The following appeared in the September 2, 2015 edition of the Berkeley Independent.
There’s a story that you may have heard about a young preacher at a small rural church. During the middle of his sermon his son shouted out “Vroom!!” as he was playing with a paper airplane. The young pastor told the little boy to quiet down. Then, a second time, it happened again. Then, the third time, the young boy let the plane fly from his hand and it landed across the aisle in Miss Hazel’s hair. The pastor excused himself and picked up his son, threw him over his shoulder and took him out the back door. As he was leaving, the young boy shouted to the congregation “Pray!!! Pray!!! It’s gonna be bad!!!” This little boy had learned the urgency of prayer. He was praying in faith that he would be saved!
Prayer is a basic spiritual discipline that most all Christians know about and practice. But there is also much confusion as to prayer. When should one pray? How should one pray? When does one pray? What does one pray? You’ve probably wondered before about some of these questions.
Did you know that there are 650 prayers listed in the Bible? There are approximately 450 recorded answers to prayer in the Bible. In the Bible, Paul mentions prayer 41 times. The Bible lists at least nine main types of prayer and five different physical postures of prayer. Prayer is important!
This week I want to look at a passage of Scripture that gives very specific answers to some of the questions that you may have had about prayer and specifically, praying in faith. And if you pray in faith, you will grow in your faith. We are going to look at two specific areas in which we are in to pray in faith and next week we’ll look at two other areas in which we are to pray in faith.
The first area is that of praying in all circumstances: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” (James 5:13) James states that if someone you know is suffering your response to their suffering should be to pray for them. Your response is not to lay blame, rationalize, try to explain their suffering, or tell them “it’s all going to be alright,” or anything of that nature. Your primary duty is to pray for them.
James then asks, “Is anyone happy?” If so, you are to sing praise to God for their happiness. Be joyful for the happy person. Don’t steal their happiness. Don’t tell them how horrible your life is. Don’t make their happiness about your unhappiness. Rejoice for them. Praise God for their happiness.
The second area in which we are to pray is in found in verse 14 where James asks a third question, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Here are your instructions: Call for the elders of the church. Pray over the sick in the name of Jesus. Sickness, especially chronic illness, can be a huge challenge to growing in your faith. It can be debilitating, exhausting, and depressing. It can be a faith-deflater. It can be very easy to ignore those who are sick; especially those who are chronically ill.
Whenever people read this passage many often think, “Whats the deal with oil? Is there some type magical power associated with it?” No. The oil referred to is basic olive oil. In biblical times it was used for helping heal people because it had some medicinal properties. What James is saying is if someone is sick then you should pray for them. Also, have the spiritual leaders of the church pray for them. And use oil. Use whatever you have. Antibiotics? Use it. Surgery? Use it. The principle of this passage is for you to pray for the sick and use whatever medicine you have to help heal the person. God can choose however he wants to heal, but he certainly heals through medicine.
Think of the doctor from Atlanta who had Ebola last year, Dr. Kent Brantley. It is a miracle that he is alive. God healed him through the use of prayers and the medicine that he had available. Prayers and God’s healing saved his life. So the gist of this passage is: pray over sick people. Have the spiritual leaders of the church pray over them and use whatever means you have necessary to bring healing.
Verse 15 says “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.” (v.15) The prayer of faith has real effectiveness. The word used here is “save” not “heal.” The prayer of faith will save the sick. And this brings to light the ultimate purpose of this passage: healing the sick is just another opportunity to bring glory to God and increase our faith in Him. God doesn’t necessarily heal someone just because they need healing. He heals them for His benefit so that His glory is made manifest.