Saturday, January 24, 2009

“The Prayer of Faith” from James

Nothing quite symbolises the Christian faith more than prayer. It is an activity that we’re instructed to do all the time (1 Thess. 5:17) and it’s one way we can actually know God’s will for us--if we’re so attuned. But, the ‘prayer of faith’ according to James is perhaps a nugget which needs to be digested alone:

“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. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
–James 5:13-16 (NRSV)

When to Pray According to James 5:13f

Suffering, cheerful or sick; the answer is to pray. The answer to each of these scenarios is simply to pray. It’s ironic that at each of these three times we’re usually tempted to pray less.[1]

In any life situation it can’t be wrong to pray. And perhaps the time we really forget to pray is when life is just routine and nothing much to write home about. When life is simple drudgery and we’re bored we never think to pray. But we should.

Regarding our praying during times of suffering, “James is… not advocating a stoic or impassive response to adversity, but [he’s] allowing for a positive response to hardship.”[2] This is the truth of the believing relationship with God. We can’t deny our problems.

But how many of us shout our praises to God when things are especially good? Singing songs is the traditional way to enjoy these times and remember God as we engage our emotions and spirit in worship.

Not only should we memorise and meditate on verses of Scripture that can help us recall God’s truth, we need to routinely hum sweet melodies of praise to our Master--engaging the mind in the process.

The Prayer of Faith

Recently, our local pastor was anointed with oil by the elders in a church service in seeking healing from a worrisome medical condition. This offer was then widened to anyone suffering and seeking healing--it is no snake-oil technique. James has exactly this practice in mind. This prayer of faith, executed by anointed elders, has released millions from their various maladies in the name of the Lord.

Once conducted, it is appropriate for the believer and those who’ve prayed, and anyone else present, to believe that God will heal as asked--according to his will.

It is no coincidence that James relates the effectiveness and power of the prayer of faith with the righteousness of the anointed elder of the church. God can’t abide in sin, so when we present our petitions to him in faith and obedience, he is faithful, and he will do it (1 Thess. 5:24) if it is his will.

The calling on of the elders to assist is also about a community response toward God that all in that community be intimately involved in the process of healing--that the elders, too, lend their spiritual passion and anointing to that task.

At the prayer of faith mentioned above, the entire congregation were invited to participate by raising arms toward their pastor as he was anointed with the oil in God’s name by the elders. That is the unified faith of two to three hundred people crying out to God in faith for healing.

The community are encouraged to confess their sins to one another in authentic humility. This is so people are made right with each other, and with God. Most of our sins are against people, but ultimately they’re against God. Prayer is often the best medium for confession.

The prayer of faith is about some simple but powerful truths coming together so the person subject to the prayer can be raised (healed) as Jesus was raised.

In summary, the prayer of faith should be requested; made corporately; practiced expressively; be God-centred and faith-filled; and lastly, it must be comprehensive and effective.[3]

The prayer of faith in its most basic concept is simply asking in faith in line with Matthew 7:7 and James 1:5-8. Ask in faith and we stand to be blessed with deliverance subject to God’s will.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, 2003).
Luke Timothy Johnson, “The Letter of James” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. 12 (Nashville, Tennessee, Abingdon Press, 1998).
[1] George M. Stulac, James – The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 180.
[2]Ralph P. Martin, James – Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas, Texas: Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 48)), S. 205
[3] Derek Tidball, Wisdom from Heaven: The message of the letter of James for today (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2003), p. 190-93.

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