Summary: #9 and final in series through James
“Pray for me and I’ll pray for you…” James 5:13-18
Many years ago, back when black and white television was the cutting edge of technology, there was a particular show that every kid watched - Superman – Superman was a great show! It had action, drama, and the good verses the evil. Superman was a great guy, a real hero. In fact the shows theme is still popular today. There is a new Superman out in the show Smallville. Why is it so popular? Because everyone wants to be a Superman. One of the great things about Superman was that for most of the show he was just plain old ordinary goofy looking Clark Kent.
He wasn’t Superman all the time, the power was there for him when he need it sure but for the most part he just seemed ordinary. But you let him step into that phone booth and he would come out ready and able to take on whatever evil came around. Funny thing though, he never went to tackle all the bad guys and evil until after he went to his little booth. He always went there first.
And believe it or not that is where James closes out his letter to the church. James has laid out through this whole letter some serious and real challenges to the church. Some real life evils and sins to fight against. James started his letter telling the church to ask God for wisdom and now he closes the letter with a wonderful word of encouragement.
That is the power of prayer in every situation available to every Christian not to a Superman but to every Clark Kent.
And here we find that in every circumstance of life we get to come to God, individually and as a church… Turn in you bibles to the very last section of James – and lets look at the prayer that we are encouraged to offer.
The Prayer of DISTRESS and DELIGHT (verse 13)
This is a very simple point… pray when in distress or broken hearted. Pray when all is well. No matter what your circumstances you can lift your voice. In cries and in choruses. Why? Because God can be trusted in both times.
The Prayer of HEALING and HELP (verse 14&15)
Olive oil was the medicine of the day. It had medicinal qualities such that it was used for just about everything. But medicine alone was not what they used. It was understood that anointing was not just for medicinal purposes but also to symbolized that God cares. And that the prayer given was to seek God’s purpose and healing as the Great Physician. And that the ministry of prayer is intended for the whole person, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. James is not advocating “faith healing” as we have seen that has fallen into bad reputation - but the task of healing prayer.
Some doctors are now prescribing prayer for their patients. Isn’t it ironic that the medical world sometimes seems to believe in the healing power of prayer more than the church? Of the 250 family practitioners surveyed, 99 percent believed that a patient’s spiritual beliefs contribute to healing. Eleven medical schools, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins, offer courses in Prayer and Healing.
Frankly though, if we really didn’t believe in healing prayer – we wouldn’t ask for friends and loved ones to be put on the prayer list for healing. Or do we not really trust it when we ask?
The Prayer of CONFESSION and COMMUNITY (verse 16a)
James isn’t advocating that all sickness is caused by sin, the New Testament does not teach that. Though unconfessed sins can indeed cause sickness. Grief, guilt, depression, ulcers, all sorts of ailments. This praying here could be for healing of divisions caused by sins against one another. When you pray for someone will find it very difficult to maintain a division, because real prayer requires real humility.
The Prayer of POWER and PURPOSE (verse 16b – 18)
When James speaks about Elijah you need to understand – he isn’t speaking about Elijah’s power, but simply Elijah calling for God’s power and God’s purpose. James says – “look, Elijah was a man just like you.” But that his sense of intense prayer was not to gain his own but to see God’s power and purpose at work. His prayers were sincere, he was a man that searched for God’s heart…
If you are in a boat and throw an anchor onto the shore and begin pulling is it you pulling the shore to yourself or are you being brought closer to the shore? And it is the same when you pray, you are not pulling God toward you… you are coming closer to Him.
As in James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Elijah’s prayers were answered because he prayed with a focus on God’s power and plan… in I Kings 17 the whole point of his prayer was to demonstrate the power of God. And that power and purpose are absolutely available to every Christian.