Summary: James 5:13-20. Believers are encouraged to pray during times of suffering and times of joy; for those who are sick and those who are in sin - because genuine prayer works.
LIVING THE PRAYERFUL LIFE
Let’s open our Bibles to James chapter 5. We have come to the concluding passage of this New Testament letter. It is worth repeating, one last time, by way of introducing this last portion of Scripture, that the primary concern of James as he is writing to these early Christians scattered abroad by persecution is the character of true, saving faith. How does a real believer live? That is the question we have been seeking to answer over the course of our study of this epistle. We have answered that question in a variety of practical ways, and have centered on the truth that faith without works is dead. We have seen the pragmatic issues of trials, obeying God’s word, treating people fairly, watching how we talk, and choosing our passions wisely. Now, the growing list of all the practical issues that James has addressed to this point has been missing an important component. There have been hints of this issue here and there, but to this point it has gone largely undiscussed. It is the subject of prayer. Prayer is one of the most rudimentary disciplines of the Christian life. It is also one of the most neglected disciplines. Now, it is not my purpose today to guilt you into praying more often. I will leave such convictions to the Spirit; but I want us to see the fundamental importance of prayer and the astounding influence it can have in our lives. That prayer is the main thought of our passage is relatively clear. We see the word in various forms in every verse from verse 13 to 18. We read, “Let him pray.” “Let them pray.” “The prayer of faith.” “Pray for one another.” “The prayer of a righteous person.” “He prayed fervently.” and “He prayed again.” I emphasize this because this passage is often hijacked by those who seek to use it to support their own unbiblical ideologies; stripped of its contextual meaning, and misapplied in a variety of harmful ways. So as we seek to understand what James is writing here let us remember that his subject is prayer; and that he addresses this subject within the larger historical context of the letter. Take a look with me then, at James 5 beginning at v.13:
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 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. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Now I would like us to see four different situations of life that James encourages his readers to bathe in prayer, if you will. The first one is found in the very first question of v.13. James tells his readers to pray during times of suffering.
PRAY DURING TIMES OF SUFFERING (V.13)
He asks a question in v.13:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.
One of the first things that a new believer in Jesus Christ finds out after a short time in the faith is that life can still be a drag; meaning Christians can be tired – they can be weak – they can hurt – they can suffer. For many Christians that wake up call is shocking because so often God is portrayed as a supernatural lottery machine who also happens to guarantee immunity from all trouble or sickness; so when they see that Christians do not always have health, wealth, and happiness they are taken back. The clear testimony of Scripture is that God does in fact promise us health, wealth, and happiness – but not in this life. Does he have the ability to give us those things in this life? Absolutely. Does he sometimes choose to give us those things in this life? Yes, he does. But the Bible reminds us that our true promise of health will be realized when our mortal bodies have been made immortal, and that our wealth is measured not in dollars and cents but by the eternal riches and joy that will be found in the presence of Christ for eternity. In fact sometimes quite the opposite of health and wealth is promised to us in Scripture. Jesus said in John 15:20: