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Pray without Ceasing

9/17 – Powerful Prayer (James 5:13-18)

 

Introduction — Here James concludes the letter much as he began—speaking about prayer. James tells these folks that if anyone among them suffers, then he should pray. “Is anyone cheerful?” he asks. That person is to sing praises. If anyone is sick, then that person must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him. James reminds them that the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up and forgive any sins committed. James next calls them to further actions regarding prayer: Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James ends his appeal to prayer with an example of Elijah’s fervent prayer to the Lord. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. Did those who heard or read this letter believe what James told them? How about us? Do we believe that prayer is powerful? Do we pray earnestly? Do we pray in faith? Do we pray in tough times? Do we pray in cheerful times? Do we seek out church leaders to pray over us? Do we pray for one another? Do we know that the powerful prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much? Do we offer powerful prayer to God who is all-powerful? Do we bring specific, bold requests to God? Do we make prayer our first option or our last resort?

 

Prayer must be our first option and not our last resort. We must believe that the urgent request of a righteous person is powerful in its effect.  We must offer constant prayer to God. We must pray. We must pray. We must pray. We must pray.

 

Do we see the need for prayer? (13)

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.

 

Comment: Here James begins with a question, “Is anyone among you suffering?” It’s as though he knows that some must be going through great difficulty. So, since they are suffering, they must pray. James then asks, “Is anyone cheerful?” That person(s) must sing praises. Therefore, whether times are cloudy or bright, those who follow Christ must pray. They must see their need for prayer in all situations. And then, they must pray. That both the exact suffering and the exact rejoicing are open-ended leads those in the church to see their constant need for prayer. Question: Do we see the need for prayer? And when we see the need for prayer, do we pray? Do we cry out to God with desperate prayers? Do we sing out to Him with joyful prayers? Application: If you are suffering distress right now, then pray. If you are enduring hardship right now, then pray. If you are enjoying a season of cheer, then pray. Cry out to God. Pour your thoughts out to God. Make prayer your first option. Pray.

 

Do we see the time for prayer? (14-15)

14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

 

Comment: James now gets more specific. He asks, “Is anyone among you sick?” If there is anyone who is sick, then that person must call for the elders of the church. Those elders are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. It seems that the sick person is unable to come to the church, so he must ask leaders of the church to come to him. And the leaders must pray at this most desperate time. To pray in this manner is personal. To pray in this manner is powerful. James states that the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up, and forgive any sins. In this case the time to pray is during a critical health crisis (and possibly a critical sin crisis) that needs urgent prayer from faithful church leaders. Question: Do we see the time for prayer? And when we see the time for prayer, do we pray? Do we cry out to God with prayers of faith? Do we over personal, powerful prayers for others? Application: If there is anyone among us who is sick, then let that person call for the church leaders. And church leaders, you must pray over that person. You must offer your prayer in faith to God. You must pray, trusting the God’s power, seeking His forgiveness. Pray. Make prayer your first option.

 

Do we see the heart for prayer? (16-18)

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

 

Comment: Here James directs these Christians to confess their sins to one another, and pray for one another so that they may be healed. He then asserts that the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Craig L. Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell translate this sentence, “In many ways, a prayer of a righteous person is strong, when it is exercised.” In further comments, these two scholars state, “In context, James is more likely trying to encourage his congregations to exercise or “work at” their option of prayer more consistently.” (James, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008, p. 245) To pray more consistently requires a heart for prayer. And that’s what Elijah shows. He prayed earnestly. He literally prayed when he prayed. He prayed specifically. He prayed boldly. He prayed in line with God’s word. He prepared to pray. He worked at his prayer. He had a heart to pray (See 1 Kings 17 & 18). Question: Do we see the heart for prayer? Do we have a heart for prayer? Do we work at prayer? Do we pray when we pray? Do we pray boldly? Do we pray specifically? Do we pray in line with God’s word? Do we pray together? Do we pray honestly? Do we confess our sins to one another? Do we pray for one another? Application: Work at prayer. See the heart for prayer. Pray when you pray. Be honest with one another. Confess your sins to one another. Be bold. Be specific. Make prayer your first option. Pray. Pray powerful prayers for the glory of God.

Word Study for James 5:13-18

13 suffering (kakopatheo—suffer distress; undergo hardship; to suffer evil; withstand trouble)[1]

13 pray (proseuchomai—pray; pray to God; pray toward or to God; supplicate; worship; pray earnestly for)

14 call (proskaleo—summon; call to; call to a task; invite; to call to onself)

15 prayer (euche—prayer; vow; oath; to affirm)

15 faith (pistis—trust; what can be believed; trustworthiness; guarantee; loyalty; confidence)

15 restore (sozo—rescue; heal; deliver; save)

15 raise up (egeiro—awaken; cause to stand up; stir up; raise to life)

15 committed (poieo—do; cause to be; work; make; behave toward)

15 forgiven (aphiemi—dismiss; depart from; leave behind; to acquit; let loose; abandoned)

16 confess (exomologeo—confess in full; agree; acknowledge)

16 healed (iaomai—renew; cure; repair; to restore)

16 effective (energeo—work; produce; be in action; bring about; to do; accomplish)

16 prayer (deesis—entreaty; plea; petition; supplication)

16 can accomplish (ischyo—be strong; mighty; be capable of; to have power over; prevail)

 

Application for James 5:13-18

Let’s pray when we are suffering.

Let’s sing praises when we are cheerful.

Let’s call for the elders of the church when we are sick.

Let’s have the elders pray over us when we are sick.

Let’s offer our prayer in faith.

Let’s confess our sins to one another.
Let’s pray for one another.

Let’ remember that the effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much.

 

Gospel Connections for James 5:13-18

Jesus prayed often. Jesus prayed earnestly. Jesus prayed for the sick. Jesus healed many of them. Jesus called several of them back to life. Jesus forgave sins. Jesus prayed. He trusted His Father completely. Jesus prayed in faith. When on the cross in pain, Jesus prayed. Jesus’ prayers accomplished much. Jesus prayed powerful prayers.

 

Thoughts and Quotes for James 5:13-18

Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? ~ Corrie ten Boom

 

God will answer your prayers better than you think. Of course, one will not always get exactly what he has asked for....We all have sorrows and disappointments, but one must never forget that, if commended to God, they will issue in good....His own solution is far better than any we could conceive. ~ Fanny J. Crosby

 

Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer. ~ John Bunyan

 

Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things! ~ Andrew Murray

 

The potency of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire; it hath bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. ~ John Chrysostom

 

 

Commentary for James 5:13-18

5:13 Instead of grumbling against each other (v. 9) or taking oaths (v. 12), the believers should pray, strengthened by the corporate life that was theirs. James’s tone had become very pastoral. He asked if anyone was “in trouble” or (the better translation) “suffering” (the noun form of the same root, kakopath, is used in v. 10). He   then commended private prayer as the antidote to falling into the temptation of grumbling against another believer. Their prayer must be for wisdom (1:5), and it should be whole-hearted (1:6), seeking a firm conviction for the perseverance needed to endure the suffering.

By contrast (in the manner of classic diatribe), James asked if there were any who were happy. The proper response is songs of praise.22 Happiness is a blessing of God and must be received with gratitude. Thus gladness is directed and channeled by praise to God (cf. Col 3:16). In this way someone’s good fortune will not be a cause of envy but rather a joy shared with the entire fellowship.[2]

 

 

Pray (5:13–18)

James urged believers to use prayer in all the seasons of life. In times of affliction Christians are to pray to God for help and strength. In times of blessing believers are to praise God instead of congratulating themselves (5:13b). In instances of critical sickness the sick person was to summon the leaders of the church for prayer. Prayer for the sick could result in either physical healing or spiritual blessing. In times of sin and struggle mutual intercession could promote spiritual victory. Elijah prayed with such force that God withheld rain from the earth for three and a half years and gave it again at his request.[3]

 

 

V. The great advantage and efficacy of prayer are declared and proved: The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, whether he pray for himself or for others: witness the example of Elias, v. 17, 18. He who prays must be a righteous man; not righteous in an absolute sense (for this Elias was not, who is here made a pattern to us), but righteous in a gospel sense; not loving nor approving of any iniquity. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer, Ps. 66:18. Further, the prayer itself must be a fervent, in-wrought, well-wrought prayer. It must be a pouring out of the heart to God; and it must proceed from a faith unfeigned. Such prayer avails much. It is of great advantage to ourselves, it may be very beneficial to our friends, and we are assured of its being acceptable to God. It is good having those for friends whose prayers are available in the sight of God. The power of prayer is here proved from the success of Elijah. This may be encouraging to us even in common cases, if we consider that Elijah was a man of like passions with us. He was a zealous good man and a very great man, but he had his infirmities, and was subject to disorder in his passions as well as others. In prayer we must not look to the merit of man, but to the grace of God. Only in this we should copy after Elijah, that he prayed earnestly, or, as it is in the original, in prayer he prayed. It is not enough to say a prayer, but we must pray in prayer. Our thoughts must be fixed, our desires firm and ardent, and our graces in exercise; and, when we thus pray in prayer, we shall speed in prayer. Elijah prayed that it might not rain; and God heard him in his pleading against an idolatrous persecuting country, so that it rained not on the earth for the space of three years and six months. Again he prayed, and the heaven gave rain, etc. Thus you see prayer is the key which opens and shuts heaven. To this there is an allusion, Rev. 11:6, where the two witnesses are said to have power to shut heaven, that it rain not. This instance of the extraordinary efficacy of prayer is recorded for encouragement even to ordinary Christians to be instant and earnest in prayer. God never says to any of the seed of Jacob, Seek my face in vain. If Elijah by prayer could do such great and wonderful things, surely the prayers of no righteous man shall return void. Where there may not be so much of a miracle in God’s answering our prayers, yet there may be as much of grace.[4]



[1] Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson

[2] Richardson, K. A. (1997). James (Vol. 36, pp. 229–230). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Lea, T. D. (1998). The General Letters. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 632). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2420). Peabody: Hendrickson.