03/24/2005: "James Lesson 11: Faith Tested by Resorting to Prayer(5: 13-18)"
James: Tests of a Living Faith
Faith Tested by Resorting to Prayer(5: 13-18)
Section Summary Prayer is a high and holy privilege. The mature Christian is prayerful in the troubles of life. Instead of complaining about his situation, he talks to God about it; and God hears and God answers. “Taking it to the Lord in prayer” is certainly a mark of spiritual maturity. (Warren Wiersbe)
Four Situations in which God Answers Prayer – Four Questions - Four Imperatives (commands) in the Text:
James 5:13 “Is any one of you in trouble?”
This first question comes straight from the text.
Our lesson guide identifies that the Greek word for trouble means suffering in difficult circumstances. Paul used this word to describe the circumstances he was in when writing II Tim. 2:9 (chained and imprisoned).
As God’s people go through life, they often must endure difficulties that are not the results of sin or the chastening of God. These trials could be job pressures and expectations, financial strains, family situations, perhaps a direct attack from Satan.
What should we not do when we find ourselves in such trying circumstances? James 5:9 – do not grumble and criticize the saints who are having an easier time of it. No weeping or wailing allowed. What should we do and how should we do it? James 1: 5 – We should pray, asking God for the wisdom we need to understand the situation and use it to His glory. What will prayer do for us? James 4:6 - Prayer can remove affliction, if that is God’s will. But prayer can also give us the grace we need to endure troubles and use them to accomplish God’s perfect will. “God can transform troubles into triumphs”. Who are good Biblical examples of this promise? II Cor. 12:7-10 – Paul. The “thorn in the flesh” that he had to deal with and the grace to sustain it and become a better person because of it. Luke 22: 39-46 – Christ. He was in anguish but was comforted. What common end result do these two examples have? In neither case was the trouble taken away. Rather strength was give to persevere. The end results were that God’s will was done. God’s plan for redemption was set in place and proclaimed.
“Is Anyone Happy?”
James indicates here that everybody does not go through troubles at the same time. This is the flip side of the coin. What is James imperative? “Let him sing songs of praise”. God balances our lives and gives us hours of suffering and days of singing. How do we know that our singing is pleasing to God? The Bible tells us so. God desires that when we are happy, we express that joy and good cheer through singing. Job 35:10 – “songs in the night” Acts 16:25 – “And at Midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God.” Psalms 92, 96, 105, etc. What expectations does God have of our Praise? I Cor 14:15 – intelligent Eph. 5:19 – Come from the heart; sincere Eph 5:18 – Motivated by the Holy Spirit Col 3: 16 – Based on the Word of God Praying and Singing were important elements in worship in the early church and they should be important to us. Our singing ought to be an expression of our inner spiritual life.
James 5: 14-16 Prayer for the Sick
What is James’ next imperative?
What is James interpretation of the word “sick”? Can we interpret this literally? James is speaking of illness, weak and feeble. This could imply a kind of spiritual illness or weakness as well. For the early church in 65 AD illness was a major problem and concern. For today, we need to consider that any thing that one does to harm the body is a sin. Such things can lead to sickness and disease. Smoking leads to cancer and lung disease. Promiscuity can lead to venereal disease.
Does James give us an all-inclusive formula for healing? In this church body alone, we have seen evidence of God miraculous healing. We have seen evidence of God not choosing to heal.
What are the special characteristics of this case that James is describing? James 15:15b-16 – The person is sick because of sin. Greek text says “if he has been constantly sinning.” I Corinthians 11:27-30 I Cor. 5 – Paul instructed the church assembly to expel an immoral person.
The sick person is a church member who is sick because God is disciplining him. The church elders are called and make a visit rather than the sick person going to church to confess his sins. The person confesses his sins (vs.16).
The person is healed by the “Prayer of faith” (vs.15)
What is the “prayer of faith” (vs. 15) that heals the sick? I John 5:14-15 - a confidence we have in Christ – a prayer offered knowing that God’s will is to be done.
How should we pray for the sick? Rom 8:26 – Paul did not always know. “If it is Your will, heal Your Child”. (Warren Wiersbe) What are some practical lessons from this portion of scripture? Disobedience to God can lead to sickness. (David’s experience) Sin affects the whole church There is healing (physical and spiritual) when sin is dealt with. Prov. 28:13 “Private sin requires private confession; Public sin requires public confession. It is wrong for Christians to hand dirty wash in public for such confessing might do more harm than the original sin”. (Warren Wiersbe)
James 5: 17-18 “Prayer for the Nation?”
Who does James cite as an example of a “righteous man” and one whose prayers released power? Elijah I Kings 17-18
Wicked King Ahab and Jezebel led Israel away from the Lord and into the worship of Baal. God punished the nation by holding back the rain for 3-1/2 years. Then Elijah challenged the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. All day long the priests called out to their god, but no answer came. Elijah repaired the altar and prepares a sacrifice. He prayed once and fire from heaven consumed the sacrifice. Elijah had proved that Jehovah was the true God. The nation still needed rain. Elijah went to the top of Mount Carmel and fell down before the Lord in prayer. He prayed and sent his servant seven times to see if there was evidence of rain. On the seventh trip, the servant saw a little cloud. Before long there was a great rain.
“Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven. It is getting God’s will done on earth “ (Robert Law). Instructions for prayer: Matthew 6:5-8 Luke 22: 39-46 - Christ prayed 3 times in the Garden II Cor. 12:7-10 - Paul prayed 3 times that his thorn in the flesh might be taken from him.
What is one of the first responsibilities of the local church? (I Tim. 2:1-3) - to pray for government leaders
“Prayer power is the greatest power in the world today”. Tremendous power is made available through a good mans’ earnest prayer. Elijah prayed for his nation and God answered prayer. We need to pray for our nation today that God will bring conviction and revival and that God’s “showers of blessing” will come to the land”. (Warren Wiersbe)
We are not through with the discussion of prayer. Next Sunday Steve will wrap up this study with one last imperative regarding prayer.