Summary: This sermon is about the need to believe that prayer has purpose and expectation. It uses Elijah as the illustration of our own prayers.
A Call To Prayer
A. There are stories in the OT that cause me lift up God' power and in humility thank him for letting me see it. One of the great stories is that of Elijah on Mt. Carmel.
B. Elijah was a great prophet. He saw his people in sin and called upon them to leave their idols and turn to God. He was not afraid to say to the king and his wife, "You are wrong." Ahab and Jezebel did more do erode the spiritual desire for God than anyone before them. They were wicked and Elijah's love for his people and his country called for drastic measures. He prayed to God that God would discipline the land of Israel in order to turn the hearts of the people back to Him. He prayed that it would not rain upon the land.
C. Imagine the chaos America would be if we as nation went without rain for three and ½ years. Imagine the pain your family would face. At the end of that time Elijah met King Ahab, the prophets of Baal and the people of Israel on Mt. Carmel and there let God show himself through power as fire came down and consumed an alter. We get done with that story and yell "Yes!"
D. What power! Wouldn't it be great to have that type of power in the lives of God's servants today? Now come back to the text with and let's read James 5:16-18, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."
E. Can that power work in the lives of Christians today? Yes, because the power never was man's to begin with, it has been and always will be the power of God. Today, we want to hear the call of God for us to become a people of prayer and see the result of righteous people praying in faith.
F. James teaches us to turn to prayer in the times of our trouble and sickness and lean upon people of faith to help us come before the throne of grace and find healing in our Lord.
I. A Call To Prayer
A. Look at James 5:13-16. What I want you to notice in this passage is that James talks about "he should pray" then to "call for the elders to pray" and finally a call to confess our sins to one another and "pray for one another." I never really saw that progression before I prepared for this sermon. The point is that prayer is both personal and collective. Prayer is expected and also prayer expects a result. What James does for us is gives us a call to pray.
B. James is recognizing that life is made up of triumph and tragedy, of sorrow and joy. Illness and sickness trip us up and sin entangles us. We never know what to expect. Life is totally unpredictable. Anyone who has had an accident or has had a family member suddenly get sick, can attest that life can change radically in just a matter of seconds. In addition, we all know firsthand how sin can devastate and destroy lives and some of us are living today with the consequences of wrong choices.
C. James says, "Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray." It is a command, or imperative. Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears." I don't know how people can go through the trials of life without prayer. I need that relationship with God that only comes through prayer. I need to know he is listening to my heart and knows me.
D. James also says, "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." There are times when it gets too big for me alone. At that point in time I have a responsibility to ask for help. So many people think others should just come to us when we are sick or in times of trial, but James says to the person who is sick that it is their responsibility to call upon others to come and pray. In this case, James talks about being "sick." That word is very generic and can mean any type of sickness – physical, mental or spiritual.