Prayer in the Church (James 5:13-18)

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“Prayer in the Church”

(James 5:13-18)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

May 13, 2018

Introductory Comments:

Well, we are near the end of our series in James called “Living the Faith.”

James has been teaching us how to really live the Christian life. 

We discussed last week a very practical verse about how Christians should live concerning what they say. 

Today, James will discuss a very important part of living the faith: prayer.

He will discuss when we should pray, how we should pray, with whom should we pray, and give us an example of a powerful person of prayer. 

Let’s look at the passage together now. 

Read the Passage

Read James 5:13-18

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.

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

There’s much to cover here, but not much time so let’s get right into it. 

Let’s see this morning four qualifiers concerning the way we should pray. 

First, . . .

I. We should pray for ourselves (verse 13) [on screen]

Our prayers should be personal. 

James says very clearly, “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.”

If we are personally suffering, we should personally pray to God. 

If we are personally cheerful, or happy, we should praise God. 

(pause)

Prayer is the way that we speak to God, and if we’re having difficulty, we should let God know. 

Similarly, if we are blessed, happy, and cheerful, we should let God know and thank Him by singing praises to Him. 

We should go to God in every situation personally.

We can talk to our Heavenly Father, and we should. 

Second, . . .

II. We should pray for others (verses 14-16) [on screen]

Our prayers should be others-focused. 

Let’s look at the passage again. 

(Read verses 14-16)

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.

Not only should we pray personally, but we should also pray for others. 

We should take our requests to the church and we should pray for one another.

James first states that if someone is sick they should come before the elders of the church. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that someone should come before the older people in the church, although that would be fine to do also. 

What this means is that the person should come before the pastors in the church. 

The word used for elder in the New Testament can also be used for the terms pastor, overseer, or bishop. 

There are no special powers that the pastors possess, but it is appropriate for the elders to pray over someone who is physically sick, spiritually weak, or struggling in some other form. 

However, it’s not only for the elders to pray for those who are struggling. 

Look at verse 16 again. 

James says, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.”

So, it’s not just the pastors praying for those who need prayer. 

It’s all of us praying for each other. 

Church members should pray for church members, pastors should pray for church members, church members should pray for pastors, pastors should pray for pastors; it’s a big prayer extravaganza! We’re all praying for each other!

Our prayers should be others-focused. 

(pause)

Now, a few clarifications on this verse. 

First of all, there’s discussion around what James means when he says, “sick.”

Some say that he simply means “sick” like, “in poor health.”

Others say, no, the Greek word that is used here, asthenia, can also mean spiritually sick or spiritually weak. 

Here’s what I want to say.  The word can really go either way and I think if James were here and we asked him, “Do you mean to pray for physically sick people or spiritually sick people?” James would say, “Yes!”

So, pray for all your brother and sisters in Christ, at all times, and in all situations. 

Second, there is the question of the oil. 

What’s all this about anointing with oil?

There are two different types of words used for anointing in the New Testament.

One means to apply something to something else, such as you would with applying a medicine.

The other means to set something apart, like David was anointed to be king over Israel. 

The word used in this passage has more to do with applying oil to someone for healing, rather than setting someone apart. 

Some say James is saying, “Pray for the person and apply medicine to the person.”

Others say James is wanting to make the person feel blessed by the church and its leaders. 

Still, others say it’s to make the person rejuvenated and encourage them to carry on with life in Jesus as normal. 

Here’s the point to the oil: it’s not really about the oil. The power is not in the oil. The power is in the healing hand of God Almighty!

If you want the oil, use the oil. If you don’t want the oil, don’t use the oil. 

I’ve used oil before while praying for people, and I’ve prayed for people without using oil. 

The healing is in God. That’s the point here. 

So, first, we should pray for ourselves. Second, we should pray for others. 

Third, . . .

III. We should pray in righteousness and faith (verses 15-16) [on screen] modified

Our prayer should be righteous and faith-filled. 

Look again at verses 15 and 16. 

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.

James says, “the prayer of faith.

When we pray, we should pray with faith that God can do anything!

He can heal disease, He can heal brokenheartedness, He can heal greed, He can heal cancer, He can heal racism, He can heal poverty, He can heal hatred; He can heal anything, anytime, anywhere!

(pause)

Some of you are even hurting today on Mother’s Day. Perhaps you don’t have a good relationship with your mother. Perhaps you haven’t spoken in years. Others, may not have had the opportunity to be a mother for whatever reason. Some of you are hurting because you can’t have children (my family knows what that’s like). Even now in your hurt. God can bring you healing. Take it to Him. 

(pause)

So, we pray in faith, knowing that God can heal. 

Additionally, James says “the prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”

James is telling us that those who are truly close to God are those whom God uses in the healing process. 

God works through His people for healing. As we pray in righteousness, He hears and answers our prayers. 

(pause)

We even see in this discussion of faith and righteousness that James addresses forgiveness of sins here. 

James is pointing us to the fact that it’s not all about physical healing. 

There is forgiveness of sins in this process. 

We should be concerned about physical healing, but more important than that is spiritual healing. 

Physical healing will only last for a little while. Spiritual healing will last forever!

We should pray in faith and righteousness, and we should pray for faith and righteousness to grow in others. 

Finally, . . .

IV. We should pray powerfully (verse 17) [on screen]

Our prayer should be powerful. 

James gives us a real-life example when he mentions the prayers of Elijah. 

Look at the passage again. 

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.

James intentionally notes that Elijah was a regular human being, just like us. He was not a superhero. 

Yet, Elijah prayed powerfully and God worked through Him. 

Elijah prayed that it would not rain for three and half years in the land of Israel and it didn’t. Then he prayed again that it would rain and it did. 

I want to note two things about Elijah’s prayer. You can read this story on your own in 1 Kings 17 and 18. 

First, it was not about the power of Elijah, it was about the power of God. We must remember that. We are not especially gifted with power; God is powerful!

Second, Elijah prayed and this came to happen because this was the will of God. 

This is so important in prayer. 

We should pray with faith knowing that God can do anything! 

We should pray in the power of God’s Holy Spirit!

And, we should pray according to God’s will. 

Here’s the fact: not everyone will be healed, both physically and spiritually. 

God does what He wants to according to His own timing, and His own prerogative. 

Both practical experience and biblical evidence support this.

If you just look around you will see that there are Christians who have prayed for healing who are still suffering. They have been prayed for, both by the pastors and by others, yet they are not yet healed. 

Further, the apostle Paul prayed for healing yet he says he was not healed. 

Jesus prayed that the Father would deliver Him from the crucifixion, yet He did not. 

Why? Because it may not be in the will of God for you to be healed, or delivered, or whatever it is that you are praying about. 

Jesus Himself said in His example prayer for us that we should say to God when we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

(pause)

False teachers will tell you otherwise. They will tell you that if you have enough faith then you will always be healed. 

The overwhelming evidence of the Bible and the real-life experience of Christians for thousands of years tells us that if you pray with enough faith, you can be healed if it is according to the will of God. 

Don’t be deceived and discouraged. Pray with power, in faith and righteousness, and pray in submission to God’s will. 

Christians will suffer, Christians will get sick, Christians will die, as all the apostles did. 

The ultimate healing is found in our salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ, which will bring us healing forever from every affliction in our life, be it physical or spiritual.  This healing will be realized and experienced in fullness when we are united with Jesus forever in Heaven. That is guaranteed!

(pause)

Concluding Thoughts:

How is your prayer life?

By God’s providence, we are just a couple of weeks away from starting a new sermon series based on the spiritual disciplines, one of which is prayer. 

So, we’ll be talking more about prayer soon. 

For now, let’s remember what James tells us: 

We should pray for ourselves.

We should pray for others.

We should pray in faith and righteousness. 

We should pray powerfully. 

Our bottom line for this week is simply . . .

Bottom Line: Pray in faith and with righteousness.  [on screen]

(repeat)

I think that’s the most important part. 

Get close to Jesus and trust Him. 

Really live the way He’s called you to live. That’s been the message of James all along. 

Live the way He’s called you to live and pray the way He’s called you to pray. 

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Commit to take prayer seriously.  [on screen]

Do you pray at all?

Start there.

Do you believe in the power of prayer?

Make a commitment now to take prayer seriously. 

  1. Come up with a prayer plan.  [on screen]

Do you have a plan at all?

Start thinking about a way to develop a prayer life. 

Do a little research about different ways of praying. Talk to some people that you know have a good prayer life. 

There will be more to come on this in the coming days as we start our study soon on the spiritual disciplines. 

Closing:

So many of you have experienced blessing, provision, and healing as a result of prayer. 

So many of you have experienced spiritual healing by the blood of Jesus.

However, some of you may not have felt the power of prayer and healing. 

I want to encourage you to seek God in prayer, and see what He does. 

Have you experienced the ultimate healing that Jesus offers?

You can today. 

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Without Him

Benediction:

As a reminder, we will not be in worship tonight. Go celebrate Mother’s Day in whatever way works best for you. I have two meals planned today so I’m excited!

Don’t forget to grab a baby bottle. 

Also, Bartow High School will host their baccalaureate service here tomorrow at 6:30. If you’re able to help provide snacks or serve as a volunteer please let me know. You can find my contact information on the back of the bulletin. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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