On Sunday we opened up a favourite passage of mine in James 5. In James 5:13-18 we read this:
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.
And here James shares with us some incredibly practical advice about prayer, healing, and sickness. James calls us all to pray if we are hurting, or in joy, that prayer should be our response (verse 13). And then he gives some incredibly practical advice – if you are sick you should call in the elders.
The truth is that sickness has a tendency to isolate and to separate and James knows that in sickness we need others. So he says invite the elders in to pray, anoint, and support someone who is sick. This is because in sickness it can be so difficult at times to pray, so he says rely on the prayers of others. Be anointed a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and it was also thought to be medicinal. So pray for healing, and don’t shy away from those in the healing profession and medicine for help as well.
James says bring in supports to care, love, pray, and anoint and to find God willing to heal.
We also looked at the importance of confession, of the phrase the “name of the Lord” and a few others things. But most importantly, we landed not on more teaching about prayer, or about how to pray. We landed on whether or not we trust in prayer.
Because the truth is, if we know all about it, and even if I challenge people to practice it – if we don’t trust in prayer and in God, it won’t make a difference. So I asked us all to consider this question, “Do you trust in prayer and God to use prayer”. In spite of all the questions, the suffering we see, all the legitimate doubts and difficulties – do you trust in prayer?
Because I believe that prayer is worth trusting in. I believe that prayer actually changes the world. I believe that even in spite of the doubts I have at times, like anyone, that prayer matters.
So we ended with a challenge to prayer, and then ended the service with the only way that seemed appropriate. We invited people forward for prayer. And today if you are struggling in any way, I think today is the day to invite people in your life to pray. Because prayer matters, and prayer changes lives.
Big Idea: Pray. Pray. Pray.
- No profound theologian, James’ genius lies in his profound moral earnestness; in his powerfully simple call for repentance for action, and for a consistent Christian lifestyle. Douglass Moo
- Wherever we are at in life prayer is to be part of our life.
- Sickness has a way of separating us.
- Oil was medicinal and a symbol of the Holy Spirit and God’s consecrating.
- To pray in the name of the Lord is to pray and act as his representative and in his authority.
- Do you trust in prayer?
- It is God who is the healer.
- Pray. Pray. Pray.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What is your view of prayer? When have you seen a prayer answered? What are your questions concerning prayer? Who do you know that needs prayer and support? Who can you confess your sins to? Are you willing to?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Talk to your kids today about the power of prayer. Ask them what they think prayer is? Ask them who they should be praying for – and then spend time in prayer with them.
Challenge for the Week: To trust in the power of prayer.