Summary: "For Dummies" books are a raging success! Why? Full of practical wisdom and simple "How To's" Wouldn't a "Christianity for Dummies," a book full of practical wisdom & simple How Tos on how to live out our faith, be great? James & this series is JUST THAT
Christianity For Dummies: The Prayer of Faith
A. How many of you take some sort of supplement or vitamin every day? How many of you hate to take your vitamins? Hard to swallow, bad taste.Discuss Kay giving me One A Day vitamins and them finding a stash of them behind the couch. No matter how much they might improve our physical health, sometimes for several reasons we fail to take our vitamins.
B. But what about our spiritual health? I'm afraid that, just like I stashed those One A Days behind the couch, we often leave out of our spiritual diet one of the most important components The Great Physician has made available to us. Mahalia Jackson, an American gospel singer known as "The Queen of Gospel," once said, "Faith and prayer are the VITAMINS of the soul; man cannot live in health without them."
C. James understood this as well as anyone ever could. How is that? Because he had observed the habits of his brother, Jesus, The Great Physician, firsthand himself. Luke 5:16 (MSG): "As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer." Now if prayer was that important to the spiritual health of The Great Physician shouldn't it be for us as well?
D. And so James who throughout his epistle has lovingly taught us how to live out our faith (salvation in shoe leather) ends his epistle the same way he started it - urging us to take our vitamins! With a Rx to PRAY!!! But is this to be just any ole prayer? One offered up half-heartedly? One hurriedly uttered on the way out the door on Monday AM? NO! James calls us to a prayer of faith. He then outlines The Circumstances That Produce It, The Confessions That Precede It, The Intercession That Provides It, The Illustration That Proves It, and The Intervention That Provokes It.
II. Scripture Reading & Prayer
A. Read James 5:13-20.
B. Pray - Father, we often are more concerned about the vitamins on our medicine shelf than the greatest vitamin available to our soul - communion with you through prayer. Teach us through the preaching of your Word about the Prayer of Faith.
III. The Prayer of Faith: The Circumstances That Produce It (v. 13-15a)
A. Scripture teaches us that we should pray in ALL circumstances. Jesus: Luke 18:1 told His disciples a parable "that they ought always to pray." Paul: Eph. 6:18 = "praying at all times," 1 Thess. 5:17 = "pray without ceasing." James: no different...whatever situation we find ourselves...PRAY! Here, James mentions three specific circumstances that produce this prayer of faith.
#1 Is anyone among you suffering? Suffering = Greek "kakopatheo," denotes all sorts of afflictions and trials, same word James used of the prophets as an example of patience in suffering, Paul used the verbal form to describe his imprisonment and to exhort Timothy to be willing to undergo the same.
- Find yourself in the circumstance of suffering? Let him pray. Not for deliverance but the strength to endure. The antidote to suffering is seeking God's comfort through prayer.
#2 Is anyone cheerful? Cheerful = Greek "euthumeo," literally "good passion," refers not to outward circumstances but cheerfulness and happiness in heart whether good times or bad; in Acts 27, it is the sense of well being Paul encouraged his fellow travelers to have even though their ship was in imminent danger of destruction.
- Find yourself cheerful? Let him sing praise. Praise = "psallo," psalms. The natural response of a joyful heart is to sing praise to God, which is a form of prayer. This is what Paul admonished the churches at Ephesus and Colossae to do. Read Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16.
#3 Is anyone among you sick? Sick = Greek "astheneo," can mean "to be weak" even spiritually weak but here with no qualifier = physical sickness.
- Find yourself sick? Let him call for the elders of the church. Call for help! This is the only one of the three circumstances that James expands on and so I want us to look at it in detail. As we do we will see...
B. The Church's Role in Physical Healing
- Who calls? The sick one! Who is called? Itinerant faith healers (Benny Hinn, Robert Copeland)? Those with a gift of healing in the church? THE ELDERS. This is not to deny that healing is a spiritual gift then and now in the church, but James specifies that it is the elders who are to be called. Who are the elders? Spiritually mature, over local, individual congregations. We would say deacons and pastor. Where at? Home of the sick one.
- What guidelines? #1 Pray over: "proseuchomai epi," epi could mean physical position but also could imply laying on of hands; physical touch is important - discuss that I make it a point to touch the patient (shake hands, lay hand on shoulder, hug). #2 Anointing with oil: oil had many uses in Jewish 1st century (as medicine, as symbol of God's giftedness and empowerment of OT prophets, priests and kings, as prep for daily activities - put on face, as ceremonial symbol of God's presence). This last use is most consistent with context. The symbolism of anointing is usually associated with the setting apart or consecrating of someone or something for God. Thus, as the elders pray for the sick person, they are setting that person apart for God's special attention. #3 In the name of the Lord: not just an empty mouthing of "in Jesus' name," but instead signifying the divine authority with which the anointing is done - The Great Physician. #4 And the prayer OF FAITH: The prayer is offered with faith. Who's? The sick? No...the elders. James mentions no requirement on the sick person's part only that he call for the elders. What is this prayer of faith - strain hard, fasting...maybe...but the answer is in 1 John 5:14-15. #5 And the Lord: James describes two results of the prayer of faith - 1) the sick person will be saved, Greek = "sozo," used often in NT for spiritual salvation, but here used in OT sense of physical deliverance; 2) THE LORD will raise him up. God uses many means to heal - prayer, medicine, doctors, etc - but ultimately ALL healing is of the Lord. As Ben Franklin said, "God heals, and the doctor collects the fee." Here the elders pray and leave the results to God. Nowhere does Scripture guarantee physical healing in EVERY case. Dr. Wiersbe: "Those who claim that God heals every case, and that it is not His will for His children to be sick, are denying both Scripture and experience." Dorcas in Acts 9:31 died, Lazarus whom Jesus loved in John 11 died. Many of us have Christian family, friends, and loved ones who stand as testament that it is not always God's will to heal in this life. Wayne!!!