2nd half of James 5:16 applies to all the prayers: “The Prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.” It’s a declarative statement affirming the need to pray right.
“Pray right” is James answer. “The Prayer of a right person with God is powerful and effective” is James assurance. What does it mean to pray right? Here’s a silly little joke about a boy that thought he knew the right way to pray: A little boy was kneeling beside his bed with his mother and grandmother and softly saying his prayers, "Dear God, please bless Mummy and Daddy and all the family and please give me a good night's sleep." Suddenly he looked up and shouted, "And don't forget to give me a bicycle for my birthday! "There is no need to shout like that," said his mother. "God isn't deaf." "No," said the little boy, "but Grandma is."
Maybe that boy is on to something! If your deepest desire is a bike out of gramma it sure might be, but I hate to spoil the party ~ pure selfish prayer are not in God’s will… Prayer is about participating in God’s Kingdom work… If you are right with God then your prayers are powerful and effective…the prayer of a mature Christians, men and women of deep faith in God, is a weapon that is feared by Satan. Pray right!
A righteous person is right with God. You know what it is to be right with friends and what it is to fight. We need you who are right with God to pray, you who walk with God, who are growing in the Lord, who embrace Jesus Christ, who believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, who know what it means to be forgiven, who seek to do the will of God above all. Many situations of prayer are in this passage, but the character of the person who prays is most important. A person not all that committed to God is not going to have the same power and effectiveness of prayer as the person who is trusting God.
There is another layer of truth that emerges from these verses important for the prayer of faith. We easily miss an entire aspect of prayer that makes all the difference. One person that is kinda missing the mark of what it means to pray right wrote these words: "God, I don't want to waste my time on prayers that don't work. Teach me what the effective prayer is; teach me how to pray it." Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? But there is something missing. "God, I don't want to waste my time on prayers that don't work. Teach me what the effective prayer is; teach me how to pray it."
What’s missing? I need this reminder… When I get a phone call from people in the community for me to pray, often I do just that, I pray. I may pass the prayer to the prayer chain or post on FB if that is what is requested. Other times I get into the homes of people in the community. It is very humbling to be asked to pray. What I need to remember to enlarge the effectiveness of prayer, is to find out what it is the person is asking me to pray for? Powerful and effective prayer is about wholeness. When the person asks God, “Teach me what the effective prayer is; teach me how to pray it,” what is missing is to find out about the person. It is significant this scripture sprinkles in confession and forgiveness of sins. A prayer for healing is good, a prayer for more income is needed, a prayer for the restoration of a broken relationship is awesome, but the most effective prayers are for the whole person: physical healing, broken relationships, psychological trauma, and spiritual brokenness.
“If they have sinned they will be forgiven” is dealing with spiritual health. Prayer is most effective when the person being prayed for wants God to restore their unsettled world, including their heart. If a person only wants to be physically healed I will pray, but how more effective if they also want God to restore them spiritually so they will see God with clarity, sin in their life forgiven, Jesus Christ will be made alive.
Praying for the whole person is also part of the invitation to pray for one another in James 5:16. READ. Pray for the spiritual and physical health of one another. To “confess your sins to each other” means to find Christian brothers and sisters to talk about what is going on in the depth of your heart, the struggles you are having, the doubts and fears, the sins that are causing you to push God away. I am happy when a sick person is made well, but if the person was a good for nothing rotten God cursing cuss when they got the cancer, and after the cancer is healed they are still a good for nothing rotten God cursing cuss, somehow the healing seems incomplete.
Pray right. A powerful and effective prayer is not only about my character and my relationship with God as the one praying, but it is also about the desires of the person who is being prayed for… God will restore and heal the spiritual health of those who are seeking God. In James 5:14 the sick person calls the elders to pray over them. It does not say the elders are to force their way into homes insisting people let them pray…the sick person takes the initiative wanting committed strong Christians to pray. If a person has problems with addictions, court ordered treatment is relatively ineffectual. Only when a person wants to get well and is ready to change that the counseling and treatment will be exponentially more likely to work. A person who invites God to change them is far more likely to discover new life in Christ.
A survival practice for Christians is to be proactive in prayer. A praying Christian has less worries, less doubt, more joy, more confidence in God, more giving up control: “It is in your hands God.” Pray for yourself, sing songs of praise, the example of Elijah is essentially a call to pray for God to control world events… pray for one another and the whole person, physical and spiritual. And there is prayer for the sick.
I want us to be a praying church, praying for spiritual and physical health. READ James 5:14. A couple of practical thoughts:
#1, here’s a bottle of oil from Israel. I will leave it on the counter in the social hall...
#2, I want to be available to pray. but we have a number of elders and mature Christians. If you desire to have somebody pray for you and to anoint with oil, there are many people you can ask. My prayers are no better than the next righteous person (at least I hope I have some righteousness in me). You need people of faith, who believe in God, people who are seeking God…. As a church we want to pray for one another, be available…
About the oil ~~ “anoint [the sick person] with oil in the name of the Lord.” “in the name of the Lord” is more important than the oil itself because this is not magic. Prayer is a request to Jesus Christ who has the power to heal physically, spiritually, relationally, emotionally and entirely. The oil is a symbol giving you something to do and touch so more of our senses are brought into the prayer, like eating and drinking the bread and cup of communion. Acted symbols.
James says to anoint with oil. What is it about oil? In the Bible there are two significant uses of oil.
#1: there is the example of anointing with oil as medicine. In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan bathed the wounds of the injured traveler with oil (Luke 10:34).
#2: the anointing with oil is sacramental, setting a person apart for a special purpose ~ the prophet Samuel anointed Saul with oil when he was declared to be the king of Israel. Oil is symbolic of declaring this is ordained by God.
When oil is used as part of a prayer for healing of the sick, is it a medicine or setting apart? I think it is both. When I lived in S.F. the 49ers won a superbowl. How disappointing when Deion Sanders, one of the superstars, was traded to archrival Dallas Cowboys for an unheard of salary at the time of $25 million. I had to laugh at a commercial in which the owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones, is negotiating with Sanders and asks in jest, “how much to get you to play for me, $12-$13 million? Sanders replies, “Both.” What is the purpose of oil? Medicine? Sacramental? The $25 million answer is BOTH. Praying for the sick does not exclude using doctors and medicine as a gift from God to bring wellness but is recognized as ordained by God, hence the anointing with oil. Oil is also symbolic of God’s blessings, his spirit coming upon the person bringing wholeness, restoration spiritually and physically.
The prayer of faith is powerful when the one praying is walking with God and the person prayed for desires not only physical healing, but also spiritual restoration. READ James 5:16. The promise of this scripture: “The Lord will raise them up!”
This seems to be saying that if all conditions are met for a right prayer then the person will be healed, the cancer will go away, the fever will subside. Reality tells us this is not always the case because people die. Everyone eventually dies. When my father was sick with leukemia, I remember thinking towards the end of his three year battle that perhaps he wasn’t going to get well and he would die. A few well meaning people gently suggested that perhaps I did not have enough faith. Perhaps they were right, but I don’t think so. For those that knew Kay Bishop, sweet 95 year old little Kay, sharp as a tack but a body falling apart. At the end when she was failing she told a few people, “please don’t put this on the prayer chain because I don’t want to get well.” We all die. Yet the Bible says, “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, the Lord will raise them up.” I believe wellness includes our relationship with Jesus Christ, our righteousness before God, and is even more important than our physical well being. “To be raised up,” has a range of meaning ~ raise up from sickness all the way to be raised up at the last day as a child of God to new life in Christ and to be with the Lord forever.
May we become more and more a praying church. Praying for ourselves, praying for one another. Praising God when we are happy. We are already doing it, let’s just enlarge the tent. God uses ordinary people like Elijah, so there is no question but that he can and will use you as part of the army of prayer warriors. Pray for those that are sick. Pray for wholeness of body, mind and soul. The practice of prayer will give you confidence, will take away worry and will be a means for you to grow in your faith as you see the power and effectiveness of God at work. Amen.