IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Praying With Faith

Date: Jun. 16, 2013

Author: Bob Henkins

James 5:13-20

Key Verse: James 16

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

How essential is breathing to life? I’d say pretty critical. Just as reading our Bible is like eating our daily bread, prayer is like our breathing. The word of God is nourishment for our spiritual body just as bread is nourishment for our physical body. And just as breathing is essential to the life of our physical body, prayer is essential to the life of our spiritual body. Jonathan Edwards, a famous preacher, once said, “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.” Both prayer and action are expressions of our faith. When we pray, we pray with faith. When we act, we act with faith. From this passage we see that prayer is what gives power to our actions because prayer acknowledges God and draws him into our lives. Answered prayer is a privilege given only to the righteous. God hears the prayers of the righteous, who pray according to his will and it’s God’s desire that will be done.

After reading the passage one of the first things that we notice is how many times the word pray is used: seven times in eight verses. Obviously this is a passage on prayer. And in it we find three main prayer points: prayer for one’s self, the prayer of elders and prayer for each other. Let’s start by looking at verse 13. “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. ” Has anyone here experienced trouble or hardship? The reason I ask this is if there is one thing in life that is common to most people is that at one time or another we experience hardship. We’re not alone. However hardship makes us feel alone. When this happens the Bible encourages to pray. However instead of praying, people tend to worry, moan, and complain. Instead of coming to God in prayer we try to find ways to forget our hardship. Some try to forget through alcohol, drugs or escape into a fantasy, but none of these lead anywhere because eventually you have to return and deal with that trouble. Prayer is like the life line thrown to a drowning person that desperately needs it. Prayer is communicating with our heavenly Father who is the source of life and wisdom. He works all things for the good of those who love him. (Ro) So if we run into trouble or are having difficulties we should go to the one that knows all. Of course that is not all we should do but it should be the first thing that we do.

Also this verse encourages us in times of happiness to sing. You can tell when someone is happy because there is a bounce in their step and they are singing, humming or whistling. But James is a little more specific, he says that we should sing songs of praise. So not only should we sing because we are happy, but to sing why we are happy and to thank God. So for example, say there is someone who is happy that they’ve graduated and got accepted to a good university. They should sing praising God and thanking him for the blessings in their lives. Or maybe there’s another person that just got engaged, they are so happy they sing, they should not forget to praise God for the blessing that he poured out upon their life. The point is not to forget God – the one from whom all blessings flow in our happy times. Our praise is also a kind of prayer to our heavenly father.

Our lives are full of ups and downs, but it should never be without times of communicating with our heavenly Father, either in prayer asking for his mercy and help or in joy praising him for his goodness. On the outside that sounds good and logical. However life is not always so cut and dry or black and white. Sometimes we hit really rough times in which spiritually we’re almost knocked out, or maybe we get really physically sick and we’re unable to pray. What do you do when we can’t pray for ourselves? What do they do in hospitals when a patient can’t breathe for themselves? They put them on a ventilator to help them until they can breathe for themselves. Likewise we need a spiritual ventilator. Take a look at verse 14. “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” When we are at such a crucial time in our lives where we are either spiritually or physically sick, we need help. And that help must come from those who are spiritually mature, the elders. Elders are those who take stewardship over the ministry, who sincerely pray for the ministry, who serve the body of Christ. When we can’t pray for ourselves, we need their help to pray for us as intercessory prayer servants. Verse 15 tells us why, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” When we are spiritually down we must pray with faith but if our faith is weak, we need the help of one whose faith is strong. All of us are in different stations of life. Some of us are inexperienced and others more mature and seasoned. Some may be riding high from a spiritual victory and others struggling through difficult circumstances. The Bible puts it this way, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Ecc 4:9-10) But it’s more than just having a friend there to help us. It’s a friend whose faith is strong to encourage us in spiritual matters. We must always pray with faith. James 1:6-7 tells us, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,  because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” Sometimes when we are spiritually down, we might just go through the motions because we know that it’s the right thing to do but we just don’t have the strength to do it. That’s when we need our spiritual elders to shepherd us.

Also in verse 16 we see that we must pray for one another. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Prayer is not just for the elders, it’s the duty for everyone in the body of Christ. We are called to pray for one another. If we don’t pray for our brothers and sisters here, then who can we pray for? But you may ask, “How can we pray for them? What shall I pray for?” That’s a good question. How do you know their prayer topics? In verse 16 it tells us to confess our sins to one another. This is how we know what to pray for. People in different ministries do this in various ways. In the Catholic church a priest sits in a booth and listens to confessions. One way we do it in our ministry is through our testimony writing / reflection sharing each week. Through our reflections, we share our struggles and prayer topics. Or maybe we do it privately, with someone. It is through confession and repentance that we are healed inside and out. This way we can pray for one another.

But often we don’t confess our sins to one another, why? Either we don’t think that we need their prayers or we don’t want their prayers or maybe we don’t trust them enough fearing that they will gossip about them. Whatever the reason, it shows that there is a serious problem with the fellowship in the body of Christ. This is a serious problem. If we do not feel safe to confess our sins to someone, if there is no one that we can trust we are walking the life of faith alone and that is no good. It’s dangerous because a person that’s alone is the perfect target for Satan’s attack. In a healthy church the members confess their sins to one another, either in small groups or one to one but they do it. It’s here I would like to address our ministry. I think that we can do a better job in this area. Not all of us are involved in our small group ministry which meets on Friday. There are people that come on Sunday that do not participate in our small groups on Friday or meet with someone one to one. If you are not meeting anyone, spiritually you are at risk. Personally I believe each one of us needs a spiritual mentor, someone that we trust that we can confide our very personal struggles with. If we don’t have that deep connection, we are missing something. Also for those who do come on Fridays, not all of attend regularly. How do we really build a community if we are not willing to invest our time? And I know it’s an investment, which means we sacrifice something to attend, but isn’t it worth it? And for those who do come, when we share, we are not really confessing our sins and if we are not confessing, then what are we doing when we share?

Or maybe we don’t think the prayers of our brothers or sisters will do any good. We know God does not answer the prayer of an unrighteous person – Ps 66:18 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” And for those of us who remember our 2012 KV: Ps 66:20, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” Also John 9:31 says, “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.” Maybe we think that they are not righteous enough. However the Bible says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. God answers the prayer of a righteous person and works on their behalf. The sick can be made well and their sins forgiven. I don’t think this means that everyone who is prayed for will be healed, because it may not be God’s will at the time. But some people may think that prayer is reserved for the elders only but that’s not true. Everyone is included in this and in fact we should pray for one another.

But you may say, I’m not a superman of faith, I’m just a regular guy or girl. This is why James gives Elijah as an example for us. Someone will say. “I’m not anywhere close to Elijah.” Take a look at verses 18 & 19. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” Elijah was a person just like us. He wasn’t perfect. He was sinful just like you and I. Even though he had great success, he was fearful, he despaired, he wanted to give up. (1 Kings 19) God heard and answered his prayers. God considered him righteous. What does righteous mean? Made right in the sight of God. For us, when we repent of our sin and accept Jesus into our hearts and believe that he is the son of God who died to pay the price for our sin, we are considered righteous before God. We are made right because of this gospel by the grace of God only.

Lets listen to what Elijah said before he prayed for rain in 1 Kings 18:36-37, “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed, ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” From this we find another reason to pray and that is to glorify God, and also so that he would turn people’s heart back to him. This is especially important in our time now because the number of people professing no belief in God is growing. No faith, is up to 20% of young people. We need to pray like Elijah for the people of our generation to turn their hearts to God.

Some other points to notice: First power and effectiveness comes from God. Humanly we have limits. There is only so much that we can do. We need God’s power to be effective. Second, that it only comes when God listens. And if we want God to listen, we need his righteousness, therefore we have to humble ourselves and cry out for his mercy. And lastly, like Elijah, we have to bring our prayer requests to God. This might sound silly, but none of this can happen unless we actually come before God and pray.

Take a look at verses 19-20. “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back,remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” Recently I was reminded of a trip our fellowship took a couple of years ago when we went rafting in the upper part of Wisconsin. I love rafting, but it was a little risky. Several of those who went had never been rafting and a number of times people were in danger. But whenever someone saw someone in danger, they reacted and lent a hand. I had to help Peter, a student from Uganda, who was terrified. This is the same concept in verses 19 & 20. James is not talking about an unbeliever, but rather a brother that has turned away. It is easy to write off someone that has turned away. We might condemn them in our heart for leaving feeling personally attacked. But if we have a picture of them in distress and need our help then we are willing to reach out. The ministry that we have been called to is a ministry of reaching out, a ministry of praying for and serving others who are in need. In these verses it says, “if one of you should wander from the truth,” we might be strong now, but maybe some time down the road you may become weak for whatever reason and you might need that help. Therefore we should be one who is willing to go after and reach out. We might be worried about being rejected, however Jesus was rejected. And even though he was rejected, still gave his life for us. We must act in faith and show Jesus’ love to others. Our ministry is like our family, our family in Christ. We are part of the body of Christ, we need to love and help each other. Just as we cannot survive without breathing, we cannot survive without prayer. Sometimes we cannot survive without close friends that we can ask for help. I hope that each of you can be a spiritual mentor to someone and you can find your own mentor. And we can deepen our relationship together and strengthen the whole body of Christ.

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