August 25th, 2013
“A Life of Faith”
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
- James closes his letter as he began it, with a call to prayer. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 136)
- When James insisted in 1:2-4 that life’s trials are not unnatural barriers to our walk with God, but are the appointed way forward to spiritual maturity, he at once called us to prayer. This is so that in answer to believing, undoubting prayer we might receive from God the wisdom which would guide us on our way to the crown (1:5ff., 12). The sequence ‘patience…prayer’ was thus established (1:3-4…5). It is the same here at the end of his letter. The seven references to patience, waiting and steadfastness in verses 7-12 are matched by seven references to prayer in verses 13-18. The positive way forward in situations demanding endurance is the way of prayer. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 186)
- (v. 13) The word (kakopatheia, kakopathe ) (NIV = trouble) is wider than the sufferings of sickness. Jeremiah suffered opposition, Ezekiel bereavement, Hosea marital breakdown. It is any ill circumstance which may come upon us, any trial, anything of which we or an onlooking friend might say ‘That’s bad’. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 187)
- (v. 13) Suffering is from kakopathe, the verb form of the noun translated “suffering’ in verse 10. As noted in the discussion of that verse in chapter 19 of this volume, the word refers to enduring evil treatment by people–not physical illness (cf. it’s only other NT uses in 2 Tm 2:9; 4:5). James addresses not those suffering from physical diseases, but those being persecuted, abused, and treated wickedly. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 275)
- (v. 13) The present tense of the verb translated he must pray suggests a continual pleading with God in prayer; it could be translated “let him keep on praying.” When life is difficult, when believers are weak in faith, weary with persecution, and crushed by affliction, they must continually plead with God to comfort them. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 275)
- (v. 13) The first sense that James is concerned with is the power of prayer that comes across in the particular word ‘prayer’ he uses here. It is not the most common NT word for prayer, which is proseuche; instead, James uses the distinctive word deesis. The significance of this is that whereas proseuche refers to what we could call prayer in general, deesis puts the emphasis on the sense of specific need. It has a feeling of urgency and importance about it. In ancient Greek it was commonly addressed to ruling kings and in the NT it is exclusively used in addressing God. Combining the greatness of the need and the greatness of the person to whom it is addressed, perhaps the English word ‘supplication’ comes nearest to capturing its precise nuance. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 381)
- (v. 14) From the very earliest apostolic times it was customary to appoint elders in every church. Their alternative title, ‘overseers’, is more functional: it signifies ‘caring for,’ ‘watching out for the welfare of.’ We not only meet such a group in Acts 20:17-35, but we find their work described there as guarding and feeding God’s flock (28) and following the apostolic example of ‘admonishing’ (31). Elsewhere emphasis rests on their work as teachers (1 Tm 3:2; Ti 1:9), laboring in preaching and teaching (1 Tm 5:17). (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 189)
- (v. 14) The elders were spiritually mature men who were responsible for overseeing local churches (see 1 Pt 5:1-4). These men would pray over the sick person, calling upon the Lord for healing. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 138)
- (v. 14) In the Jerusalem church, the elders were the representatives of the believers (Acts 11:30; 21:18). They were the men who exercised leadership in pastoral oversight of the congregation they represented (Acts 20:28; 1 Pt 5:1-4). (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 175)
- (v. 14) Sick is misleading and not the best translation of kamn , which in its only other NT usage (Heb 12:3) clearly does not refer to physical illness. As has been noted, James speaks here of a spiritual restoration of weak, defeated believers. Nor does soz (restore) necessarily refer to physical healing; it is most commonly translated “save” in the NT. The idea here is that the elders’ prayers will deliver weak, defeated believers from their spiritual weakness and restore them to spiritual wholeness. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 278)
- (v. 14) In Scripture, oil was both a medicine (see the parable of the Good Samaritan in Lk 10:30-37) and a symbol of the Spirit of God (as used in anointing kings; see 1 Sm 16:1-13). Thus the oil may have been a sign of the power of prayer, and it may have symbolized the setting apart of the sick person for God’s special attention. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 138)
- (v. 14) In NT times, oil was used medicinally. The Good Samaritan poured on oil (Lk 10:34) as a soothing ointment and Isa 1:6 takes the practice even further back. The practice of anointing the sick with oil is found in Mk 6:13. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 195)
- (v. 15) In Jesus’ day, people overspiritualized illness. Many assumed that all tragedy and disease were direct consequences of sin. Today, in the West, we despiritualize illness. We believe microbes and defective genes cause all illness. We deny a link between sin and illness except in obvious cases such as cirrhosis of the liver and sexually transmitted diseases. (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 198)
- (v. 16) Iaomai (healed) does not necessarily refer to physical healing. In Mt 13:15 it symbolized God’s withheld forgiveness of Israel’s sins (cf. Jn 12:40; Acts 28:27). The writer of Hebrews also used it metaphorically to speak of spiritual restoration (Heb 12:12-13), while Peter used it to describe the healing from sin Christ purchased for believers on the cross (1 Pt 2:24). James uses it to refer to God’s forgiveness, making the repentant believer spiritually whole again. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 279-80)
- (vss. 17-18) James makes reference to Elijah because at the time of Jesus & James, no other OT figure conjured up such images of righteousness, effectiveness in prayer and messianic hopes as did the thought of Elijah.
- (vss. 17-18) Interestingly, the account of this miracle in 1 Kings 17, 18 nowhere mentions that Elijah prayed for the drought to begin, though James here says that he “prayed earnestly.”
How did James know about this prayer? Possibly because of extra-Biblical literature such as Ecclesiasticus 48:1-3, so that James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, authenticated the historical record. “He prayed earnestly that it would not rain” is literally “in prayer he prayed,” a Hebrew idiom for intensity or passion. Elijah’s prayer was not a laid-back request–“God, it would be nice if it would not rain.” Rather, he passionately poured out his heart to Heaven. Apparently (cf. 1 Kgs 17:1) God had told him a drought was coming, so he prayed with all he had that God’s word would transpire. And it did, with a terrible three and one half year famine. (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 268-69)
- (vss. 17-18) Before we leave this passage there is one interesting technical fact that we must note. It quotes Elijah as an example of the power of prayer. This is an excellent illustration of how Jewish rabbinic exegesis developed the meaning of Scripture. The full story is in 1 Kings 17 and 18. The three years and six months–a period also quoted in Lk 4:25–is a deduction from 1 Kgs 18:1. Further, the OT narrative does not say that either the coming or the cessation of the drought was due to the prayers of Elijah; he was merely the prophet who announced its coming and its going. But the Rabbis always studied Scripture under the microscope. In 1 Kgs 17:1 we read: “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Now the Jewish attitude of prayer was standing before God; and so in this phrase the Rabbis found what was to them an indication that the drought was the result of the prayers of Elijah. In 1 Kgs 18:42 we read that Elijah went up to Carmel, bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. Once again the Rabbis saw the attitude of agonizing prayer; and so found what was to them an indication that it was the prayer of Elijah which brought the drought to an end. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 132)
- (v. 17) From what source did Jesus and James receive the information on the duration of the drought? The OT record shows only that “in the third year” of the drought God told Elijah to go to Ahab (1 Kgs 18:1). That is not the same as three years and a half. From Jewish sources we learn that the expression three and a half years is an idiom which, because of frequent usage, came to mean “for quite some time.” Therefore, we ought to take the expression figuratively, not literally. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 181)
- (v. 17) The reference to “three and a half years” is surprising, because 18:1 mentions simply that the drought ended “in the third year.” Likely James, similar to Luke (Lk 4:25), is reflecting apocalyptic symbolism, in which “three and a half” is a number of sinister omen, since it is half of the number seven, the perfect number (cf. Dan 6:25; Rv 12:6, 14; 13:5). (David P. Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary: James, 308)
- The episode on Mt. Carmel, including Elijah’s example of powerful, effective and righteous prayer, was meant to enable Israel to stop their wavering between God and Baal. That James appeals to this well-known incident to make his point about the need for righteousness (and total commitment to God) in prayer seems too obvious to be coincidental. (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 206)
The question to be answered is . . . What is James attempting to say to us in 5:13-18?
Answer: That in order to have a living vital faith, we must live in a state of constant communion with the God of the Universe. Only He can allow you to live above your depravity and the depravity of this world.
Day by Day, dear Lord, of Thee three things I pray:
To see Thee more clearly
To love Thee more dearly
to follow Thee more nearly. — Richard of Chichester (1197-1253).
The Word for the Day is . . . connect
Prayer is God’s gift to his people to help them see themselves not as helpless prisoners of fate but active participants in how God directs his world. The Savior guarantees access; the Father promises to listen, always; the Spirit promises to fill in the gaps and interpret. (Mark Jeske, The People’s Bible: James, Peter, John, Jude, 50)
We must be careful not to see the formula as a guarantee for physical healing. First, there are certain laws that govern prayer. Prayer must be done in Jesus’ name (Jn 14:13), in faith (Mt 21:22), according to God’s will (1 Jn 5:14), and with sincerity and earnestness (Mt 7:7-11). Sin in the heart is a hindrance to prayer (Ps 66:18), as is disunity (1 Pt 3:7; cf. Mt 18:20) and asking with wrong motives (4:3). Second, God does use human instruments and means for healing. Luke was a physician (Col 4:14), and Paul prescribed a means by which Timothy could find relief from stomach difficulties (1 Tm 5:23). Third, several in apostolic times were not miraculously healed. Paul sought healing, but God was not pleased to grant it (2 Cor 12:7-10). Trophimus was not healed (2 Tm 4:20). When our Lord was at the pool of Bethesda, He chose to heal only one, though there was a multitude of sick and diseased people awaiting healing (Jn 5:2-9). And fourth, God often allows sickness that through it He might be glorified. That was the case with the blind man (Jn 9:3) and with the apostle Paul (2 Cor 12:9-10). Often more praise comes to God through the joyous acceptance of God’s will in suffering than would come if physical healing did occur. (Vernon Doerksen, Everyman’s Bible Commentary: James, 133-34)
What is James attempting to teach us in this condensed section of his letter?:
I. If life is a pain — Pray (Jas 1:2-5; 5:13; see also 2 Chr 16:12)
II. If life is great — Praise (Jas 1:17; 5:13; see also: 1 Chr 16:8-10; Ps 95:1-2; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16)
Those who sing pray twice. -Augustine
Our singing ought to be an expression of our inner spiritual life. The believer’s praise should be intelligent (1 Cor 14:15) and not just the mouthing of words or ideas that mean nothing to him. It should come from the heart (Eph 5:19) and be motivated by the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18). Christian singing must be based on the Word of God (Col 3:16) and not simply on the clever ideas of men. If a song is not biblical, it is not acceptable to God. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 167)
Because our praise is directed to God, singing is actually another form of prayer. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 137)
By its nature, music allows us to come as close as possible to praising God in perfect union. Perhaps not every person is happy, but the joyful expression of a few may actually be what God uses to lift the spirits of those who are broken or lost. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 137)
Thomas Manton recognizes that ‘Every new mercy calls for a new song.’ Never a day should pass in the Christian’s life without him lifting his heart and voice in joyful praise to God for all his greatness and goodness. As someone has rightly said, ‘It is amazing that man is not always praising God, since everything around him invites praise.’ (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 362)
(Ps 34:3). Commenting on this last verse, Matthew Henry says this: ‘We cannot make God greater or higher than he is; but if we adore him as infinitely great, and higher than the highest, he is pleased to reckon this magnifying and exalting him.’ (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 363)
Those who manage to maintain a cheerful attitude in their suffering are to sing praises. Cheerful is from euthumeō and describes those well in spirit, or having a joyful attitude–not those who are physically well. The suffering and the happy, the wounded, broken spirits and the whole, rejoicing spirits are both to pray. The one is to plead with God for comfort, the other is to sing praises to God for comfort given. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 276)
The proper response to pressure is praise plus prayer. (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 261)
If we truly grasped that when we sing we are praising him or praying to him, that we are in the presence of the King of Glory, and that we should have come to thank him, praise him, and ascribe worth to him (not to make ourselves feel better), we would begin to understand how important it is to know what we are singing. This is one reason, among others, that hymns have fallen out of popularity and use in many circles. It is because they require thought, and we do not want to think. “I come to church to be refreshed–not to work” is a common attitude. But proper worship does take work, thought, preparation, and action. (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 251-52)
When someone is in trouble, he readily prays. But when someone is happy, we do not hear him sing songs of praise. Our technological age has taken over and we have become a society that listens, not a people that sings. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 177)
III. If you need help (physical, spiritual, emotional, social) get help from God through technology and your household of faith (Jas 5:14; see also: Lk 10:34; 2 Cor 1:3-4; Gal 6:1-10; 1 Tm 5:23; ). If you don’t ask you won’t receive (Mt 7:7; Jas 4:2). If you don’t seek, you won’t find. If you don’t knock, no one will answer.
You can do more than pray after you have prayed. But you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed. — John Bunyan
“I shall work as if everything depended on me and I’ll pray as if everything depended on God.” —Saint Augustine
God does everything by prayer, and nothing without it. (John Wesley quoted in The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 294)
We must be careful lest we over-value the marvelous and the miraculous at the expense of the mundane and the providential. As to medical matters, there is enough in the NT to direct us to prize, to accept as a divine gift, and to call for, the specialist help of our medical doctors, and to thank God for the provisions of our health services. The Samaritan applied oil and wine (Lk 10:34), using the medical knowledge of his day–the oil to soothe and the wine to cleanse–and for this as well as for his other care for his needy neighbor he ‘received the praise of the Lord Jesus. Paul called Luke ‘the beloved physician’ (Col 4:14), and we can understand the reference to Luke’s profession only if Paul himself and others had enjoyed the benefit of it. Timothy was urged, in respect of his ‘frequent ailments’ (1 Tm 5:23), to add a little wine to his diet. Trophimus, notwithstanding the healing powers of Paul, was left behind at Miletus (2 Tm 4:20) because he was ill–presumably to rest until the medicines of the day, or the recuperative powers of the body, did their work. In our day the abundance, availability and effectiveness of medical care is a marvelous illustration of the goodness of God. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 193)
It is true that, apart from the present verse, astheneō is translated sick 18 times in the NT (e.g., Mt 10:8; 25:36, 39; Mk 6:56; Lk 4:40; Jn 4:46; Acts 9:37). But it is also used 14 times to refer to emotional or spiritual weakness (Acts 20:35; Rom 4:19; 8:3; 14:1-2; 1 Cor 8:11-12; 2 Cor 11:21, 29; 12:10; 13:3-4, 9). Significantly, in all but three (Phil 2:26-27; 2 Tm 4:20) of astheneō’s appearances in the epistles it does not refer to physical sickness. Paul’s use of astheneō in 2 Cor 12:10 is especially noteworthy, since it there describes weakness produced by the sufferings of life–in a similar context as its usage in the present verse.
Translating astheneō “weak” here in keeping with its predominant usage in the epistles allows us to view this verse in a different light. James moves beyond the suffering believers of the previous point to address specifically those who have become weak by that suffering. The weak are those who have been defeated in the spiritual battle, who have lost the ability to endure their suffering. They are the fallen spiritual warriors, the exhausted, weary, depressed, defeated Christians. They have tried to draw on God’s power through prayer, but have lost motivation, even falling into sinful attitudes. Having hit bottom, they are not able to pray effectively on their own. In that condition, the spiritually weak need the help of the spiritually strong (cf. 1 Thes 5:14). (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 276-77)
Metaphorically, the elders’ anointing of weak, defeated believers with oil conveys the responsibility for elders to stimulate, encourage, strengthen, and refresh (cf. Lk 7:46) these people. Speaking of Israel, Isaiah wrote, “From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil” (Isa 1:6). Lacking godly leaders, the people of the nation had not had their spiritual wounds treated. David expressed God’s gracious, compassionate, spiritual restoration of him in these familiar words: “you have anointed my head with oil” (Ps 23:5). (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 278)
One truth that easily could be overlooked here is the emphasis on the church as a healing community. James’ concern throughout this letter is to preserve the health and vitality of the Christian community–the church. Among other reasons for wanting to do so is that the health of individual Christians depends directly upon the health of the Christian community. For those of us who have grown up in the Protestant West, which emphasizes individualism, that is a difficult concept to grasp. But James’ words here about healing demonstrate that it is in community that the healing grace of God operates most effectively. (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 201)
IV. When God says you will be healed, you will be healed. God’s yes is yes but His no is no. (Jas 5:15; see also: Mt 18:19-20; Mk 11:22-25; Jn 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23; 2 Cor 12:7-10; 1 Jn 5:14)
The value of persistent prayer is not that he will hear us…but that we will finally hear him. (Guideposts 1/97, 16)
Stop praying, “Lord, bless what I’m doing,” and start praying, “Lord, help me to do what you are blessing.” (Rick Warren,;The Purpose Driven Church, 15)
Those who claim that God heals every case, and that it is not His will for His children to be sick, are denying both Scripture and experience. But where we have the inner conviction from the Word and the spirit that it is God’s will to heal, then we can pray “the prayer of faith” and expect God to work. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 169)
It must be emphasized here that the prayer offered is a prayer offered in faith–not only the faith that believes God can heal, but also the faith that expresses absolute confidence in God’s will. A true prayer of faith will acknowledge God’s sovereignty in his answer to that prayer. It is not always God’s will to heal those who are ill (see 2 Cor 12:7-9). A prayer for healing must be qualified with a recognition that God’s will is supreme. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 139)
Question: Is there any such thing as an “unanswered prayer”? Or would it be wiser to call them “unwanted answers”? (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 131)
Trusting God only as long as he cooperates with our plans is no trust at all. The prayer offered in faith gives God a free hand to work. Because believers have an eternal viewpoint, we can claim the absolute certainty of this promise–God can and will heal, though not always in this world. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 140)
Jesus chided human attempts to measure faith. He pictured the strongest faith as no bigger than a mustard seed. To the disciples’ questions about unanswered prayers Jesus replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt 17:20 NIV). Clearly the size of our faith in God is not important; rather, it is the character of the God in whom our faith rests that makes the difference. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 140)
Neither the sick person nor any of the elders is there to insist that his or her will be done, but to put the sick one within the total, eternal security of the unchangeable and unchangeably gracious will of God. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 200)
Dr. Henry W. Frost explains his choice of the title by saying that ‘Healing of any kind is necessarily divine. A physician does not heal, nor medicine, nor a scientific diet, nor an improved environment, nor anything else that may be named. All creation or re-creation is from God; and hence, in every instance of healing, he is the one who heals, whether he acts directly through unknown laws or indirectly through known laws.’ (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 368)
Now while it is undoubtedly true that Jesus took upon himself the divine judgment on his people’s sins, including the penalty of physical death, it is clearly not true that Christians have immediate and complete possession here and now of all the benefits of his death. Ultimately, the Christian will be free from temptation, but for the moment he must still face it. Ultimately, there will be for the Christian no more tears, sorrow, crying or pain, but while he lives on this present earth, these remain facts of life. One day, the Lord will give the Christian a body ‘like his glorious body’ (Phil 3:21), but for the moment he must live within his natural, physical limitations. Although death for the Christian has lost its sting, being swallowed up in the victory of Christ’s resurrection, it is still something he must experience here on earth. It has not been removed from him by the atonement. The same is clearly true about bodily sickness. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 369)
The cures did not stem from the properties of the oil, but from the power of the Lord, working through the apostles. The oil was merely a ‘visual aid,’ perhaps granted by the Lord to help in focusing the faith of the sufferers. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 372)
It is worth noting that Jesus did not always use these ‘visual aids’ in performing his miracles, nor did he give any instructions to the disciples to do so later in commissioning them for their ministry. This makes it additionally clear that the power did not rest in the means but in the Lord. As A. P. Waterson wisely writes in The New Bible Dictionary, ‘Great care must be exercised in avoiding the magical in the search for the miraculous.’ (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 372)
The first of these conditions is that the patient be anointed with oil ‘in the name of the Lord.’ It must be obvious that this means much more than the mechanical repetition of a phrase such as ‘We do this in your name,’ which can be no more than an empty formula. The simple word ‘name’ contains the first clue we need. The Greek word is onoma, which is made up from the same root as the noun nous (‘mind’) and the verb ginosko (‘to know’). This explains why many times in the Bible a person’s ‘name’ identifies not only who a person is, but what he is. It is a revelation of his mind, his character, his personality. Applying this principle to the situation before us, ‘the name of the Lord’ is equivalent to the active presence of God in his revealed nature and character. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 374-75)
The plain truth is that the actions James describes are only effective when carried out ‘in the name of the Lord,’ that is to say in accordance with his mind; on his authority. There must therefore be a thoughtful, Spirit-directed conviction that it is right to call for the elders, and as ‘God is not a God of disorder’ (1 Cor 14:33) we may expect that when there is, the elders will have a similar conviction that the course of action is right. The caller and the called must act ‘in the name of the Lord.’ (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 375)
The words of James must not be understood as an apostolic command to anoint the sick with oil. On the contrary, in his healing ministry Jesus did not resort to its use. In the Book of Acts, the apostles healed the sick on numerous occasions, but did not use oil (3:6; 5:15-16; 9:34; 14:8-10; 16:18; 28:8-9). The emphasis is on prayer, not on oil. (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 176)
We must realize it is not always God’s will for a sick person to call for the elders to pray the prayer of faith and to be healed, for ultimately we will all have a sickness or trauma which will result in death. Our calling for the elders must not be a whim–“Sure, I’ll try anything!”–but with a definite sense that it is God’s will. (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 255)
Any truly biblical encouragement must be consistent with who God is (which is what His name represents). To do something in the name of Christ is to do what He would have done in the situation; to pray in the name of Christ is to ask what He would want; to minister in the name of Christ is to serve others on His behalf (cf. Jn 14:13-14). (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 278)
Healing is a gift, not a reward. God does not owe healing to someone simply because she has strong faith. (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 197)
Among the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of healing (1 Cor 12:9, 28). Paul, however, pointedly and rhetorically asks, “Do all have gifts of healing?” (1 Cor 12:30, NIV). Paul himself performed healing miracles during his missionary tours, but he gives no indication that he healed Epaphroditus, who was so ill that he almost died (Phil 2:27). Paul openly admits that he “left Trophimus sick in Miletus” (2 Tm 4:20). And Paul himself had to contend with a thorn in the flesh which God did not remove (2 Cor 12:7-9). In short, Paul was not able to use his gift of healing whenever he pleased and wherever he was. (Simon Kistemaker, Acts, 131)
V. We need to be so connected to the household of faith that we have those we trust to whom we can confess our sins. (Jas 5:16; see also: Dt 28:58-63; Prv 28:13; Jn 5:14; 9:2-3; 1 Cor 11:27-30)
It was a deeply-rooted Jewish belief that where there were sickness and suffering, there must have been sin. “There is no death without guilt,” said the Rabbis, “and no suffering without sin.” The Rabbis, therefore, believed that before a man could be healed of his sickness his sins must be forgiven by God. Rabbi Alexandrai said, “No man gets up from his sickness until God has forgiven him all his sins.” That is why Jesus began his healing of the man with the palsy by saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:5). The Jew always identified suffering and sin. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 131)
We are not to confess our sins in a spirit of mock humility, nor as a perverted device to draw attention to ourselves. We are not to do it in any other attitude except that conditioned by the conviction that we need the prayerful counsel of the person whose help we seek. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 391)
The greatest motivation for purity is one’s desire for God Himself. Sexual sins and impure thoughts are impediments to intimacy with God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 134)
As long as we look for our needs to be met by persons, we will always be disappointed. This is especially true in marriage relationships, because such an expectation imposes a terrible burden upon one’s partner. No person is perfect; no one can take the place of God in our lives. Rather, in Christian marriage and in true community we learn together that we will find our needs thoroughly met only in our relationship with God. Our alienation from him prevents us from discerning ways in which other persons can minister to our needs. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 86)
Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.
— John Bunyon
The whole aim of the making and hearing of confession of sin is that the person seeking help might be healed. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 392)
“God never pours the oil of anointing on the flesh” — Joyce Meyer message “Conditions of Successful Prayer”
The aim of confessing and of hearing confession should be the healing of the spiritual situation, forgiveness, blessing, restoration of the spiritual glow, renewed usefulness in God’s service. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 392)
But whereas the Roman Catholics have interpreted confession too narrowly, many of us may be tempted to interpret it too broadly. Confession of all our sins to all the brethren is not necessarily enjoined by James’ statement. Confession is “the vomit of the soul” and can, if too generally and too indiscriminately made, do more harm than good. (Curtis Vaughan, James: A study Guide, 120).
CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What does James’ message have to do with my relationship with Christ?:
A- Whether through prayer or praise we should endeavor to be in constant communication with Jesus. (Jas 5:13-16; 1:25; see also: Mt 7:7-11; Jn 15:1-7; Acts 11:23; 13:43; Rom 11:22; Gal 5:16-26; Col 2:6; 1 Thes 5:16-18; Heb 11:6; 1 Jn 2:27-28)
SEVEN DAYS WITHOUT PRAYER MAKES ONE WEAK.
Nobody has so little that there is no room for praise, or so much that there is no need for prayer.
Always Say A Prayer (A.S.A.P.)
Prayer is not a “spare wheel” that you pull out when in trouble; it is a “steering wheel” that directs us in the right path throughout life.
If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith. — Martin Luther
Throw away the excuses and face reality! The fact that you are grumpy in the morning does not mean that “you got up on the wrong side of the bed.” It means your old sinful nature is in control. Because you enjoy hearing some “dirt” about other people does not mean you have an inquisitive mind. It means that you are not abiding in Christ. Because you easily “blow your cool” does not mean you have a short fuse. It means you have a weak connection to Jesus. (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 125)
That is infidelity that takes a believer in the hour of his need first to the arm of flesh, rather than in prayer to God. To go to the creature first, is to “go down into Egypt” for help,–a sin which God has signalized with his severest displeasure. (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 94)
A walk in the Spirit will of necessity be a walk in accordance with the Word the Spirit has inspired. The parallel between Eph 5:18-21 and Col 3:15-17 is significant. The same results are said to flow from being filled with the Spirit in the first case, and being filled with the Word in the second. To remain filled with the Spirit, and thus enjoy His continuing sanctifying work, will mean continuing to be filled with the Word. The relationship is obvious. (J.O. Sanders; Enjoying Intimacy with God, 91)
To pray to him is to acknowledge his sovereign power in appointing our circumstances. Whether as the source of supply in need, or the source of the gladness of our joy, God is our sufficiency. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 188)
Effective prayer (and notice how perfectly all of this holds together) is prayer that is God-initiated, God-energized. It is not meant to be a spiritual fire-engine brought in to deal with emergencies, but something that is the continuous expression of a Spirit-filled life. The Christian is therefore lovingly commanded to ‘live by the Spirit’ (Gal 5:16) allowing him to direct and control every area of life, including the vital area of prayer. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 379)
If our prayer is to be effective it must be energized by God himself, as part of the mysterious ministry of the Holy Spirit, who ‘intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express’ (Rom 8:26). (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 385)
The impious life is the life that assumes God hides out in His little heaven and leaves us alone on earth to run our own show. True religion, on the other hand, brings God into every part of human existence. (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 195)
B- The intimacy we enjoy with Jesus and the effectiveness of our prayers will be in direct proportion to our righteousness and passions/affections. (Jas 5:16; see also: Ps 34:15; 66:18; Prv 15:8, 29; 28:9; Isa 59:1-2; Jn 9:31; Heb 5:7; 1 Pt 3:7, 12; 1 Jn 3:21-22)
The best style of prayer is that which cannot be called anything else but a cry. — Charles Spurgeon
A man must put himself right both with God and his fellow-man. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 131)
When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words than thy words without heart.— John Bunyon
We’re told that if we want to have a stronger marriage, we should improve our prayer lives. But Peter tells us that we should improve our marriages so that we can improve our prayer lives. Instead of prayer being the “tool” that will refine my marriage, Peter tells me that marriage is the tool that will refine my prayers! (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 76)
Prayer must mean something to us if it is to mean anything to God.
The Bible is very clear on the reasons why prayers go unanswered, and every reason centers on the believer’s relationship with God. God will not cooperate with prayers of mere self-interest, or prayers that come from impure motives. The Christian who clings to sin closes the ear of God. Least of all will God tolerate unbelief, the chief of sins. “Anyone who comes to him must believe” (Heb 11:6). In all our prayers the paramount motive is the glory of God. (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 92)
God can do wonders with a broken heart if you give him all the pieces. (Ps 51:17) (Victor Alfsen; Leadership, Spring 1999, 79)
We live in a culture in which we are superficial in our relationships. Image is everything. But with God the opposite is the case. Image is nothing. What is in the heart is everything.
When your loyalty is to God on weekends but only to the bottom line on weekdays, you’re driving a wedge between yourself and God. It would be like saying to your spouse, “As long as I’m home, I’m committed to you. But when I go off to work, well, I might fool around a little.” That would create a rift in your relationship, wouldn’t it?
Similarly, if you’re living a fragmented faith, you’re saying to God, “I’m committed to you in certain areas of my life. But you need to know that when I’m at work, I’ve got a mistress called my career.” Doesn’t it make sense that this would stymie your relationship with him? (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 52)
Dead orthodoxy is being content with where we are in our relationship to God (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 68)
I wanted to prove that I was sorry for what I did by being faithful for a period of time. I wanted to develop a good track record before pursuing my relationship with Him again. I wanted God to see that I could be a good servant. Then I felt good enough to talk with God again. But God didn’t want a good slave who tried really hard. He wanted me to see that He was a good Father. He wants intimacy. (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 113)
Real prayer is the breathing of God’s own Spirit in the heart; have you this? It is communion and fellowship with God; know you what this is? It is brokenness, contrition, confession, and that often springing from an overwhelming sense of his goodness and his love shed abroad in the heart; is this thy experience? (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 95)
Jim Elliot wrote in his diary, ‘Cold prayers, like cold suitors, are seldom effective in their aims.’ (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 382)
Only when there was moral, practical righteousness was Israel’s prayer effective. We cannot expect to live defectively and pray effectively. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 385)
The literal translation of the original reads, ‘he prayed in prayer’ or ‘he prayed with prayer,’ the noun being used to emphasize the force of the verb. Jesus used the same kind of language at the Last Supper, when he told his disciples, ‘I have eagerly desired’ (literally, ‘desired with desire’) ‘to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’ (Lk 22:15). The whole feeling is one of intensity, earnestness, passion. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 388-89)
Albert Barnes’ comment on that verse sums up the lesson very well: ‘The worship of God will not be acceptable, however well performed externally, until we are at peace with those that we have injured.’ (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 390-91)
God sovereignly delights to answer the passionate prayers of his children. This is not to suggest that he delights in manufactured passion, nor that passion is a meritorious work. Nor are we suggesting that sweaty, frantic prayer is necessarily pleasing to God. But real passion, however it is expressed through the medium of one’s personality, is a part of prayer that God is pleased to answer. (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 269)
The message is clear to all of us: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (v. 16)–or as some scholars think it is better translated, “The prayer of a righteous man is of great power when energized,” the energizer being the Holy Spirit. (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 270)
I read somewhere that the ability of a couple to express anger well can do wonders for their sex life. It’s true, it’s true. It seems there can be no warm fuzzies without their opposite (cold pricklies?). Both anger and tenderness are forms of passion. As is prayer. God doesn’t mind our anger. He even relishes it, if it drives us to Him instead of away from Him. Better an outburst than a theologically correct and spiritually pallid rationale, and a dangling conversation.
No wonder we can get so bored with prayer. God is bored too. He wants to engage our hearts, not just our brains. (Ben Patterson; Leadership, Spring 1999, 120)
The explanation of his power in prayer is twofold: he was a righteous man, and “he prayed earnestly.” So James assures his readers that such answers to prayer are within the reach of any believer. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 204)
Righteousness is the fruit of true religion and God’s purpose in our lives (see 1:20). Therefore, James wants his readers to grasp the necessary link between righteousness and the effectiveness of their prayers. (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 203)
C- You don’t have to be super-human to enjoy an effective prayer life; only persistent, passionate and earnest. (Jas 5:17-18; see also: 1 Kgs 17-19 – especially 19:4; Rom 10:4; 1 Cor 1:30; )
The word righteous has a forbidding ring. It seems to rule us and our poor prayers out of court. And, of course, if we are meant to understand it in the sense of perfect moral character and integrity, it must do so. But this is not what James means, and it is for this reason that he introduces the illustration of Elijah who, he notes, was a man of like nature with ourselves (17). He could rise to the heights of faith and commitment (1 Kgs 18:36-38) and fall into the depths of despair and depression (1 Kgs 19:4). He could be brave and resolute sometimes (1 Kgs 18:17-19) and then fly for his life at a whiff of danger (1 Kgs 19:3). He could be selfless in his concern for others (1 Kgs 17:19-24) and then filled with self-pity (1 Kgs 19:10). In other words, he was ‘an ordinary person,’ but he was right with God–or to put things in the sort of terminology that we find in James’ letter, his faith was active in his works, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Jas 2:22-23). (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 204-05)
Elijah was human, a follower of God who sometimes got depressed or had doubts. He snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory when he ran from Jezebel after decisively crushing the prophets of Baal. But James uses Elijah as an example of someone who did not allow his own weaknesses to undermine his trust in God. Elijah’s weak belief in himself forced him to believe even more firmly in God. James is inviting us to identify with Elijah’s weakness so that we might develop the same honesty and power in prayer that Elijah exercised. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 143)
Elijah ‘just prayed.’ He simply mentioned it to the Lord. We could study with profit his recorded prayers in 1 Kgs 18:36-37 and 19:4. They are models of simplicity and brevity. They make their point; they do not fuss or become complicated. They do not confuse reality and earnestness with getting excited; they have a restful confidence that the Lord is near and that he hears. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 207)
The Bible records that he was hungry (1 Kgs 17:11), afraid (1 Kgs 19:3), and depressed (1 Kgs 19:3, 9-14). (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 280)
The story of Elijah and the drought would certainly be a strange illustration if James had physical illness and healing in view throughout this passage. Certainly there are numerous clear biblical illustrations of healing he could have drawn from. But the picture of rain pouring down on parched ground perfectly illustrates God’s outpouring of spiritual blessings on the dry and parched souls of struggling believers. And He does both in response to the righteous prayers of godly people. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 280)
He is not using some kind of superman, some biological or spiritual freak, to help in making his point; instead, he is using someone ‘just like us.’ This translates the single Greek word homoiopathes, which literally means something like ‘of the same experience’ or ‘of the same suffering.’ A similar word was used by Paul at Lystra when he protested to the mob seeking to worship him and Barnabas that ‘We too are only men, human like you [homoiopathesis]’ (Acts 14:15). James’ point is clear. Elijah was a prophet, but he was not perfect. He was prone to all of our failures and weaknesses and sins. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 386-87)
Why is it so difficult to keep connected to the One who loves us and cares for us?: (1 Pt 5:7)
The first law of prayer is this: remember to whom we are speaking, and the second law of prayer is this: remember who we are. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 394)
1- Pride: Because we want to control our own lives.
If we do not know that God wants us to pray when we are in trouble, we are simply ignorant of Scripture. If we do not pray when we are in trouble because we are trusting in our own resources to get ourselves out, we are being arrogant. And sometimes we may want to pray but are ashamed because the trouble we are in is our own fault. James gives permission and encouragement to those who are ignorant. He urges submission to those who are arrogant. And he reminds those who are ashamed that God is full of compassion and mercy (5:11). To all of us he commends prayer. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 137)
We cannot expect intimacy when we live like the person who said: I’d like to buy three dollars’ worth of God. Please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I’d like to buy about three dollars’ worth of God, please. (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, Discovery Series, 16)
God says through Jeremiah, “This is what I have against you—that you have not troubled yourself on my behalf.”
In a recent essay in U.S. News & World Report, John Leo states that today many people treat God as a hobby.
…I believe that God yearns to have an intense and even romantic relationship with each one of us.
…God was said to have loved King David so much because David loved God back totally, intensely, and passionately.
…If we have become a people of mediocrity, it is because we have stopped troubling ourselves on God’s behalf. (Lauire Beth Jones; Jesus CEO, Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, 146-48)
The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won’t enlist you in his service unless you are healthy, and Jesus won’t enlist you unless you are sick. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17) Christianity is fundamentally convalescence (“Pray without ceasing” = Keep buzzing the nurse). (John Piper; Desiring God, 146-47)
It cannot be accidental that in speaking of the prayer of faith James both uses an expression not found elsewhere in Scripture and also departs from the usual Greek word for ‘prayer’ in favor of a word rarely used with this meaning. A writer as sure-footed in his Greek as James, and as sensitive to the task of getting the right word in the right place, must have intended to signal to his readers that he was bringing something special before them. The words are, of course, in line with what James has already taught about prayer in 1:5, yet the emphasis is not quite the same. In 1:5-8 James was stressing that the faith which expresses itself in effective prayer is the product of a clear and absolute commitment to the Lord in total loyalty to him. As we saw, he contrasts faith with ‘wavering,’ and defines wavering as being ‘double-minded,’ i.e. keeping one foot in the world, allowing an element of disloyalty to remain, not being absolutely honest with God. This was, again, the vitiating factor in the prayer of 4:2b-4. What was asked for was intended for self-gratification; there was not an uncompromising commitment to the Lord himself, and to the life that goes his way. Now, in the light of 5:13, this truth certainly cannot be absent from verses 14-15. This whole passage (13-18) is about prayer, and the central truth about prayer is a deliberate but peaceful acceptance of the will of God. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 197-98)
Prayer is the tangible expression of our dependence. We may assent to the fact that we are dependent on Christ, but if our prayer life is meager or perfunctory, we thereby deny it. We are in effect saying we can handle most of our spiritual life with our own self-discipline and our perceived innate goodness. (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 137)
It is strange that, while praying, we seldom ask for change of character, but always a change in circumstance. (Baptist Challenge, December 1981)
Your helplessness is your best prayer. -O. Hallesby
2- Fear: We are scared of what God may ask us to do if He is really there and has a right to our lives.
When we come to (1 Kings) chapter 19 we move into a different scene altogether. Elijah, exhausted by the strain of the events of chapter 18, is caught off balance and runs away from Jezebel’s threats. Physical tiredness, coupled with failure, produced a severe depression, but Elijah has really learnt the lesson of prayer so that even in his depression he talks to God. Anyone who has experienced depression, or who has sought to minister to those who suffer in this way, will pause here to marvel. Prayer must have become ingrained in the prophet. His prayer, certainly, is that his life might be ended immediately–but it is prayer. He is talking to God, not to himself. He does not contemplate suicide, but asks the Lord to act. His prayer is answered with a magnificence which defeats the imagination, for the man who prayed to die at once never died at all (2 Kgs 2:11)! Once again the truth is borne out that a mere human prays and results follow which only God can produce. (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 206)
The interesting thing to notice is that in each of these cases the word (courage or encourage) in Acts 27 occurs in difficult circumstances, yet faced with either the tyrant or the tempest Paul had a deep, inner sense of joy, rooted in an unshakeable faith in God. There is surely a lesson here. It is the devil’s lie that the Christian life is meant to be morbid, dreary or dull. The Christian life is certainly not funny–the issues are much too serious for that–but it should be wonderfully happy! (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 360)
A little child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do bad prayer. (Brennan Manning; The Ragamuffin Gospel, 150)
Prayer is surrender—surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God. (E. Stanley Jones as quoted by K Hughes; Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, 73)
Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers! — William Culbertson.
Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
Unwise counselors may try to tell us we should fight the loss of feelings. Yet gluttony for spiritual feelings opens a wide door to the other appetites, including greed, overeating, sexual lusts, the hunger for power, and other sins. When feelings become the focus of our faith, religion becomes not a friend but an enemy, concealing the true state of our heart. We wonder why we fall into sin so soon after a seemingly powerful encounter with God. What we fail to realize is that our hearts were stolen by spiritual gluttony, not real reverence. We have been misled into believing that these feelings are an indication of the temperature of our hearts and the commitment of our will. They are not.
So God steps back. He stubbornly denies us the spiritual feelings with which we’ve grown so familiar. This is frequently accompanied by very dry periods, times when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling and our hearts feel like hot, dry sand. God does this so He can irrigate our desert with the cold water of pure faith, so He can break our addiction to the sensual and call us to the truly spiritual, and so we can humbly say, without doubt or need for reinforcement, “O God, You are my God, and I will follow You all of my days.” (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 186-87)
We have observed many who have generally given up on prayer because they have decided either that it doesn’t work or that they can meet their own needs more efficiently. James spoke to some of these issues in his fourth chapter. But, more likely, the prayerlessness of our times is a result of divorcing righteousness from prayer. (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 205)
If you never felt pain, then how would you know that I am a Healer?
If you never had to pray, How would you know that I am a Deliverer?
If you never had a trial, How could you call yourself an overcomer?
If you never felt sadness, How would you know that I am a Comforter?
If you never made a mistake, How would you know that I am a forgiver?
If you knew all, How would you know that I will answer your questions?
If you never were in trouble, How would you know that I will come to your rescue?
If you never were broken, Then how would you know that I can make you whole?
If you never had a problem, How would you know that I can solve them?
If you never had any suffering, Then how would you know what I went through?
If you never went through the fire, Then how would you become pure?
If I gave you all things, How would you appreciate them?
If I never corrected you, How would you know that I love you?
If you had all power, Then how would you learn to depend on me?
If your life was perfect, Then what would you need me for?
If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth’s grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village, it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God’s will. (John Newton as quoted by E.M. Bounds, The Essentials of Prayer, 19)
Prayer is not just a concoction of words said with our knees bent and our eyes closed. We need more than bent knees and closed eyes. We need open, broken, humble, dependent, thirsting, believing hearts, and above all we need an overwhelming concern that God’s will should be done. The Scriptures are certainly crystal clear that there is no such thing as an automatic answer to words said in prayer. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 249)
3- Fear: We are scared that God may not really be there. Then we would have to admit we must face life and meaninglessness alone.
Prayer works! Or, to put it more accurately, God works through prayer. It is one of the means of grace he uses to bring about his sovereign purposes in the world. (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 386)
There is a direct correlation between not knowing Jesus well and not asking much from him. A failure in our prayer life is generally a failure to know Jesus. (John Piper; Desiring God, 139)
To the Philippians Paul writes: “have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). Evidently one sign of deficient prayer is anxiety. (Richard F. Lovelace; Dynamics Of Spiritual Life—An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, 160)
Too little prayer is an expression of unbelief in God’s love and care; so is too much. (Richard F. Lovelace; Dynamics Of Spiritual Life—An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, 160)
When we think of the miraculous acts of the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that they are recorded so that we may trust him, not so that we may know what, in every parallel or similar circumstance, we may immediately expect from him. Rightly, we do not expect him to restore our dead as he restored Lazarus (Jn 11), but as we read the story of Lazarus we become confident that we can entrust our beloved to him who is Lord even over death itself. In miracle after miracle which he performed we can imagine him saying to us, ‘I will do it this once so that you will know that I can; after that you must just trust me.’ (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 208)
All along, James has been urging his readers to resist the temptation to compromise righteousness in their trials. Now, with the designation of the one praying as righteous and with the shift in terms from general “prayer” to specific “entreaty,” the implication is as follows: In your trials, you don’t need the power gained by money or favoritism or selfishness or fighting or swearing; use the power of prayer, for which you need righteousness. Commit yourself to doing what is right without compromise; then you may rely on God in prayer for all your needs. (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 185)
What if we ask–ask fervently–and nothing happens? We can’t bear the thought. Functional deism also blocks our prayers. We confess, in some abstract way, that God is powerful and effective. (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 201)
Worship point: When we recognize how seldom we make contact with the God of the Universe (either in praise or in prayer) and yet realize how passionately in love He is with us — Can one do anything but worship Him?
I recall an interview Dan Rather did with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “What do you say to God when you pray?” he asked. Mother Teresa looked at him with her dark, soulful eyes and said quietly, “I listen.” Slightly flustered, Rather tried again, “Well, then what does God say?” Mother Teresa smiled. “He listens.” (Philip Yancey,; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 210)
You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning.
You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night.
But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting. (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 28)
Their (James’ audience’s) relationships need healing. As a first result of their hardships, their relationship with God has been suffering. They are falling into temptation to doubt God (1:6), to blame God (1:13) and to bargain with God (5:12). James is directing them back to God in faith with a reliance on him in prayer. (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 182)
Rather than presenting worship as some “feel-good” meeting where everyone is trying to forget about the rest of their lives, James says we should pursue just the opposite. We should aim for an authenticity in our worship that dares to place the context of our entire lives in the broader context of God’s love and grace. The one who can do that has reason to be cheerful, no matter what is happening at the moment. (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 199)
Spiritual Challenge: Ask and keep on asking. Seek and keep on seeking. Knock and keep on knocking.
I remember a sign that read, “A funny thing happens when you don’t pray,” followed by a large, nearly empty space carrying just one word in small print: “(nothing).” (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 183)
God answers all the prayers. Sometimes he answers “yes,” sometimes he answers “no,” and sometimes the answer is “you gotta be kidding.” (Jimmy Carter; Readers Digest, 4/02, 61)
The nation without God hasn’t got a prayer.
A lot of kneeling keeps one in good standing. — Barbara Johnson
Get in touch with God by knee mail.
It is impossible to lose your footing while on your knees.
Get on your knees and fight like a man.
I often say my prayers
But do I really Pray?
And do the feelings of my heart
Go with my words I say?
I might as well bow down
And worship a god of stone
As offer to the Living God
A prayer of words alone. — Scottish Children’s Prayer
Quotes to Note:
The only faith mentioned is that of the praying elders (15). (J.A. Motyer, The Message of James, 194)
“Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer.” — E. M. Bounds
Christ: The Model of Faith