James – Asking for Prayer

Peninsula Community Church

July 28, 2013

James – Asking for Prayer

James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 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.

Notice the responsibility and the chain of events evidenced in this passage. A person who is sick, must first recognize they are sick. They take the responsibility on themselves to call on the elders of the church to anoint them with oil. The elder(s) responds by praying for them, but it is the prayer of faith that heals them. Please note that this does not mean that the elders are to be callous and not reach out to folks it simply means that if we need prayer we must seek it.

It is interesting to note the words used for “sick” here in this passage. The first word for sick is the word “asthenei” and means weakness. It references a sickness but more so of the kind that is evidenced in weakness or a lack of strength. While the word can be translated as a sickness, it can also be translated as a spiritually weakened condition. 

The second word used in this passage is the word “kamnonta.” it also carries the idea to be sick. It also connotes a sense of physical weariness. The idea here is that James equates being sick with physical weariness and spiritual weakness. 

While we call upon the elders to pray for us, we find that later in this passage healing is also a community event as we confess our sins to one another. The confession of sin is one avenue by which we are healed. For example, the act of forgiveness and then living in forgiveness can lower one’s blood pressure, reduce one’s heart rate, reduce possible heart issues, restores serotonin levels in the brain, and stabilizing one’s emotional outlook on life. This is a result of acting and living out forgiveness. But, lets save this for another sermon for now

As we look at this text, we must understand a couple of things. First, when we anoint with oil but the oil itself carries no healing properties. It is simply a symbol of the Holy Spirit who initiates forgiveness and brings the healing. The oil was used to anoint leaders such as the King in the Old Testament. We also find in the New Testament that oil was thought to have medicinal value. So it was when one was sick they were anointed with oil. In the case of the king, he was not dabbed on the forehead but it was poured over them so that it ran down their whole body. 

We see evidence of this in Psalm 133:1. David compares the unity in the church to the anointing of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 

On the other hand when the oil was used for medicinal purposes, the oil was swabbed over the wound or the area of sickness. 

While these may be true, we must understand that the oil itself has no healing quality per se. We anoint with oil as an outward expression of dependence on the Holy Spirit to heal and restore. We could say that the anointing with oil is similar to that of the bread and the juice used in communion. The elements have no power in themselves but they point to and represent the forgiveness and healing that is available through Christ.

Second, we must note that the elder’s prayer is no more special than anyone else’s prayer as we are all called into righteousness through the death and resurrection of Christ. We see this in the reference to Elijah. James notes that Elijah was just a man who was obedient to God and who was willing to be used by God for His good. To somehow believe that the elders prayer is more potent or more powerful is to elevate him to a role of the priesthood. It is also causes one to miss the New Testament view of prayer in that every believer’s prayer has power. 

As we know in the New Testament Christ came to dissolve the priesthood as the only priest we need is Christ himself. He also established that his followers are a body of priests.We see this is 1 Peter 2:4-5 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Too often we are dependent on someone else’s prayer when we have all the prayer we need and all the power we need. 

Third, the action proposed by James should not be taken as some kind of formula that automatically works without considering the spiritual condition of our hearts and the purposes proposed by God. Just because we do all the things detailed here does not mean that we are guaranteed to be healed. Too often, we do not experience healing because we do not confess sin in our lives. To walk in repentance is to experience a change heart or mind that leads to a change of action. The problem is that we want the healing without the righteousness which is right action. 

For example, I know people who have issues with their lungs. They ask for prayer continually and yet they continue to smoke 2 to 3 packs of cigarettes a day. It is my belief that God does not have to bring the healing unless they are willing to change the actions that have brought the illness to them in the first place. When they live in disobedience and they live contrary to God’s word, God is not obligated to heal. God will not cast his pearls before swine. Now this does not mean that everyone who is sick is sick because of a sin in their life. That would be a judgement on our part and one that is warned against by God. 

This relates back to James 2:18 when James says You have faith, your works will express that faith.

If these are true then why do we pray and do what James has detailed? First, the prayer of faith is an act of aligning one’s self to His word, His will and His ways. When we are out of line with God’s word, will and ways we can pray and he will not answer because we pray amiss as recorded by James in an earlier passage.

Second, the act of calling on the Elders is an act of submission and an act of humility. It is to acknowledge that we need help. You can’t do it alone. It is also a recognition that where two or three agree on a issue it shall be done in the name of Christ. We are living in such an independent society where we don’t believe that we need anyone or anything in our life. 

The idea of calling on the elders is a gesture of obedience but it is also a gesture of submitting to those who are over you in the Lord and to those who are called to care for your soul

Third, notice that he calls on the church to confess their sin to one another. It is in that act that healing comes as well. We focus on the prayer of faith but we miss the confession of sin. We must choose wisely who we will share our confessions with.

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