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The Prayer of Faith November 4, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on James 5:13-20.

Summary: James begins with the following instructions regarding prayer:

  • if any believer is in an afflicted state, they should pray
  • if any believer is of a good mind, they should sing psalms to refresh their spirits
  • if any believer is without strength, they should call the teaching elders of the church to lay hands on them and anoint them with oil to the honor of Christ.

He notes that the prayer that is made out of faith will restore a weak believer to health – by God’s power; moreover, if their disease has been contracted due to special sins, those sins will be forgiven. This should spur weak believers to confess these special sins to each other and pray that they may be relieved. Indeed, the prayers of those who have been justified by faith are earnest and yield results.

James then supports this point by citing the example of Elijah, who was subject to all kinds of human weakness. In particular, Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain in Israel; his prayer yielded the intended results. After that, Elijah prayed earnestly that it would rain in Israel; again, his prayer yielded the intended results.

James concludes by asserting that if a believer should commit errors both in faith and in manners, and another believer converts them, then the latter believer is an instrument of the former believer’s salvation from eternal death.

Thoughts: In this passage, James exhorts his readers to confess their sins to each other and pray for each other. Manton offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 16:

It is foolish to hide our sins until they are incurable. When we have unburdened ourselves to a godly friend, conscience finds a great deal of ease. Certainly they are then more able to give us advice and can better apply the help of their counsel and prayers to our particular case and are thereby moved to more pity and commiseration…It is indeed a fault in Christians not to disclose themselves and be more open with their spiritual friends when they are not able to extricate themselves out of their doubts and troubles.

Now I have participated in several small group fellowships; in most of those meetings, it was difficult for the attendees to confess their sins to each other. In particular, when the attendees shared prayer requests, the requests usually fell into one of these categories:

  • work (e.g. meeting deadlines, dealing with unpleasant managers, job-hunting)
  • family (e.g. sick parents, siblings experiencing life changes, unsaved relatives)
  • friends (e.g. unsaved friends).

It seemed that the attendees had difficulty sharing prayer requests on personal topics (e.g. struggles with lustful thoughts and harboring bitter feelings towards other believers). Now James is not commanding believers to share any of their personal struggles when they attend their small group meetings – yet he is calling each believer to ensure that they have at least one person in their lives with whom they can share their personal struggles. Indeed, James seems to assert that if we keep our personal struggles to ourselves, then we will damage our spiritual health. Of course, this is an area where I need to grow as a believer…

Now that I have completed my stroll through the book of James, I have been inspired to (re)engage in some social concerns ministry. Indeed, my impression is that James calls his readers to shift their focus from fruitless pursuits such as making money, pandering to the wealthy, and engaging in disputes over the Gospel message with other believers. James wants his readers to focus on providing for the needs of widows, orphans, and the poor. Thus, I should use my gifts and abilities – along with my time – to bless those whom God has called me to bless. Before I embarked on this stroll, I had never associated this letter with social concerns; now I am inspired to demonstrate my faith with the appropriate deeds.

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