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How to Pray about Your Problems

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HOW TO PRAY ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS

Developing A Faith That Works - Part 15 of 15

James 5:13-20

Rick Warren

My Idea: "Growing believers trust God (prayer of faith) and talk to God about Problems."

JAMES 5:13-20

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (vs. 16b)

I. WHEN SHOULD I PRAY?

1. WHEN I AM ______________________________ .

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray." (vs. 13a)

"Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." (vs. 13b)

2. WHEN I AM ______________________________ .

"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him, and

anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the

sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven." (vs. 14-

15)

3 Kinds of Sickness

*

*

*

5 Attitudes Toward Healing

1.

2.

3.

4.

15-ii

5.

3. WHEN I AM ______________________________ .

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be

healed." (vs. 16a)

II. WHAT KIND OF PERSON CAN PRAY? ______________________________

"Elijah was a man just like us ..." (vs.17a)

See 1 Kings 19:1-10; 18:42-45

III. HOW CAN I PRAY EFFECTIVELY?

1. _____________________________________________

"You do not have, because you do not ask God" James 4:2

2. _____________________________________________

"When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may

spend what you get on your pleasures." James 4:3

3. _____________________________________________

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" James 5:16b

Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:9; Isa. 59:2

4. _____________________________________________

"But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt..." James 1:6

HOW TO PRAY ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS

Developing A Faith That Works - Part 15 of 15

James 5:13-20

Rick Warren

v. 16 "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." The word "prayer" is mentioned

seven times in this passage. That's what it's about. Prayer. James had a reputation for being a man of

prayer. His nickname was James, the Camel Knees, because he had such big knots on his knees from

spending hours and hours in prayer. There is tremendous power in prayer. Prayer is the greatest

privilege of the Christian life, being able to talk to God, and it's the greatest power in the Christian life.

What prayer can do is what God can do. Anything that God can do can be done through prayer. Jesus

said, "The things that I do, you'll do also even greater works." How do you do greater works than

Jesus? Jesus said in the verse underneath that, “It's by prayer”. Anything you ask, you pray for. It's

our greatest responsibility. It's probably our greatest failure in the Christian life. We talk a lot about

prayer, we study about prayer. A lot of us are not too satisfied with our prayer life. Tonight we're going

to look at “When should I pray”, “What kind of person can pray”, and “How can I pray more

effectively”.

WHEN SHOULD I PRAY?

James, in this passage, mentions there are three specific times when I really need to pray.

1. When I am hurting emotionally

v. 13 "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray." The word in Greek literally means "to suffer

misfortune, to be in distress" to be under stress, under tension. In Timothy it's translated "hardships."

He's talking about internal distress caused by external circumstances. It may be a financial crisis, a

relational crisis, something on the outside, your heart is breaking, tension is at an all time high, when life

gets hard. David said in Psalm 18:4, "In my distress I call unto the Lord." He's talking about this in

light of what we just covered. v. 12 "Above all, my brothers, do not swear". When you're under

tension, that's when you're tempted to swear. When you have distress in your life you have two

alternatives -- swear or prayer. v. 13 or v. 12. You can pray about your problems -- your financial

conditions if that's creating stress in your life.

Right underneath this he says, "Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." Have you noticed

that life is a series of alternations between high and low, feast to famine, problem to joy? The Bible

says, "Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice". One of the job

qualifications of being a pastor is that you have to be willing to shift gears pretty quickly. A lot of people

are up and a lot of people are down. Recognize there's situations in life when you're down and when

you're down you pray. When you're happy, live it to the hilt. Some people are afraid that if they really

enjoy what God is doing then He's going to zap them with a bummer. If I think it's great, then the

bottom is bound to fall out. It's too good! They're afraid to pray, they're afraid to rejoice! It is not

uncommon for someone to come to our church, a first-time visitor, and they come out saying, "The joy

is contagious here. You can really sense it." I think Christians ought to be contagious. I think it ought

to be fun to go to church. I think the Bible says, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into

the house of the Lord." Not sad, mad or bummed out. So when you're happy, you sing. On Sunday

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morning we never sing a song in a minor key. It's a celebration, a day of joy. James says it's valid to be

happy.

"Praise" is used 550 times in the Bible. It is to be the lifestyle of the Christian -- to be happy. If you

want the secret of a rich, personal, devotional life nothing has done more for my own personal life than

singing to the Lord. I sing a lot in my quiet time. I write a lot of songs, choruses.

2. When I'm hurting physically, I ought to pray.

v. 14-15 "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and

anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick

person well. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned he will be forgiven."

The word "sick" in Greek, literally means "without strength". You are totally wasted, fatigued,

bedridden, unable to work. Not just acid indigestion or postnasal drip. This guy has a serious illness

here that is keeping him from actually working. It's the word most frequently used for illness. It's the

same word describing Lazarus. When Lazarus got sick, he died. And the same word to describe

Dorcas, and she died. And the same word that describes the man at the pool of Bethesda who sat

there for years and years and didn't have enough energy to get up and get into the pool. He's talking

about a serious illness here. When you're beyond the help of a doctor, you pray. The elders of the

church are to come and pray over him and anoint him with oil.

The Scripture teaches that there are three different kinds of sickness. There's a lot of teaching going on

today about healing.

The Bible says that first there is the sickness for death. It's covered in 1 John 5:16, John 11:4. That

kind of sickness God allows to take us on home to be with Him. There are some sicknesses that you

never recover from. There will be an illness someday that you will never recover from because God

doesn't want you to live indefinitely. If every sickness could be healed by faith then anybody who had a

lot of faith would never die. There is a sickness for the purpose of taking you on home.

Then there's a sickness for discipline. The purpose for a sickness for discipline which is covered in

1 Corinthians 11:28- 32 where they were abusing the Lord's Supper. Paul said, because they were

abusing the Lord's Supper was the reason some of them were sick. The Lord is disciplining you

because you're out of the will of God. When we sin it does bring sickness into our lives.

The third kind of sickness is sickness for the glory of God. The sickness for the glory of God is a

sickness that God has allowed in your life simply because He wants to heal you of it and let it be a

testimony to the world. John 11:4 a man came to Jesus who was ill and blind. The disciples said,

"Lord, who's sinned, him or his parents?" Jesus said, "Nobody's sinned, this is a sickness for the glory

of God." Then he healed the guy and it brought glory to God.

There are three kinds of sickness: sickness for death, sickness for discipline, sickness for the glory of

God. The last is the kind God wants to heal.

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There are approximately five different attitudes toward healing. There are a lot of different divisions

about healing.

1. The sensationalist. These are the guys you see on TV. They come into town and hold giant

meetings in large auditoriums, advertise miracles. There's bright lights, TV cameras rolling. Often the

healer is flamboyant. He shouts at the people, slaps them on the head. It is often a highly charged

emotional atmosphere. The guy might say, "Do you feel warm?" and he's standing before 20,000

people, rolling TV cameras and spotlights! Of course he would! There is psychological motivation in all

of this. Be careful of this. Be discerning. I don't see Jesus doing this. He did the exact opposite in His

healing. In all of Jesus' healing He took them aside from the crowd, where they are out of the glare of

the public, talked with them on a one on one basis, healed them there and then it was reported to the

crowd. Jesus never manipulated people and never used them for show. He always cared about their

needs more than He did about making an impression on the crowds. He healed people quietly.

By the way, just because something is a miracle doesn't mean it's from God. Remember when Moses

laid down his stick and it became a serpent. What did those priests do? The exact same thing. Just

because something is done in the name of the Lord doesn't mean it's of God. Jesus said in Matthew 7

"Many will come in that day and say, `Lord, Lord didn't we do many miracles in your name?' Jesus will

say, `I didn't even know you.'"

2. The confessionalists. The confessionalists say that it is always God's will for everybody to be

healed. This is the Name It and Claim It group. Sickness is a result of sin and all you need to do is

claim your healing and God will heal. If you're not healed you lack faith. The result of that is if there's

no healing there's an awful lot of guilt. "Maybe I just didn't believe enough." False doctrine always

creates false guilt. Always. That's one of the problems with legalism. When you make up all of these

rules and regulations, it takes the joy of knowing Jesus out of your life. The Bible says, "Where the

Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." These confessionalists say it's just the way you talk, you'll get

it. I claim I have a Cadillac and I get a Cadillac. The problem with this is, it makes God a genie. All of

a sudden God is serving me, my needs, my whims rather than me serving Him.

What about the verse in I Peter 5:19 "Those who suffer according to the will of God.”

Sometimes suffering is the will of God.

3. Dispensationalists. The dispensationalists are those who say the gifts of healing were only for

New Testament times and they're no longer around anymore. Don't bother looking for those gifts. It

was great back in those days but they're not here. I have a problem with that view because Hebrews

13:8 says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." I believe that He is.

4. Rationalists. These are the people who say it's just all in your mind. If you're ill it's because you

think you're ill. Just deny it and you'll be OK. This is the Christian Science cult among others. Just

deny it's happening and it will go away.

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5. I think James would be a Realist. This recognizes two facts. One, the fact that God still does

heal. He does heal but not everybody gets healed. That is also a fact of life. God does heal people

today, but two, He doesn't heal everybody. I think life is an example of that.

So what does James say to do when you are sick? You should call the elders of the church. I Peter 5,

Acts 20, Titus 2 tells of the structure of the church. James says you call the spiritual leaders of your

church to pray for you. These guys aren't professional healers who go around holding healing meetings.

An example of that in Scripture is Jesus. If anybody had the right to hold mass meetings, He could

have. In the New Testament, healing was a private matter.

I find it strange that people who claim to have the gift of healing always insist that the sick people come

to them, rather than them going to the sick.

And it says "He should call the elders" . Who's doing the calling? The sick person. James is talking

about a house call. If you're so sick you can't get out of bed, you call the spiritual leaders to come to

your house and you ask them to pray for you.

This implies support for belonging to a local church. Every Christian needs to identify himself with a

particular body of believers. Why? One good reason is that when you get sick, you know who to call

on. In the New Testament there was no such thing as a free-floating Christian who would just float

around, listen to Christian radio and TV, bounce around from this church to that church. There was no

such thing in the New Testament. Every person was a member of a specific local church. Because it

says you are the body and each of you are members of it. The value of it is when you're in need there is

somebody there to care for you.

The sick person takes the initiative. If you don't call the elders of the church, how will they know about

it? The word "sick" is talking about a life-threatening illness.

"Call for the elders of the church to pray over him..." The guy is probably in bed, so they are

praying over him. He is seriously ill. "...and anoint him with oil" . Oil is a symbol of the Holy spirit,

like many symbols in Scripture. When we baptize with water, water is a symbol of the burial. When

we take communion, the juice is a symbol of blood. All through Scripture, oil is used as a symbol of the

Holy Spirit. Some interpreters believe that this oil means the best modern medicines of the time were to

be used. In New Testament times they did use oil to rub on to people, to massage, use as a salve.

There was a medicinal value in that. Remember the Good Samaritan when he found the man at the side

of the road. He took the man and applied oil and wine to his wounds (sounds more like a salad

dressing!) and then bandaged him up. Oil was used for medicinal purposes. But I think the emphasis

here is the anointing. It was of symbolic value of the Holy Spirit -- an aide to faith. Remember when

Jesus went to the blind man. He spit into the dirt and made mud cakes and put them on the man's eyes.

Nobody believes that the mud had curative power. But it was simply an aide to faith for the guy who

was going to believe. It was his faith that healed him. It wasn't the mudpacks on his eyes. The

emphasis is on the power of prayer not the power of the oil. It was just a symbol to be used.

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"...in the name of the Lord..." God is the healer, not any person. The name represents the character

of the Lord. All healing is based on God's character.

The results: "... And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise

him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven." We do this in our church, but it is a low key ministry.

We don't practice having healing wines with big emotional campaigns. We try to do what the Bible

says. Many times some of our people have called for the pastors, the elders, and we have gone to the

person's home in a time of long-term illness. We've prayed for them and anointed them with oil. In the

years we've been a church we've seen some real miracles. On the other hand, sometimes we've prayed

for people and the Lord's taken them on home. We humbly accept the will of the Lord in that matter.

But it is scriptural.

The Bible says when I'm hurting emotionally I ought to pray, when I'm hurting physically, when I've got

a major illness, I call for the spiritual leaders of the church to pray in a private ceremony. Why private?

In private people can feel loved not used. They don't feel put on display. If you put someone on

display in front of a bunch of other people, they think, "If I'm not healed it will make the pastors look

bad". But it's not us anyway, it's the Lord. We're just praying.

3. When I'm hurting spiritually.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."

In Jesus' day and in many places today it is taught that all sickness is a result of sin. If you are ill, then

supposedly you had some hidden sin in your life. If you confessed and still were sick then you still had

some other hidden sin. Jesus blew that idea out of the water in John 9 where he said to the man who

had been born blind that nobody sinned. I think this is a very unfair concept. You think of babies being

born with birth defects -- obviously that baby hasn't sinned. We live in a fallen world and part of that

problem is there are hurts and problems.

On the other hand, Jesus did teach that a lot of the sickness we bring on our lives we do bring upon

ourselves. If I don't follow God's principles, my body is going to find out about it. If I don't take care

of my body, eat right, sleep right, exercise right, then all kinds of ailments will come upon me. If I don't

listen to God's word where it says "Don't be anxious about anything, but pray about everything"

and I worry, fret, get anxious and I get an ulcer, then I'm to blame for it. If I allow resentment to build

up in my life... doctors say it's not so much what you eat but what's eating you that makes the difference

... resentment can take its toll in your life and it makes a big difference. If I don't trust God and I allow

these things to come into my life there will be sin. "Therefore confess your sins to each other and

pray for each other so that you may be healed."

Many years ago I was invited to see a man who was paralyzed from the waist down and had not been

in church for about nine months. I began to talk with him and he was a very bitter man, just filled with

resentment. A cow had kicked him in the back and paralyzed him. He was bitter against members who

hadn't visited him, bitter against the insurance company for not paying off, bitter against the doctor for

not figuring out how to make him walk, bitter against the cow, bitter against God. He was very

resentful. I said, "God may want to heal you and restore you to full health, but He will not heal you until

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first you get rid of that resentment in your life." I remember him bowing his head and begin to weep,

almost uncontrollably, deep sobs, "God, I have been so bitter. Just flush all the anger and hate from

me." He wept for about 10 minutes. I prayed with him and I left. The next day the man came to

church, in a wheelchair, the first time he'd been in church in nine months. At the end of the service I

gave a "come forward" invitation to people who wanted to come and pray. The man got up out of his

wheelchair and walked down to the front and recommitted his life to the Lord.

What happened? There was a block in his life that was keeping God from doing what He wanted to do

in his life. When he got his spiritual act together, the other fell into place. We are a whole -- physical,

emotional, spiritual. When the spiritual is out of kilter it affects your emotions. When your emotions are

out of kilter it affects your body. We talk about psychosomatic illnesses. They are real but they come

from within ourselves.

Why isn't everybody healed? I don't know. God has the power but it isn't His purpose in different

situations. It is always in God's power to heal but it is not always in God's purpose to heal. A clear

example of this is Paul, in 1 Corinthians. It said Paul prayed three times for God to heal a problem in his

life but three times God said "No, I've got a better plan for you."

What's the condition for healing? Confess. We'd rather conceal and camouflage our sins, than confess

them. It is a liberating experience to confess your sins and get them out and share them, not just with

the Lord but with each other. Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing. Many people come to

me in counseling and begin by saying, "I've never told this to anyone else in the world." Once they say

that, I know that something great is going to happen. I know what a relief it is to not carry a burden

anymore, to get it out and share it with somebody else so you can be loved and accepted for who you

are without having to pretend you're perfect and wear a mask.

"confess to each other" -- Does that mean I get up and confess to the whole church? There is a

principle of the circle of confession. Only confess as widely as it involves other people. If I've got a

private sin, just between me and the Lord, then I ought to just confess it to the Lord. If it's a personal

sin, between me and you, then I need to come to you. If it's a public sin, then I need to apologize to the

whole church. He says confess your sins, not broadcast them. If it involves somebody else you ought

to go to somebody else. There ought to be at least one person -- husband, wife, pastor, friend -- you

have that you can share everything with and know you'll be loved and accepted unconditionally. A

verse in Job says, "A man needs his friend most when he's doubting God." He needs somebody to

stand and walk him through that time of doubt to that time of faith.

Years ago I was speaking in a tiny church -- only a hundred or so people. It was Sunday night. I was

preaching and all of a sudden I stopped and said, "Maybe there's some people here that need to get

some things right with each other. I sense some coldness here. I may be wrong but I'll bow my head

and ask the pianist to play. If you've got a grudge against some other person and you need to get it

right, why don't you just get up and go to that person and tell them you're sorry?" I bowed my head

and I heard this tremendous noise! The whole church was going to each other! It was the most

amazing thing I'd ever seen in my life. It went on for about 45 minutes. A guy was walking along

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outside. He wasn't even a Christian and said, "What's happening in here?" Somebody led him to the

Lord right there.

When Christians really love each other you have to lock the doors to keep people out. The Bible says,

"By this shall all men know that you're my disciples, that you love each other." That's what

counts.

In the New Testament the Christians confessed to each other. During the Dark Ages, they confessed to

the priests, Freud said confess to the counselor, Protestants said, we're not going to confess to

anybody. As a result we've got a lot of problems and hang-ups.

When should I pray? James says you can pray whenever you've got a need -- a physical need, an

emotional need, a material need. No matter what it is you ought to pray.

WHO CAN PRAY?

Some people think you have to be a spiritual giant to pray and get those kinds of answers. "I could

never pray and see somebody healed" or "I could never pray and see a financial miracle". Many

Christians feel inferior. James uses Elijah as an illustration. "Elijah was a man just like us. He

prayed earnestly that it wouldn't rain and it didn't rain on the land for three and a half years. He

prayed again and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops." I Kings 19. This is

after the big god contest on Mt. Carmel. He runs to the other side of the desert and goes through a fit

of depression and prays, "God, kill me. I'm so depressed." He wasn't afraid of 400 prophets of Baal

but he runs from a woman named Jezebel. In that passage -- the first 10 verses -- Elijah demonstrated

fear, resentment, guilt, anger, loneliness and worry. Now you know why it says, “Elijah was a man just

like us.” We have anger, fear, resentment, worry, loneliness.

The lesson of Elijah's life is you don't have to be perfect to pray. You don't have to be perfect to see

answers to your prayers. It's for ordinary people. I Kings 18, Elijah got alone with God and humbled

himself praying for rain. It says he prayed seven times. He was persistent. He would not give up. One

day a little cloud formed in the sky and he said, “It's going to be a gusher!” The rains came and flooded

the place.

God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things through prayer.

HOW CAN I PRAY EFFECTIVELY?

I want to review four conditions for praying effectively that James mentions in his book.

1. I must ask. That sounds simple but in a lot of our prayers we never ask for anything. We say

"Thank you for..." and "Bless..." and that's it. We never pray specifically. The more specific your

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prayers are the greater you're going to be blessed in the answer. When I was in college I taped a huge

sheet of butcher paper up on the wall. It had four columns: Date, Prayer Request, Promise to base my

prayers on, Answer and Date. That was a real faith building time in my life. I saw God answer in little

things and I saw him answer in big things. I trust Him for great things. James 4;2 "You do not have

because you do not ask." Be specific. Throw away all your cliches. I love to hear new Christians

pray because they don't know all the language, and they're so honest. It's refreshing. Kay and I often

write down the prayers our kids pray. They say the most honest and genuine things that are really

meaningful.

2. Have the right motive. "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong

motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." If you're going to ask in prayer,

make sure your motives are right. Not for selfishness but for a genuine reason -- the glory of God.

3. Clean life. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16 . Circle

"righteous". If you're a Christian you are righteous. We're not talking about perfection. We're talking

about righteousness. Righteousness is your standing before God when you became a believer. It has

nothing to do with your perfection. If God only answered the prayers of perfect people, how many

prayers would get answered? None. But God does want us to have a clean life. Psalm 66:18, David

said, "If I hide [regard, conceal] iniquity [sin] in my heart then the Lord will not hear." If I am

willfully and knowingly doing something I know is displeasing to God and say, "God, I'm going to

continue doing this but, by the way, help me out." It's like saying "Dad, will you loan me the keys to the

car, but I'm never going to do a single thing you ask." We need to have a clean life before Him.

Proverbs 28:9 "He that turneth his back from the hearing of the law, even his prayers are an

abomination." Isaiah 59:2 "Your sins have separated you between you. Your God has hid His

face so He cannot hear."

4. Ask in faith. Expect an answer. James 1:6 "But when he asks, he must believe and not

doubt..." When you come to God, believe that He wants to answer your prayer. Trust Him. Don't

doubt. Really believe.

How important is your prayer life to you? I struggle with this more than any other area in my life -- this

area of being consistent in prayer. I talk to the Lord all the time, but I don't really have the prayer life I

want to have. I'm never satisfied with it. I want to know Him in a deeper way. I want our church to be

a miracle. I want it only to be explained by the fact that God did it. I want our church to be an

embarrassment to the devil. I want people to look at our church and say, "Only God could have done

that."

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