Let Him Pray
LET HIM PRAY
As you look at this passage of scripture the general subject is prayer.
- And I think that is fitting because James has dealt with several problems and difficulties.
- He has told these people that they will encounter various trials and that their faith will be tested.
- He has warned the rich man about being puffed up and proud…and about mistreating those who work for him.
- He has warned these people about showing special favor to those who are wealthy.
- He has warned of the danger of teaching that which is false.
He has dealt with all these various problems and now, if these people were going to be able to over come these problems…if they were going to be as united as they were supposed to be…these people were going to have to be a praying people.
So in this passage, James tells them…but not only them…he tells us, as God’s people to pray. But James doesn’t just tell us to pray…he gives us some specific times WHEN we should pray.
Let’s look at the passage. In verse 13 James says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.”
- The word “suffering” here is a broad term and it can correctly be translated, “hardship.”
- What ever the “hardship” is…what ever the “suffering” is…let him pray.
- It doesn’t matter what it is.
- If they are suffering grief, depression, sorrow, disappointment, loss of property, poor health, or persecution…they are to pray.
What should you pray for? Well, let me make a few suggestions.
When you are going through a hard time…some times you can face some pretty strong temptations.
- “If I would only lie…things wouldn’t be so bad.”
- “If I would only steal some money…we could get out of this.”
Remember what we call the Lords prayer found in Matthew 6. Remember what Christ told his disciples to pray for?
- In verse 13 of that passage Christ tells them to “pray that they may not be led into temptation.”
- Pray that you might not fall into sin because of the present suffering…pray for a strong faith.
Another thing you can pray for is the REMOVAL OF THE SUFFERING.
- Do you remember over in 2 Cor. 12:9, Paul’s thorn in the flesh?
- We don’t know for sure what that was.
- But whatever it was Paul asked God three times to take it away.
- So it is fitting to ask for the suffering and the cause of suffering to be removed.
But then, just like Paul’s situation with the thorn in the flesh…the Lord may choose not to remove the suffering.
- If that is the case, pray for help and strength that you might faithfully endure it.
Also, in a time of suffering you might pray for the one who is causing the hardship.
- In Luke 6:28, Jesus says: bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
I don’t know that they will change…you can certainly pray that they will.
- But even if they don’t, by praying for them you will keep bitterness and resentment from building up in you and adding to the burden you are already having to endure.
These are some things you can pray for in the midst of suffering.
But now, what if you are not suffering? Well, James says: Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.”
- Unfortunately, the only time some people turn to God at all is when things are hard.
- We need to go to God in prayer when we suffer hard times.
- But at the same time we need to praise God for the good times as well.
Now, look at verse 14. This is one of the most difficult passages of scripture in all the Bible. James says: 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, and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”
This passage has caused a lot of people to feel guilty and question whether there really is a God.
- They read this, and then they pray fervently for someone who is sick, and that individual doesn’t get well…and they think, “My faith isn’t strong enough…or they doubt God.”
So what is it that James is talking about here?
- Let me begin by telling you that I do not have all the answers.
- So what I am going to do is give you a couple of possibilities.
First of all, when James speaks of being “sick” here…he is speaking of a physical illness or infirmity.
- Some think that this is speaking of a spiritual illness…but that is unlikely since in verse 15 James indicates that the person who is sick may or may not have sinned.
So James says, “If anyone among you is sick…let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, and anoint him with oil, in the name of the Lord.”
- Now, there are some who contend that the elders had the miraculous power to heal…and that is what is being talked about here.
- Their reasoning comes from Acts 8:17 and Mark 6: 13.
- In Acts 8:17 the apostles were laying hands on people…and those people were empowered with the miraculous gifts.
- And so the idea is that these elders here that James speaks of had that ability.
- And that is confirmed by the use of oil for anointing…because in Mark 6:13 the disciples were miraculously healing people…and then anointing them with oil.
- The oil being simply to draw attention to the fact that a miracle had been performed.
- So the idea is, the elders had the miraculous ability to heal these that were sick.
- And if that is the case, this passage has no bearing on us today since those powers have long since ceased.
But then there is the idea that these verses are not talking about a miraculous healing…but a providential healing.
- The elders here are simply that, elders of the church.
- The individual that is sick is to call them.
And the one who is sick is to “let the elders pray over him.”
- Listen, it is always appropriate to have fervent prayers offered for a sick man.
- One of the names of God that that is found in Ex. 15:26 is “Jehovah Raphah” and it means:” The God who Heals.”
- All healing is divine.
- And since God is the source of healing it is always appropriate to petition God for that healing.
And James says that the elders are to “anoint the sick man with oil in the name of the Lord.”
- Since this is not a miraculous healing the oil is not ceremonial, therefore, the oil here is apparently for medicinal purposes.
- In a time when hospitals were non-existent and doctors rare this was a common practice.
- It was the equivalent of administering medicine.
- So by anointing the man with oil, the elders were making sure that the sick man had what was within man’s power and knowledge to be an instrument of God in the natural healing process.
So what you have here is apparently a combining of prayer and medicine for the sick.
And notice James says that this is to be done “in the name of the Lord.”
- It is to be done by the authority of God.
And now, verse 15: …and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up,
Here is the tough verse.
- Many have tried this…they have prayed fervently for one who is sick…and still he dies.
- So consequently, those who pray say, “I wasn’t faithful enough…sincere enough.”
- Or the person who was sick wasn’t faithful enough.
- This verse has caused many to question and wonder why someone they have prayed for did not get better.
I can tell you that I do not know all the answers on this verse…but let me share with you some thoughts and you can decide.
First of all, the term “prayer offered in faith.”
- This is not talking about your “cold, formal, ritual prayer.”
- This is talking about a prayer of conviction…a prayer that believes and trusts in God.
James says, “a prayer offered in faith will restore…or save…or deliver from danger…the one who is sick…and the Lord will raise him up.”
Now, at first glance, this verse seems to be an absolute.
- That if a person is sick…and a prayer is offered in faith…then that person will be made well.
But then that brings up the question of Paul and his thorn in the flesh found in 2 Cor. 12?
And what about the old, the aged.? If this is absolute then the old would not suffer illness and die.
So the question is, IS THIS VERSE AN ABSOLUTE?
Well, let me remind you of an important principle of prayer. Look with me at 1 John 5:14.
14 And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
Listen, you can ask for anything you want…but then trust God to grant that request…according to His will.
- Sometimes we may want someone to get well…but in the bigger picture…God may be using that situation for a greater cause.
- The fact is, God often uses illness and death to wake people up to the reality of their need for Him.
- Death and illness can preach some powerful sermons.
The point is, we cannot see the big picture…we do not know all that God is doing.
- Perhaps God is allowing your faith to be tested by Satan through that illness.
- That is what happened to Job.
- We do not know all that God is doing…perhaps he is teaching us compassion, patience, and values and priorities.
- We cannot always know.
- But the one thing we must do is trust in Him no matter what…and accept His will…even when we do not like it.
And look at the end of verse 15. James says, “and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”
- Often we think that the reason we are sick is because we have committed sin.
- We think sin causes illness.
- It can…alcohol…can make sick…immoral sex can cause us to be sick.
- Drugs…can make us sick…so sometimes sin can make us sick.
But, more times than not the illness is not due to a person committing sin..
But, sometimes when a person is sick…especially a serious illness…that illness can cause him to sin.
- Remember Job’s wife…”just curse God and die.”
- Well, some people do curse God when they are sick….and some drift from their faith.
- Nothing tests our faith quite as much as an illness does.
Sometimes an illness can cause us to reflect on our lives and make us realize that we may have not lived the way God wanted us to in healthier times.
- Whatever the case, when forgiveness is sought for sincerely…and in the right way…God will grant that forgiveness.
Verse 16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
- This too is often misunderstood.
- We see the word “confess” and we have the idea that we are to tell each other what sin we have committed.
- “Max, I lied to day…I took the Lord’s name in vain.”
I do not believe that is what this is talking about.
- The word “confess” comes from the Greek word “Homo-logeos” which literally means “one word.”
- And the idea behind this word “confess” is to “agree fully.”
- We are to agree fully with each other that we are sinners.
- God already knows it and it is important that we know it…because an awareness that we are sinners makes us all the more aware of our need for God’s mercy, grace and salvation.
- And that repentant attitude is what makes us whole.
Now the end of verse 16: The effective or fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
And then James gives us an illustration or example of what prayer can do. Vs. 17:
7 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023