Friday, June 1, 2018

The Prayer of Faith (James 5:13-16) by Rev. Dr. Bryan Kile


As James draws to the end of his letter, he speaks of one of the most important aspects of the Christian life.  Here he draws the reader’s attention to the power of prayer. / Some of you are well aware of the power that prayer has. Others may have heard of its’ power, but have never experienced it. Still others have never really seen its’ power or known anyone who has. 

Many of you have probably had a mother who prayed for you from the day of your birth or even before you were born. Some may have had mothers who were not women of faith. But for those of us whose mothers were faithful in their prayers, we can be very thankful. While some may have strayed for a time, you are here in worship now and hopefully each praying for your own children. I trust that all of us fathers here today are also praying for our children.

James says, “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.”  

He also reminds the people of the importance of confession; as someone has said, “confession is good for the soul.” 

So, today, I want to take a look at prayer and the power that prayer can have when prayed in real faith. Of course, there’s the frivolous prayer that is not given in faith and sometimes even in jest.  I’m reminded of the boy who was misbehaving in church and finally his exasperated father picked him up and carried him out of the worship service. Just as they got to the back door of the sanctuary, the boy called out to the congregation, “Y’all pray for me!”

James starts off talking about praying when you’re in trouble.  For some people that’s the only time they think to pray.  You know what I’m talking about, “Lord, get me out of this mess!’  “God, I can’t face this situation!”  “Jesus, if you get me out of this mess, I swear I’ll start attending church.”  That’s not what James is talking about. 

You see, we have to look at the full context of what he says in these verses.  James is talking about fervent, heartfelt prayer offered in faith that God will honor the request because He is able to do so.  There’s none of this, “God, if you can....”  “Father, I hope you’ll help me here.”

One of the things we see James attaching to prayer here is the importance of confession.  In the early church, and even before the time of Christ, it was believed that one’s sins contributed to their predicament.  Now sometimes, even today, we recognize that is true.  After all, how many times have people ended up in hot water as a result of their sinful actions or activities?  Maybe you’ve had that experience yourself, I know I have. 

Confession is an important part of healing, as well.  If we are burdened with a load of guilt, our mental state is not conducive to the healing of our mind.

So, let’s take a look at the power of prayer and what James says to do to appropriate God’s power by prayer.  I believe it would be safe to say that theologians and pastors across the globe – and across the ages – would agree that prayer is the most effective and powerful tool we have available in the church and in the lives of individual Christians. 

James says, “Are any among you suffering? They should pray.”   He’s very matter of fact about it.  It’s almost like he’s saying, “Every Christian knows this, but I just want to remind you: Prayer is the powerful tool you have at your disposal when you’ve got a problem.”  I could spend the whole morning listing all of God’s faithful servants whose lives are recorded in the Bible. Those who, when facing a difficult situation, lifted their prayers up to God and were delivered. / One in particular I want to mention is Jonah after he disobeyed God’s call.  While in the belly of the great fish, he said, “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord” (Jonah 2:7). Often we act the same way. When life is going well, we tend to take God for granted; but when we lose hope, we cry out to him. This kind of relationship with God can result only in an inconsistent, up-and-down spiritual life. A consistent, daily commitment to God promotes a solid relationship with him.

I could spend many more hours sharing with you the experiences of many other faithful servants from across the ages and even from my own lifetime who have discovered the power of prayer.  They range from the most critical need to the most mundane. But in every instance, people of faith have lifted their needs to God and through their own faith have experienced God’s fulfillment.  Jesus prayed often and for long periods of time.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to His arrest, so-called trials and crucifixion, Jesus prayed fervently.  He knew the power of God could save Him from that terrible ordeal, but He also knew he must remain within the will of His heavenly Father.  So, He prayed that God’s will be done. / Later, when Peter was in prison for preaching the Gospel, the prayers of the others locked away in a house somewhere else in the city brought the angel to release him.  As Thomas Watson said, “The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.” 

I ran across this story of answered prayer told by a missionary to Zaire many years ago. It shows how, even before the prayer of faith was offered, the answer was set in motion. "A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister. One of the girls responded. 'Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won't feel so lonely.' That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, 'If God sent that, I'm sure He also sent a doll!' And she was right! The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child's sincere requests, and 5 months earlier, He had led a ladies' group to include both of those specific articles."

Over the years I have read numerous similar stories where people of faith have expressed their deep and immediate needs to God in fervent prayer offered in the faith that God would answer – and He did! / Many of you know that John Knox was a Scotsman who took the Presbyterian expression of Christianity to Scotland and from there it became the beginnings of the American Presbyterian Church. Mary, Queen of Scotland once said, “I fear John Knox's prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.” 

If each of us began to pray earnestly and sincerely for the people of the community in which we live, we would be amazed at the changes that would happen at the hand of God.  I’m not talking about a little “God bless our community” prayer, or a “God turn our community to You” prayer.  I’m talking about earnest, focused, ongoing prayer. Prayer that leads you to hear God’s voice telling you what you can do to bring about change in the community or the neighborhood in which you live. Prayer that counts on God to act and expects God to use the person praying, prayer that is offered by a person who is open and ready to be used. We could ask the same for this church.  That kind of prayer will bring about a changed church!

Many years ago, five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who said, "Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?" They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn't want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, "This is our heating plant." Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was Spurgeon. It would be my prayer that you would create a group like that praying for your worship services.  There may be a few who are praying today, right now, for you who are present. 

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt,... you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21–22)

James also talks about prayer for healing.  He says, “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up.”   In one church I served, a young couple whose daughter had suffered an injury which paralyzed her, did exactly that.  They asked the Session members to assemble and pray for her healing.  It was not immediately apparent that He answered that prayer, there was no instant healing that they had hoped for.  But I am confident that God brought healing to that little girl in His own good time. 

Another time in the same church, a woman was told she had breast cancer.  Her daughter flew in from out of state as soon as possible.  Then they called me and asked me to come and talk with them and provide some comfort and reassurances of God’s love.  When we finished talking, we stood in their living room and the four of us joined hands and prayed fervently for her healing.  A few days later, she went to the doctor’s for a follow up exam prior to her choosing the treatment form to deal with it. The exam showed there was no trace of the cancer. 

There is one thing to note in James’ statement that is very important: He’s not saying that healing depends on the faith of the sick person.  He says the prayer offered in faith is what brings forth the riches of God to bring healing.  He’s talking about the faith of the one doing the praying.  When Jesus was ministering to the crowds one time, “Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  (Mark 2:3–5) Then Jesus healed the man. 

Prayer for healing doesn’t always mean from an illness such as cancer or heart disease or diabetes or an injury of some sort.  Prayer for healing can also be for healing from an emotional strain or a psychological problem or from some besetting sin such as addiction.  In the latter cases, especially, it is helpful for a person to seek out a trusted friend to join them in their prayers and to hold them accountable.  When we know that trusted friend is going to ask us on a regular basis about our success in overcoming the struggle, we are much more likely to do our part in overcoming the problem – because, not only do we know that God is able to help us, but we also know that other person is praying for us and trusting God to help and heal.  The one thing we must remember is that in spite of the awesome power of God to do anything, He will not help an unwilling person.  When Jesus was asked for healing by the paralytic at the Bethesda pool, the first thing He did before healing the man ,was ask him if he really wanted to be healed. (John 5:2–9)


Wouldn’t it be awesome to have that kind of power? / You know something?  You have it, if you want it!  But you must have the faith that says “I know God can do anything, so I know He can do what I ask.”  But we must also remember that Jesus told us He would do it if it was the Father’s will. 

One of the keys to powerful prayer is to learn how to pray and to pray daily.  It’s not something that we save for the important moments, like a moment of critical need or a time of needed healing.  It needs to be a daily experience with God.  As prayer becomes a daily, even moment by moment, walk with the Lord, we grow in our relationship with Him and learn to express our faith in Him for all things.

We need to think in terms of walking with the Lord as a best friend.  Would a friend think much of our relationship with them if we only called on them, only spoke to them, when we were in deep trouble or sick?  I suspect that friend would question our commitment to the relationship.  Paul says we are to “pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17–18)

Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of those believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, saying, "Brother, the grass grows on your path."

Friends, is grass growing on your path?  Are you keeping a regular time of prayer: conversation with God?  Are your prayers built on the faith that is confident that the Lord will answer; that he is waiting to give you the very best from His storehouse?  God’s power is available to you if you have faith, even faith as tiny as a mustard seed, said Jesus.  (Matthew 17:30)

I would lay two challenges before you this morning. First, make a concerted effort to be regular and active in your prayer life, to set aside a time when you will meet with the Lord on a daily basis and pour your heart out before Him.  Spend time praising Him, thanking Him and confessing before Him.  Then in faith make your requests known to Him.

The second challenge is to include in your prayers this church and its leadership. In this time of transition, lift up the committee members who will be leading the search efforts. Pray that God might use you to bring about exciting, powerful, life changes in the members and in the communities you serve.  While you are here at church, or on the Sundays when you are away or unable to be here, spend time praying fervently for the people who are in worship.  Pray in faith that God will touch them, and you, in a mighty way.  Then, in faith, watch what the Lord will do!


Gracious and loving God, thank You for being our friend. Thank You for inviting us to come and talk with You. Thank You for being there with us through all the seasons of life. Help us, we pray, to be regular and open and honest in our times with You. Help us grow in our faith to know that You will answer our prayers in the way that is best for us and the ones for whom we pray. Hold us close and help us sense Your presence with us in our daily times of conversation with You. In Jesus name and for His sake. Amen.

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