“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 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 land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:13-20 (NKJV)
We live in a world that is filled with heartache and strife. Everywhere you look you see poverty, war, disease, homelessness, starvation, and sin of every kind. It is easy to get caught up in all of it and lose our focus. James here is addressing the Christian Jews that had been scattered abroad according to God’s will. He knew that they were easily drawn away from the lord since they were living among sinners. They were persecuted, made to live in poverty, and sometimes even killed for their beliefs. They had been through so much already and he wanted to reassure them that they should not lose sight of God. Let’s take a look at what James was referring to here.
The original Greek word for trouble used here is kak-o-pa-theo which means to “endure or suffer hardships.” Here he is referring to hardships such as bereavement, disappointment, persecution, unemployment, financial troubles–all the things that we face daily. Later James will deal with sickness but for now he is referring to the hardships that you and I face everyday.
Everyone has trouble of some sort in their lives. Perhaps you are facing financial crisis or loss of a job. Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one or you’re facing a bully at school that is teasing you. Sometimes we suffer because of our own sins. Those things that happen when we stray from the presence of the lord and lose our way. The hurt, anger, confusion, and hopelessness that can plague us when we are not right with God. Look at the parable of the prodigal son. He had to endure much because of his sin. Christians suffer for righteousness sake and sometimes our suffering just has no apparent reason. Whatever the case may be, there is one to whom you can turn in time of need and he will deliver you.
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4 (NKJV)
How are we to handle suffering? Well, some turn to drugs or alcohol to try and drown out the sorrow. Some turn their rage outward and persecute those around them while still others can turn it inward and become trapped in a world of despair. Most of us just complain about it and hope that it goes away. We complain that “God did this” or “God didn’t do this” or we simply blame it on other people. This only works to feed the cycle of sin.
The Word tells us that we are to rejoice about it.
“but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:13 (NKJV)
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3 (NKJV)
We are also instructed to be patient.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalms 27:14 (NKJV)
So, we are called to rejoice and be patient but also to pray for our sufferings. James tells us to pray for the removal of the suffering if it be God’s will. Paul pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh but it was God’s will that he should endure it so that, as Paul writes,”…that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b (NKJV). Prayer is our open line of communication with the creator. He desires for us to draw closer to Him and to know of His great love through an intimate relationship with him. He wants to heal us and deliver us from the evil in the world but He can’t do that unless we offer up our prayers in faith.
James uses the example of Elijah to drive this point home. He states in verse 17 that “Elijah was a man with a nature like us.” Elijah was no different from any other man on earth, except Christ of course, but he was prone to the same temptations that we are. Yet he prayed to God “earnestly” it says. Not half-way or sometimes, but earnestly that it would not rain and it did not for three and a half years. Then, it says, he prayed again and the heavens poured rain.
So, what keeps us from praying faithfully like Elijah?
As we experience difficulties whether it be physical or emotional, we begin to build walls. We feel ridiculed, so we build a wall. We feel rejected, so we build up a wall—we think we should have it our way and when we don’t, we build a wall. Before you know it, we have built ourselves into a personal prison that prevents us from praying faithfully. These prisons can take on many forms. Each one drawing us farther away from our Father. The first of these is the Prison of Depression.
It is far too easy to get caught in this prison today. The economy is in the dumps, military conflicts are all over the globe, divorce rates are skyrocketing, and our children are faced with situations that challenge their beliefs everyday at school. This prison challenges our faithfulness. When we are depressed we become self-loathing and regretful. When we throw up our hands and say “Its just not worth it” God says…
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
When we become overwhelmed with everything happening in our lives and say “I can’t manage anymore”, God says…
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)
And when we reach our wits end and say “I just can’t go on anymore” God says….
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)
Made perfect in weakness—that point of brokenness at which God meets us, wraps His loving arms around us, and clothes us in His love. God most definitely can work in our lives if we only allow Him to do His work. So, the prison of depression can keep us from praying with faith.
Then there’s the prison of shame.
We will never be worthy of God’s grace. No matter what you do, you will never earn it. It is a free gift from God because of His great love.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV)
Satan knows this truth and tries to guilt us by shame and then we become trapped in this prison of shame. He reminds us of our past and tries to convince us that we are beyond saving. Satan will use every opportunity we give him to make us feel disgraced and ashamed. He says, “you’re not worthy” I heard a preacher say once, “If God had a refrigerator, you’re picture would be right in front.” We are ALL worthy!
God never reminds us of our sin. When we confess our sins and are forgiven, he throws them into the sea of forgetfulness.
He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (NKJV)
It is only the evil one that reminds us of our past mistakes and tries to draw us away from the Lord with them. We all carry regrets with us. Whether from childhood or yesterday, we can easily become trapped in the prison of shame but thankfully God gives us a way out through the cross. Only faith will allow us to break free from this prison. We must have faith and not doubt.
It is so easy for Satan to convince us that we belong in the prison of doubt. We seek answers from God in prayer and when we do not get it right away, the seed is planted. We want to believe but we are trapped in this prison of doubt because we cannot see all that God is doing for us.
How many times have you prayed for something and when God didn’t answer right away you became doubtful that he would give it to you or that he even heard you at all? This is when our faith is truly tested. We live in an “instant world” today. We have the internet, and as my kids always remind me, the internet is never wrong. We have satellite television with video on demand, even our cell phones can give us up-to-date weather information. We cannot however expect our prayers to be answered in the same instant fashion. And this can cause doubt. We are told to not doubt when we pray.
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mark 11:23-24 (NKJV)
The prison of pride is probably the most common one.
When sin entered the world, so did pride. We have all dealt with it in one way or another at some time in our lives. Some of you may still struggle with it even today.
We tell ourselves that we know better than God and therefore do not completely let go and allow God to work in our lives. This prevents us from having a true prayer of faith because in our hearts we think we know how to handle it.
Or perhaps we become impatient and take it back from God. When we lay it at the cross it should stay there. Christ cannot work in our lives unless we allow him to. We must open ourselves up and begin to pray again with faith.
Know that God will supply all your needs. It has been promised in the Holy Word of God! When we try to do it ourselves, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to draw closer to God and reveal Himself to us.
We can’t offer up a prayer and then prescribe to Him how it should be answered. It’s presumptuous for us to think that we know better than the One that created the heavens and the earth.
God often has to humble us in order to draw us closer to him. We should seek that humbleness and welcome it when God brings it to us.
It is never easy to be humble because it goes against our grain, but in order to give over complete control to God, we have to be able to submit all. This allows God to work in our lives.
“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)
Pride is probably the most common way that we create distance between us and God. We do not confess our sins to one another because we are afraid that someone may find out and judge us for what we have done.
Oh my—how embarrassing that would be!
Don’t you think Christ was embarrassed to be stripped, beaten, and nailed to a cross for everyone to see? They spit on him, laughed at him, and called him names all while he hung there naked so that you and I may be free. If he didn’t care what others thought, than why should we?
So what are we to pray for?
We are to pray that the suffering may be taken from us if—and here’s the important part—if it is God’s will to do so. I think we lose track of that sometimes and expect God to give us everything we ask for.
Things happen. It is simply part of living in a sinful world. But God can take anything bad and turn it to good for His kingdom.
He sometimes allows us to suffer because he desires for us to be closer to him, to bring us into a right relationship with Him, but he also desires for us to be happy. He calls us to endure hardships with patience for His name sake.
So we are to pray for patience as well but James also tells us to lift our prayers in praise. Our Father inhabits the praise of His people. We should never forget that everything we have comes from the Lord. Thank him for the air you breathe, the food on your table, the roof over your head. Remember to thank him for his saving grace and for saving us from the eternal flames.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. James 5:14 (NKJV)
Imagine what would happen if there were more prayer in medicine. God gave man medicine to help him, but he also gave us the power of prayer. Prayer can become medicine and that’s one prescription that you don’t have to stand in a long line for.
I believe that God created the community of believers because He wanted us to fellowship together, worship together, laugh and cry together, and pray together.
He didn’t intend for us to be alone. In the Garden, God created woman so that man did not have to be alone. We are to be a communal people; Lifting one another up in prayer.
James is calling us to action. We are to pray for one another and sing praises to God for His many blessings. We are to pray for the lost that they may be found and we are to pray for one another that we may be strengthened in the Lord. It is our responsibility as children of God to pray for the lost.
There is only one way to break free from your prison and you cannot do it by yourself, but thankfully God has given us a way out. Ready for this?
Christ went to the cross, bled, died, and rose again that you may be free from your prison. Let me say that again—Christ went to the cross and died that you may never again be imprisoned by sin.
God sent His Son so that you and I no longer had to live in our prisons. He unlocked the cell and has paid the price. All we have to do is step out of our prisons and come closer to Him.
God gave us one another to help us accomplish this. What would you do for your family? Would you lay hands on them if they were sick, Would you praise them? Do you pray for them? Then why should the Family of God be any different?
Deaf Father, I think you for your undeserving mercy and grace. I think you that you have compassion on a sinner such as I and while I was still a sinner, your Son died upon the cross for me so that I did not have to live in sin. I pray that you would use these words to perhaps reach someone that is trapped in a prison today. Reach out and touch their lives in a way that will leave no doubt that You are on the throne! Lord, you are the great healer so I humbly ask that you touch all those that are afflicted either emotionally or physically today who are reading this. Wrap your loving arms around them that they may begin to experience what you desire for us to be. I will continue to give your son all the glory forever. Amen and Amen!