PROBLEMS, PRAYER, AND POWER

thumb.phpPlease see below for my teaching notes to Pt. 4 of Revolutionary Faith.  

Revolutionary Faith is about how our faith being lived out today, impacts the future; it’s about how to use your wealth wisely to influence for good; it’s about appreciating the season of life you are in and others are in, and finally, it’s about how to pray about your problems and see powerful results!

Key Verse: James 5:16 “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

James mentions “prayer” 7 times in this final passage.  James had a reputation for being a “man of prayer.”  His nickname was “Camel Knees” because he had big knots on his knees from spending so much time kneeling in prayer.  So, this final passage, and specifically v.16 is born out of his personal experience- I LOVE THIS ABOUT JAMES!

James tells us there is great POWER IN PRAYER!  PRAYER is the greatest PRIVILEGE of the Christian life- to be able to communicate with God.

PRAYER is our greatest RESPONSIBILITY!  Yet, PRAYER is our greatest FAILURE!

James tells us WHY we should pray and WHEN?

WHEN I HURT EMOTIONALLY!  James 5:13 “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray.”

The Greek word means “to suffer misfortune, to be in distress, to be under stress, under tension.”  James is talking about internal distress caused by external circumstances!  Financial, relational, work-related, something on the outside that breaking your heart on the inside!

Ps. 18:6 David said, “But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help.  He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.”

Back in v. 12 of James 5 he says, “Don’t swear” and he’s referring to it in light of being under tension and distress.  In other words, you have two options when there’s distress in your life: SWEAR or PRAYER!

Notice too in James 5:13 he says, Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.”  Life is rarely on an even plain!  It’s filled with the extremes of ups and downs, feast or famine, problems and joy.  And you’ve got to know how to shift gears.

When you’re down- pray.  When you’re up, praise!  In either case, don’t be afraid to pray or to praise!  Prayer and Praise are talked about in the Bible almost more than anything else!  WHY?  Because they’re hallmarks of the Christian’s life!  We are to be marked by prayer and praise!  James says if you’re in trouble, pray.  God will provide you with whatever you need to deal with it.  If you’re happy, praise.  Be thankful, sing a song of joy!

WHEN I HURT PHYSICALLY!  James 5:14-15 “ 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. 15 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.”

The word “sick” in Greek means “without strength.”  You’re physically drained, no energy, not able to function normally, etc.  You have an illness.  We’ve all experienced this.

There are many instances of people being “sick” in the NT.  Lazarus and Dorcas got sick and died.  The man at the Pool of Bethesda was sick and couldn’t walk.  This is talking about serious illness.  Some of you have experienced cancer and other such “sicknesses.”

And James is saying that when you are beyond the help of a doctor, you pray!  You get the church leadership, your Life Group, to pray for you.  But there are also some caveats here we need to cover that hopefully will give you some practical counsel on WHY everyone doesn’t get healed!

The Sickness for Death.  It’s covered in 1 John 5:16 and John 11 with Lazarus.  It’s the kind of sickness God allows to take us home to heaven to be with him.  There are some sicknesses that we won’t recover from because God doesn’t want us to live indefinitely on this earth.  If every sickness could be healed by faith then anybody with some faith would never die!  This sickness is for the purpose of taking us home. 

The Sickness for Discipline.  It’s covered in 1 Cor. 11:28-32.  People were abusing the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and because of that it was the reason some of them were sick.  God will discipline us this way sometimes if we’re out of his will.  Sin can bring sickness into our lives and God will use it to discipline us.

The Sickness for the Glory of God.  John 9.  God allowed a man to be born blind so later he could be healed and that brought attention to the power of God to do the miraculous.  No one sinned; it was for God to get glory from, get people’s attention, bring them to Christ! 

Further, as 1 Peter 5:19 says, sometimes “suffering is the will of God.”  We get sick sometimes as God’s way of working out something in our life- to get our attention, to be able to better minister to others, to press in in our relationship with God…

Regardless, James is teaching us that when we get “sick”- this is dealing with the serious stuff (not post nasal drip), you pray, you get the church to pray for you!  It’s a beautiful picture of how a church, a Life Group is to function.  I know I can count on you to pray for me.

And you will “in the name of the Lord!”  That’s where the real power is!!  I want people to pray for me who have the power of the Lord in and on their life!  James is saying the “eldership” should be living and functioning that way, others in the church as well like Life Group leaders.  All healing is based on God’s character at work and the results are “prayer offered in faith will make you well!”

So yes, there are times we need prayer for physical illness and God will heal us.  Sometimes he won’t and God may take someone home to heaven.  But regardless, God’s purpose prevails!

WHEN I HURT SPIRITUALLY!  James 5:16 “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.”

Listen carefully: In Jesus’ day and still today it is taught that all sickness is a result of sin.  If you are ill, then supposedly you had some hidden sin in your life.  If you confessed and still were sick then you still had some other hidden sin.  Jesus blew that idea out of the water in John 9 where he said to the man who had been born blind that nobody sinned.

I think this is a very unfair concept.  You think of babies being born with birth defects- obviously that baby hasn’t sinned.  We live in a fallen world and part of that problem is there are hurts and pain, sickness and disease.

On the other hand, Jesus did teach that a lot of the sickness we bring on our lives we do bring upon ourselves.  If I don’t follow God’s principles, my body is going to find out about it.  If I don’t take care of my body, eat right, sleep right, exercise right, then all kinds of ailments will come upon me.  If I don’t listen to God’s word where it says “Don’t be anxious about anything, but pray about everything” and I worry, fret, get anxious and I get an ulcer, then I’m to blame for it.  If I allow resentment to build up in my life…

Why isn’t everybody healed??  I don’t know!!  God knows, depends on the situation and his purposes.  Even the great Apostle Paul prayed 3 times for God to heal him and God didn’t, telling him, “My grace is sufficient for you!”

BUT- one of the conditions for healing is CONFESSION.  Instead of concealing or camouflaging our sin, we confess it.  It’s liberating; it’s therapeutic and healing in itself!

You need to confess it to God ALWAYS, to someone if it’s PERSONAL, to the church if it’s PUBLIC.  EX. Me as youth pastor, speeding ticket, in paper, confessed before church…

AGAIN, THIS IS WHY WE NEED THE CHURCH, YOUR LIFE GROUP!!  We are “sick” when there’s “sin” in our life and we need people who love us, care deeply about us, who won’t judge or condemn us, that we can open up to about where or how we’ve failed and they will PRAY!!  CONFESSION CLEANSES YOUR SOUL!!

WHO CAY PRAY?  James 5:17-18 “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! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.”

James is encouraging us that ANYONE can pray!  Elijah, or any prophet, disciple, etc. we read about in the Bible; none of them were spiritually elite!  No one is!!  The example James gives is AFTER Elijah hid in fear, when through a fit of depression, wanted God to kill him and take him home, was lonely, resentful, angry, worried…

The lessonYou don’t have to be perfect to pray or to see answers to your prayers!!  

Elijah got alone with God, humbled himself, prayed persistently (7 times), didn’t give up.  And God came through- “a small little cloud brought flooding rains!  God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things through prayer!!

James 5:16 “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

This isn’t talking about “perfection” but about your “standing” before God– as a Jesus follower, living to be like him, you are “righteous” because of what Christ has done!!  IF God only answered the prayers of perfect people NO prayers would get answered!

WE NEED TO RESPOND TO WHAT JAMES IS TALKING ABOUT!

 

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