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Pastor's Blog

Prayer & Care

By February 13, 2023No Comments

When you begin to study the book of James, you discover from the beginning (1:2-4) that life’s trials are not unnatural barriers to our walk with God but the appointed way forward to spiritual maturity. He at once calls us to prayer. James ends where he began, calling us to pray before he concludes by addressing care for someone “wandering from the truth.”

In the closing of James (5:13-20), we find five truths about prayer and care James believes are important that we know. First, James looks at the individual at prayer. He writes, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (v. 13). Suffering or trouble can lead to a rebellious attitude against God and the abandonment of spiritual practices. Equally, times of ease can lead to complacency, spiritual laziness, and the assertion that we can cope with our lives apart from dependence on God. James encourages us that neither troubles nor ease should find us without a God-honoring response in prayer and song. We have a God for all seasons. Therefore, it’s important to James that we believe prayer and praise are the truest response to all circumstances.

Second, James looks at elders at prayer. We read, “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” (5:14-15). James conceives a sick person inviting the elders, the leaders of a local church to which this ailing person belongs, to come and minister to him or her. This is the only passage in the New Testament that gives such direct advice concerning the ministry of healing within the church. Much could be written about the teaching of these verses, but what’s important to James is that we believe prayer is the genuine response to the problem of serious illness.

Third, James looks at friends at prayer. He writes, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (5:16a). There is no doubt that Christians who are burdened by some sin often seek the counsel of a close friend and they pray together for deliverance and cleansing healing. But this is not what James is speaking of here, and his chosen wording will not allow this interpretation. James is directly talking about one believer offending another, then going privately to confess what they have done is wrong, asking to be forgiven, and joining in prayer for healing. It’s important to James that we believe that prayer has the power to heal the sin-sick soul and sin-torn fellowship (v. 16a).

Fourth, James looks at the prayer of a righteous person. We read, “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” (5:16b-18). To drive home the truth of the power of prayer, James illustrates it from the account of Elijah. Prayer is often an untapped resource. The illustration from Elijah’s life shows that prayer carries a mighty punch. He prayed for drought, and there was no rain for three years; then prayed for rain, and it rained. Now that’s power!

What does James mean by “a righteous person?” The word “righteous” has a forbidding ring. It seems to rule out us and our prayers. And, of course, if we are to understand it to mean perfect moral character and integrity, we would be ruled out. But this is not what James means, and it’s for this reason that James introduces this illustration of Elijah, who, he notes, “was a man with a nature like ours.” Elijah was flawed like you and me. Elijah was an ordinary person, but he was right with God – or, to put things in the sort of terminology that we find in James’ letter, his faith was active in his works, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (James 2:22-23). What’s the point? Those who by grace have been given the status of righteousness in God’s sight (believers) have been brought into a realm where effective prayer operates and have been given the right to exercise a ministry of prayer. It’s important to James that we believe prayer is powerful and has supernatural results when engaged by believers (vv. 16b-18).

Fifth and lastly. James looks at how believers ought to care for fellow believers. He concludes, “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” (5:19-20). Every Christian Fellowship is a place of truth and holiness. Each of us knows within ourselves how easy it is to slip away from a full commitment to our Lord. Many of us know what a blessing it is to have a brother or sister in Christ run after us, direct us in the right way and bring us back to God. It’s every believer’s responsibility in a local church to watch out for the welfare of other believers. We are called to bring the wanderer within the embrace of the finished work of Christ. When we become aware of someone from our fellowship lapsing from the truth or an error in their life, we don’t sound the trumpet and make it public, but simply out of love, which covers a multitude of sins, we act in love, and shares the truth with that person in the hope they will abide in Christ. It’s important to James that we believe that care for fellow believers is the responsibility of every believer (vv. 19-20).

James wrote this letter bearing his name to instruct believers on how to practically live the Christian life. He started, in chapter 1, by drawing us to prayer and right fellowship with God and fellow believers amid all circumstances and ended with the same. When everything is said and done, James teaches us that the Christian life is not only a matter of belief but practice; we are to live what we believe. This is evidenced, in part, by how we engage in prayer and care for other believers. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!