The Prayer of Faith
- The opposites James mentions are affliction and being merry. In the first instance he tells us to pray and in the second to sing Psalms although he could also have said it the other way round, namely in affliction sing Psalms which are prayers (as Paul and Silas did in Acts 16) and when merry pray thankfully.
- The affliction mentioned, we believe, could be physical or spiritual. In the New Testament affliction is used of:
- Persecution (Matt.24:9, Heb.11:25,37, II Cor. 1:6).
- Conviction of sin and chastisement for sin (James 4:9 WRETCHED, Psalm 107:17, Psalm 119:67,
- I Kings 8:35)
- Famine/destitution (Acts 7:11, James 1:27)
- Satanic attack or temptation (Job, Paul’s thorn etc).
- Spiritual weariness
The usual Greek word is THLIPSIS meaning pressure although in this verse it is KAKOPATHEO meaning hardship.
- The happy should sing Psalms because God is to be praised at all times, especially for blessings even though we are told to rejoice and praise him at all times (Phil.4:4, Psalm 34:1).
- Is any sick? The word sick and the word weak are the same Greek word e.g. I Cor. 11:30, II Cor. 11:30 (AESTHENEO) meaning without strength. The other word for weary and the word sick are the same (KAMNEO Heb. 12:3, James 5:15). The context suggests again both, we are body and soul and often spiritual sickness accompanies physical sickness.
- God may use the elders’ prayers and anointing (whether literal or not) to heal the sick (v16) cf Rev.3:18.
- Anointing with oil was an Old Testament practice signifying anointing with the Spirit for service as prophet, priest or king. The Spirit heals physically and/or spiritually whether directly or through means but by itself no oil cures anything.
- Prayer may cure illness if it is God’s will e.g. Paul’s many miracles, Elisha, Peter (Acts 9:40) where even resurrection from death occurs in answer to prayer.
- Again the answer is as above although the New Testament is full of examples where prayer in faith an requests made directly to Christ were all positively answered. Should a person die then they are forever healed!
- Healing in the ministry of Christ and the apostles is always a picture of the spiritual healing the gospel brings (John 12:40, I Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:5, Luke 4:18) which is basically the forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:9-10). The prayers of the elders offered in faith will bring physical healing AND forgiveness according to this scripture.
The Power of Prayer
1/2 Confessing your sins to one another relates especially to sins committed against another Christian which must be confessed, repented of and forgiven. So as to bring reconciliation and restore harmony. We must also confess all known sin to God. Confession of serious public sin in the church must be publicly confessed. Private besetting sins MAY be shared among caring brethren for help and accountability.
- Prayer for our brethren should be modelled on Paul’s prayers for the churches where he prays for their sanctification, which is a cleansing from sin and spiritual healing (Isaiah 1:6, Psalm 41:4, Jer. 3:22, Psalm 107:19-20, Psalm 6:1-3). Leprosy, the most obvious and contagious OT disease, made people unclean as a picture of sin.
- Confession and repentance brings healing to the conscience and healing of wounds between saints. Old wounds should not be picked at as we sometimes do with scabs!
- James is not teaching that prayer ever changes God’s mind but he is saying that Spirit-inspired prayer is effective and Christ exhorts persistence in his parable of the widow and corrupt judge (Luke 18:1ff).
- If the prayer of the righteous is according to God’s will (John 16:24), it will be answered and God will bring the positive outcome asked for, or deliverance e.g. Elijah and the drought and Elisha (II Kings 6:17), also Christ at Lazarus’ tomb. God used Christ’s prayers and will use our prayers in effecting his purposes (John 17).
- James uses Elijah as an example because he saw God miraculously answer his prayers despite him being sinful just like us.
- This means God uses the prayers of sinners to demonstrate his power, vindicate them and to encourage them. This encourages us to pray fervently despite our sinfulness. But we must remember Psalm 66:18, John 15 and I John 3:22. We can always plead his promises, tell him to fulfil his threats (Deut.28:23), pray using Scripture.
Ultimately Elijah’s prayer was heard because it was in line with God’s will and vindicated himself as the true God.
Next Study Saturday February 25th (Last of James) James 5:19-20 and review of book. Summarise each chapter, perhaps pick a key verse. Think about what we should study next-we are pursuing one idea.