Delivered By
C. C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
July 31, 2016
Central Passage
James 5:13-16


          “Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let them pray.  Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will, raise them up.  If they have sinned they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5: 13-16).

          In the first part of his letter James strongly rebukes his readers for their attitudes and actions…but in this passage we find compassion and counsel for those who are devoted to…and striving for the Christian faith.  And although he has already addressed the necessity of prayer in chapters one and four…he provides further instruction on the high and holy privilege of prayer.

          In fact, these verses are an earnest appeal to come freely and boldly with prayer and praise before the Throne of Grace in every life situation.  James contends that life is to be handled with prayer.  It doesn’t matter if you're suffering, cheerful, sick or reclaiming sinners…nothing is more important in a person’s life than prayer.

          Prayer is to be offered on behalf of others and ourselves out of a sense of gratitude to God.  It is to be offered in faith…and oftentimes is to be joined by confession of sin.  And it’s best accomplished by those who are energized through a daily living out of God's will.  Powerful prayer comes from this right relationship with God.  Nothing lies beyond the grasp of those who learn to pray effectively…simply because nothing lies beyond the grasp of God.

          As an antidote to suffering…and as a way to maintain cheerfulness…James exhorts us to pray.  He asks, “Is anyone among you suffering?”  He answers the question with, “Then he must pray.”  He also asks, “Is anyone cheerful?”  And he answers with, “He is to sing praises.”

          The question about affliction is a reference to those in any kind of trouble…whether physical, mental, personal (financial) or relational.  The context of the exhortation is specifically addressed to those going through ordinary trials, spiritual warfare or persecution.  The Greek word means “to suffer misfortune” or “to have hard experiences.”

          It’s actually the same wording Paul used in 2 Timothy 2:9, when he wrote: “…I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal, but God’s word is not chained.”  What is being emphasized is the internal distress that is caused by outward circumstances.  As God's people go through life…they often go through difficulties that are not the result of sin or the chastening of God.

          When trying circumstances invade our life…we’re not to grumble and criticize...nor should we blame the Lord.  We should pray…or more accurately to the text…we should continue to keep on praying.  Those suffering must not stop praying after praying for help.  They, instead, are to live in an attitude of prayer.

          Prayer can remove affliction…if it’s God's will.  But prayer can also give us the grace we need to endure troubles…and to use those troubles to accomplish God's perfect will.  That’s because God can…and does transform troubles into triumphs.  James said that in such situations God gives us even greater grace.

          Paul prayed that God might change his circumstances, but God, instead, gave Paul the grace needed to turn his weakness into strength.  In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul wrote: “…in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

          Our Lord prayed in Gethsemane that the cup of His fate might be removed…but it wasn’t.  Instead, the Father gave Him the strength He needed to go to the cross and die for our sins.

          Obviously, people who are suffering are more likely to call on the Lord than those who are happy.  That’s human nature.  And that’s why James asks, “Is anyone happy?”  The Greek word for happy means “to be in good spirits or cheerful.”

          But whether sad or happy…we’re to continually be in touch with the Lord.  When a person is experiencing prosperity and good things in life…he or she can fall into a maze of complacency or worldly contentment.  Being light-hearted can also cause a Christian to lapse into lightheadedness.  Instead, we ought to be praising God for all the good things He brings our way.  Ephesians 5:18-19 tells us to “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with Psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord…”

          Satan cannot stand the power of praise in Christian music…so stays as far away from it as possible.

          When they are experiencing pain or gloom…some Christians do lose their awareness of the presence of God.  And in the glow of joy…those same Christians fail to give God the credit for their happiness.  But consciousness of an omnipresent God should occupy the mind of believer whether in the darkness of pain or in the joy of light.

          When James writes about restoring the sick to health by calling on the elders to pray for…and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord…he’s talking about all types of sickness and weakness.  A sickness or weakness can be physical, mental or spiritual…but whatever it is, it incapacitates.  Sickness or weakness can be moral as well as physical.

          Remember, James is talking to people who belong to a church.  When he talks about healing the sick…he’s talking about the power that God has invested in the church and its leadership…not in some faith healer.

          Take note that the elders are directed to perform two acts…to pray over a sick person and then to anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  The anointing in the name of the Lord is because He…not the elders…is the only one who can heal a person…no matter what their sickness…whether moral or physical.  And the oil is merely symbolic of the Holy Spirit touching the sick person with divine grace.

          Verse 15 tells us a prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick…that the Lord will raise them up…and that if they have committed sins they will be forgiven.  It’s important to understand that the Greek word for heal and save is the same word…which is the reason for the phrase “the prayer of faith will save him.”

          A prayer that results in healing must be rooted with trust in…and commitment to God…that He not only can but wants to heal the person.  We assist a prayer of faith when we find the will of God in a specific situation.  For example, 1 John 5:14-15 tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

          A prayer of faith by one or more persons does not imply that…with a sufficient degree of faith…God will automatically heal or save an individual.  Faith in God by a Christian is to be exhibited in all instances of life…no matter what the outcome of a prayer might be.  A prayer for healing is not a question of God's power…rather about His purpose.  God eventually heals all Christians by bringing them to heaven.

          Two promises are given to those who pray in faith.  First the prayer offered in faith brings about the restoration…or healing of the sick person.  Notice again the emphasis is on the fact that it is the Lord who raises up the sick person.  The elders…and even the prayer…are only instruments the Lord uses.  It is always God who heals.

          Although the Greek word raise up is also the word used for the resurrection of Jesus…the promise here is a reference to putting the weary person on his or her feet again with a new strength and vitality.

          The second promise is that if the person being prayed for has committed sins…they will be forgiven.  The wording indicates that illness can…in some cases…be the result of sin.  But that’s certainly not always the case.  When the disciples asked Jesus about a man born blind…whether it was his sin or that of his parents that caused his blindness…He told them it was neither (John 9:2-3).

          However, when Jesus healed the man who had been an invalid for 38 years, He told him, “See, you are well again.  Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

          And in 1 Corinthians 11:30, Paul also insisted that sin causes some sickness and even death in some cases.  Also in Psalm 32, David stated that his physical illness was a result of his sin.

          Sin, of course, is a sickness…one more deadly than any disease known to man…and no earthly doctor can cure it.  Jesus is the only antidote for sin.  That’s why…when sickness or weariness is actually because of the sin…a miraculous cure becomes a clear indication that his or her sins have been forgiven.  When sin is the reason for a person’s moral or physical illness…genuine healing is an assurance that God has forgiven the sin completely.

          As to how we’re to receive such healing…that’s made clear in verse 16, which says: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

          Mutual concern for one another is the way to combat debilitating sin.  Your genuine and real love and concern for others is the most powerful prayer petition you can present to God.  Sin is most dangerous to an isolated believer.  Cure and healing is found in mutual and honest confession and prayer.

          Proverbs 28:13 tells us that the one who hides his sin will not prosper.  The literal translation is “Make it a habit to confess your sins to one another.  Do not hide sin or delay confession.”

          Confess means “to say the same thing”…to be in agreement with God…to call your sin what it is…and to be convinced of its seriousness.  That’s not easy.  But whether it’s an act, thought, word, or attitude…we must call it by its true name and see it for what it is.  We must acknowledge…repent…and turn from specific sins, not merely offer a general confession of guilt.

          Private sin requires private confessing.  Public sin…or sin among others…requires public confession.  But we first confess our sin to the Lord: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

          When we make a public profession of our faith…we are confessing to others that we have sinned…and that we’re sinnersThat’s what a public profession is all about…and it’s why such a profession before God is so powerful in the changing of a person’s life.  Public acknowledgement of our sin provides cleansing and renewal…and it honors God because He alone can forgive us.  We can then confess to others who have been affected by our sin and ask for their forgiveness.

          Verse 16 concludes by indicating the powerful effect of prayer.  Yes, believers may be healed…but the reference is not necessarily to physical healing.  Other energies are at work in prayers for healing.  The idea conveyed is that strong and fervent prayer is always answered by God…but according to His will, not ours.

          Prayer is an act of faith…but it is also an act of the will…a will that has been directed by God's Word and energized through the working out of our obedience to Him.  Our energized prayers are part of God's healing process.  That’s why God often waits for confession and prayers of faith before intervening to heal a person.

          When sin has been correctly acknowledged and dealt with…then God brings about both physical and spiritual healing.  Accountable confession to others brings about God's forgiveness…allowing God to make the repentant believer spiritually whole again.

          When you ask forgiveness from a person for your bad thoughts or actions toward them…it will help heal the sickness in your soul.  There is nothing pleasant about a physical illness…but soul sickness eats away at your mind and causes a chasm between you and God.

          So pray when you’re in trouble…pray when you’re filled with joy…pray when you’re sick…pray when you’re disobedient to God…pray that God will work out His will in your life.  Bathe each event in your life with prayer.

          No prayer uttered in faith is ever lost or ignored by God.  It accomplishes a good and beneficial purpose.  The Christian's most powerful resource is communion with God through prayer…and the results are often greater than we thought were possible.

          Some see prayer as a last resort…when all else fails.  That’s a backward approach.  Prayer should come first…because God's power is infinitely greater than ours.  Prayer is never wasted…so pray in strong faith to God in times of trouble and in times of joy.

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