Action (5:17–18)

James has just used Job and others in the previous verses but selects Elijah as his role model here. But why?
James 5:17–18 ESV
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
James’ words on Elijah’s nature is to remind us that people who truly know the Lord Jesus Christ are not perfect. Even the “super saints” can still sin. We will not be completely freed from it until we leave this world and enter into eternal glory. You cannot deny that Elijah’s praying accomplished much. He prayed, and there was no rain; and he prayed again, and there was rain. But the take-home here is that he prayed! And that is the answer for us today! Are we praying? Are we believing that YHWH will answer. I think we all know that if we don’t pray in accordance to the will of God, the answer would be an obvious ‘no,’ so we are safe to believe that are prayers will be answered when the prayer is in line with the will of God.

So What?

We cannot leave this morning without noting the profound emphasis James puts on prayer for the close of his epistle. Prayer has been a strong emphasis throughout the whole letter.
James’s point is plain. No matter what life brings our way, let’s make sure we do not forget to pray. It is not a last resort, but a first step. And let’s make sure that our praying is not merely mouthing words, but an earnest seeking after God. Only then do we truly pray, and only then do we experience our own great things.
I want to conclude with a couple questions:
1. How can you use sickness to glorify God? whether it be your own or a loved one who falls deathly ill?
2. If you feel your prayers are not being heard, what is your response to James’ mandate on confessing sin? If there is someone to whom you need to confess, go to that person without delay.
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