James 028 – The Diversity & Power of PrayerJames 5:13-16a • Dr. Andy Woods • May 19, 2021 • James
The Diversity & Power of Prayer
Dr. Andy Woods
Book of James 5, which means that we are at the tail end of the book of James. We have tonight and next Wednesday, then we are finished for the spring quarter. Hoping to finish the book of James by next week.
The book of James, the first part of the book is about the walk of faith in the Christian. The Christian who is saved by faith needs to learn how to walk by faith, which involves accepting God’s vantage point on trials; obeying God’s Word, not showing favoritism, doing good works, and controlling the tongue. Again, these are things not to make you a Christian but to do as Christians. That is called growth.
The second part of the book of James which starts in the middle of James 3 and goes to the end of the book is about the walk of wisdom. Wisdom is defined at the end of James 3 as knowledge applied. Wisdom is demonstrated by her actions. In the last two chapters of the book, James applies wisdom to every area of our lives. How do we apply divine wisdom to our spiritual lives, beginning of James 4; how to apply wisdom to our commercial lives, end of James 4? How do we apply to the use of wealth in the beginning of James 5; and last week, we studied how to apply wisdom to waiting for the imminent return of our Lord, James 5:7-12.
Tonight, and notice from this outline, there are only two topics remaining (prayer and restoration of the erring brother). Tonight, we will try to cover the entire issue of prayer. Wisdom as it applies to our prayer lives because the expectation of God is that we should be a praying people. That is in James 5:13-18, so the first part of it per our outline is the kinds of prayer, 5:13-middle of verse 16, and then once we are at the end of 5:16 through verse 18, it is about the power of prayer. Does prayer really work? Does prayer really move God’s hand?
Let’s start with the kinds of prayer. There is a mindset out there, and I thought this way before I became a Christian, that there was just a standard prayer; so, there is a prayer that I could perhaps order off the internet and repeat some words, and that comprised prayer. But that mindset goes directly against what Jesus taught about prayer because He said, “And when you are praying, [notice that He isn’t saying if you are praying] do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words (Matt 6:7-NASB). Paganism is characterized by mindless repetition of verbiage. That is not at all what the Lord has in mind for prayer. Prayer is essentially conversation; it is our opportunity to speak to God. God has His opportunity to speak to us primarily through His Word, but any healthy relationship has two-way communication, so God talks to us through His Word, and we talk to Him via prayer.
For example, if you are having marital problems, the first question a marriage counselor who is worth his or her salt will ask, is ‘what is your communication like in your marriage?’ ‘Yeah, we are married but I haven’t talked to my wife in three months.’ Well, therein lies the problem. There must be healthy communication occurring for any relationship to develop — marriage or otherwise. If you aren’t in the Word of God consistently, then you aren’t giving God a chance to talk to you. If we don’t have regular prayer lives, we aren’t really giving ourselves a chance to talk to God because we are analogized to bride and groom. He is the groom, we are the bride; it is a very intimate relationship, and obviously for that type of relationship to work, there must be healthy two-way communication.
Have you ever had a so-called friend where you did all of the talking and they did none? Or the opposite where others do not let you talk at all. Those are imbalanced relationships. What God has for us is a two-way street. We know how He talks to us through His Word, but now James says that if you want to really grow in your spiritual life, you must develop a healthy prayer life.
What James starts off with her are the types of prayers, and by my count, there are five types. There may be more mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, but these are the five that James is focused upon. Different types of situations call for different types of prayer. We don’t approach God with the exact same format in prayer every single time. The type of prayers to pray are totally dependent on the circumstances. James identifies five different circumstances which bring forth five different types of prayer.
The first type is in James 5:13 — the prayer of dependence when under affliction. Notice what he says in 5:13, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.” What to do when suffering? Most of us complain but James doesn’t say that if there is anyone suffering to start complaining; he says that if there is any among you suffering ‘he must pray.’ So, the first kind of prayer is the prayer offered unto God acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for His help with your circumstance. You need help because you are under affliction; there are circumstances in your life that are bigger than you are. So, if you are in that position, pray a prayer of dependence. I very much like what Luke 18:1 says when Jesus is speaking, “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,…” So, rather than fainting or losing heart, which is very easy to do when afflicted, pray to God.
I think that Paul the apostle prayed this type of prayer when he was under affliction; he prayed a prayer of dependence, ‘Lord, help me.’ He did this in 2 Cor 12:7-8, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, [here, he is talking about 14 years prior when he was caught up into the third heaven where he heard things that a man is not fit to hear]… for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, [because if you were caught up to the third heaven and heard things that ordinary people don’t hear, wouldn’t you likely be puffed up? God obviously didn’t want that to happen to Paul, so] … there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.” God allowed a problem in Paul’s life to keep him humble on account of these surpassing revelations. Whatever this thorn was, and no one really knows, though there are many opinions only, I know this much, that whatever it was, that it hurt, because he mentioned it as a thorn, obviously painful. Is he talking about physical, emotional, or relational pain? We aren’t told. He was under these circumstances, afflicted by this, so he prayed this prayer of dependence, saying, “Concerning this I implored [a strong word]… the Lord three times that it might leave me.” He asked God three times to take this agitant away. God, as you travel through that paragraph, said, ‘No, I won’t take it away because this thorn is keeping you humble and dependent upon Me, and usable, but My power is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, God gave Paul grace to bear up under it. Many times, we ask God to take something away, and He says, ‘No, I won’t take it away, but I will give you the grace or strength to bear up under it.’ That is what Paul received from God in 2 Cor 12:7-8. But notice that Paul is illustrating for us here this prayer of dependence because he was afflicted.
Then James outlines a second prayer: a prayer of praise for the person who is happy (James 5:13b). From the word, ‘happy,’ is the word ‘happenstance’ or ‘luck’ or ‘circumstance;’ something has gone well in your life; perhaps you got a raise or a new job, a better grade on the test than you were expecting, or a door has opened, and you are happy about it. James says that if that is your situation, then to pray a prayer of praise to God. See the second half of 5:13, “Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.” Notice that God likes music, because it says to sing. My wife lets me sing in the shower, but that’s it. Singing is biblical. He gives a second type of prayer here; something favorable in your life happened, then praise the Lord for it. Take it to the Lord and bless Him. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” We should be like that all of the time because we already have wonderful things, not the least of that is our salvation in Jesus Christ.
So, if you’re afflicted a prayer of dependence; if you are happy, pray a prayer of praise. Now, 5:14,15 outlines a third prayer which has to do with someone who is sick or ill; something is wrong with the physical body. That person is supposed to summon the elders to pray for them. Notice what James says in 5:14,15 as he outlines this third type of prayer, “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; 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.”
There are various ways to go wrong in interpreting this, so let’s spend some time on this. Notice the first part of 5:14, “Is anyone among you sick?” In other words, something is wrong with the body. “The he must call for the elders of the church…” Notice that a flock, an interesting verse on church government, that is, how to govern the church. Who makes the decisions in a church? We believe the proper understanding of it is what we call, ‘elder rule,’ which means that the church is governed by a plurality of godly men. Notice that ‘elders’ is plural. So, when you are visiting a church trying to determine if you want to belong, you should try to determine what their philosophy of government is. Many churches are bishop-ruled, meaning that a bishop is ruling over multiple churches, which is the model I grew up with in the Episcopalian system. Some churches are congregational ruled. But we believe that the best and biblical support in the New Testament is for elder rule meaning that a church is governed by a plurality of godly men. It doesn’t stipulate how many there must be, but that there must be a plurality. So, that is our model at Sugarland Bible Church as we believe that is the best biblical model in the New Testament.
An interesting study on the doctrine of elders in Acts 14:23, regarding Paul, on his missionary journeys, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Paul, as he went off on his first missionary journey, planted churches and elders within them. Acts 16:4, “Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe.” The big decision in Acts 15 was made by the elders. In Titus 1:5, Paul writes to Titus, “For this reason I left you in Crete, [a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea in the middle of nowhere. My wife and I have been there, and it is nice today because it is developed for tourists, but it was Titus’ first assignment as a Pastor, put off on this island to govern these house churches. Paul tells Titus on Crete, “… that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,…”
Philippians 1:1, “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers [elders] and deacons…” Probably the early churches were patterned after the synagogue, which is how the Hebrew synagogues for the Jewish people in the Diaspora were set up, as a plurality of godly men. Christianity coming out of that with its early churches was set up the same way.
By the way, there is no problem having a leader amongst the elders. Acts 18:8 speaking of the synagogues says, “Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, …[many people have gone too far with an elder-rule mentality where they’re almost afraid of a Pastor; they view it as their job to keep the Pastor poor and humbled. That is probably reactionary the other way, as some people have escaped churches where the Pastor has become a tyrant. They go to another church where they want to be sure that the Pastor has no authority at all. There is nothing wrong with the Pastor being one of the elders or with him being the leader among the elders, if indeed it is patterned after the synagogue. Crispus was the leader of the synagogue, and these early churches were most likely patterned after the synagogue. However, the best support there is in the New Testament for church governance is a plurality of godly men.
So, when someone is sick, they are supposed to summon this leadership group within the church. By the way, we don’t see in the New Testament the idea where elders are ruling over Sugarland Bible Church and other churches. We sometimes receive emails in these matters asking what our ruling is. The fact of the matter is that God hasn’t given us any authority over any other churches; we have enough problems in our own church. We can make suggestions, but we have no authority to go outside the church and decree what other churches should do.
But if someone in this flock is sick, they can summon the elders and the elders/leaders are to come, and “…to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; …” Anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. Oil would symbolize healing, the Holy Spirit; this idea comes from the Gospel of Mark 6:13 in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, “And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.” So, if someone is sick and they want prayer, they should summon the elders, and the elders of that particular church should go to that person and pray over them and actually anoint their head with oil.
In James 5:15, look at what God will do, “And the prayer offered in faith [a sign of faith to do this because it acknowledges dependence upon God] … “will restore the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up, ….” This needs to be handled with much care, because some take this to mean that if you do summon the elders and they anoint the head with oil and pray over the person, then God is obligated to make that person well; a formula that must work every time. This isn’t what the Bible, as a whole, teaches on the subject. Many are quoting Isaiah 53:5 which is a prophecy of Jesus that says, “…By His scourging [wounds] we are healed.” They take that to mean healing is guaranteed in the atonement. If you are a Christian, you should not sick and if you are sick, then it means that you don’t have enough faith because you haven’t summoned the elders to come and anoint your head with oil and pray over you.
When building any doctrine, we cannot merely look at one verse, we must look at the totality of divine revelation on the subject. Some other verses that need to be factored in to properly understand this passage. One is 1 John 5:14, “… if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Is it God’s will that some people remain sick? Yes, it is. Is it God’s will that some people are healed? Yes, it is. It depends on the circumstance and how God is dealing with that individual’s circumstance, for example, the apostle Paul did not have all of his illnesses healed because Paul says in Gal 4:13, “But you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I [Paul] preached the gospel to you the first time; …” Thus, it cannot be said that Paul did not summon the elders and that he didn’t have enough faith. We are dealing here with the Apostle Paul. Remember our earlier reference to 2 Cor 12:7-10, where he had his thorn in the flesh, and he implored the Lord three times that it might leave, and God “… said to me [Paul in 2 Cor 12:9], “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” In other words, God told Paul that He wasn’t going to heal him of this thorn, but that He would give to Paul the grace to be able to stand up under it because the thorn is necessary to keep him humble.
In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul says to Timothy, a Pastor in Ephesus, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Obviously, Timothy, under Paul’s direction, did not have all his diseases healed immediately.
In Paul’s last letter in 2 Timothy 4:20, says, “Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.” So, not even Paul the apostle healed everyone. Here is Trophimus who he left sick at Miletus. When looking at James 5:14, ‘the prayer offered in faith will restore him, the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up…’ we can’t merely build our doctrine of healing from that one verse that we have factored in. When viewing all of these verses, we learn that yes, God does heal, but He doesn’t heal everyone. Some people He allows to remain sick for whatever reason, and this is very different than the teaching on so-called Christian television, which is the prosperity gospel — the idea that healing is guaranteed if you just have enough faith to access it. The prosperity gospel is a horrible doctrine because it promises people something that God hasn’t guaranteed. If someone is in a wheelchair or has some sort of infirmity from which they never recover even when people have prayed over them, under prosperity teaching, then not only do they have to go through life in that wheelchair, but thinking that the reason that they’re in that wheelchair is because they don’t have enough faith. This is like double jeopardy. Dealing with an infirmity is hard enough and it is made worse when you are told that you are in that condition because you do not have enough faith, and that you actually placed yourself there. That is why the subject of healing must be approached with a lot of care, or damage can be done to others.
I do have some good news though; the day will come when every disease will be healed. That will happen not on this side of the Second Coming, but on the other side of it when we are in our resurrected bodies. It says in Rev 21:4, “… and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” In that sense healing is guaranteed in the atonement on the other side of the Second Coming, but until then, we are living in a fallen world where we get old and sick, and when we find ourselves there, we need to summon the elders, anoint the sick one’s head with oil per the book of James, and pray for them to get well. As we do that, we say to ourselves that if we ask according to His will, He hears us. We don’t do it as some sort of guarantee ordering God to heal someone. We don’t think that healing is guaranteed in the atonement this side of the Second Coming because while clearly God does heal today, but He doesn’t heal in every single circumstance. There are all kinds of ways that God is working in lives that we aren’t necessarily privy to.
Here at Sugarland Bible Church, we have had some circumstances where someone has come to us elders wanting their head anointed with oil, we prayed for them, and to be honest, we have had limited success with it. There was a situation here before I arrived where someone was actually healed when that was done. There were other times when the prayer is just as fervent and the person was not healed, so when the latter happens, we say that the Lord is in charge, and we give the situation over to Him. That is why, when dealing with verses such as this, we must be careful because we don’t want to wrongly teach God’s Word making it sound as though He is making promises that He isn’t.
Here is a situation where He says that it is His will to heal someone, and it says that if that is the circumstance then God will raise the person up. Notice the second part of James 5:15 it says, “and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” The implication here is clear: that this person was sick because of sin. Here we go again, we must be careful on how we are presenting this. Apparently, sometimes sickness is attributable to sin; some people are sick because of sin in their lives, some sort of pattern of habitual sin; I would say that is what is happening here. There is an identical situation in John’s Gospel, John 5:5 where there was a man who had been ill for 38 years; a paralytic. He was there by the pool of Bethesda, I have been to the remains of where it is believed that this pool is. There sat a man for 38 years, and he was incarcerated physically, spiritually because he did not know Jesus, and he was bound up by superstition. In John 5, it says that there was a superstition that an angel would come and stir up the pool of Bethesda, and as long as someone could be the first one to make it into the pool, they would be healed. That is a horrible thing for someone who could not move their body. How could they possibly be the first one into the pool? You can see the total infirmity that this man was bound up in — pagan strange ideas; superstition, physically limited, separated from God and Jesus healed him (John 5)! It is one of the great seven signs that Jesus performed in John’s gospel. Jesus said something very interesting to this man in John 5:14, “Afterward Jesus found him in the Temple [he was up and moving and had gone into the Temple to probably worship the Lord] … and said him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The implication is that he was in his paralyzed condition because of some kind of sin he had committed, and he was warned not to go back into that condition by telling him to leave the sin that put him in that condition. We are not told what that sin was. In John 5, there is a circumstance similar to the one in James 5 where sin can lead to sickness of some kind.
When we build a doctrine, do not look merely at a verse or two but at everything that God has to say on the subject. If you only view two verses of the Bible, James 5 and John 5, then you may believe that every time someone is sick it is because of sin in their life. That is not what all of God’s Word says. I can show you a man in the Old Testament who was blameless and upright, Job. In Job 1:1, it says that he was “… blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” He was so righteous that he would offer sacrifices and offerings for his sons because he said, ‘Maybe my sons have sinned.’ He wasn’t worried about sin in his own life but in the lives of his kids. He said, ‘Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their heart and this Job did continually with these burnt offerings.’ So, there is no record of any sin in Job’s life yet when he was struck by Satan, he became ill.
Job 2:7-8, “Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.” So, he had a skin infirmity that had nothing to do with sin in his life.
Some of the earlier verses revealed that Paul suffered from a bodily illness, Gal 4:13. “Timothy, take a little wine for your frequent ailments” (1 Tim 5:23). “Trophimus I left sick in Miletus” (see 2 Tim 4:20). Paul’s thorn in the flesh could have been a physical ailment for all we know. He implored the Lord three times to take it away and God said, ‘No.’ Clearly when looking at all that happened with Paul’s life, it is hard for me to believe that Paul and his associates had these physical problems because of some pattern of sin. Paul walked with the Lord just as Job did.
What is the totality of biblical teaching on the matter? It is yes, some people are sick because of sin in their lives. But we shouldn’t say to someone who is suffering physically that they are in that condition because their sin put them in that condition. We don’t know that. The Bible opens the door as in the cases of Paul, Timothy, and Job, for sickness to beset people even though there is no pattern of sin.
The reason I am trying to be careful about explaining this is because we get into the error of job’s counselors. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. If they weren’t bad enough, someone else shows up later, Elihu. They are all so certain that Job had his problems because of unconfessed sin when, in the first two chapters of the book, we see that Job’s predicament had nothing to do with unconfessed sin. It is akin to the situation in John 9 where the disciples found a man who had been blind from birth and they asked, ‘Who sinned, this man or his parents?’ Jesus said, ‘Neither but he was born this way so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’
Does sickness cause sin? It can. Is all sin attributable to sickness? Not necessarily. All of us will die at some point. You could be the godliest person in the world, but you will still die of something. Genesis 3:19 says, “…For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” Obviously if that is true, we can’t say that someone is ready to die because of sin in their life. The sin here that causes death is not their sin but original sin that has been transferred to them. In 2 Cor 4:16, the Apostle Paul said, “… our outer man is decaying,” yet I don’t lose heart when my hair starts to go gray if I have made a lot of money as a model (which I haven’t), and I am the most beautiful person in the world, and my entire self-image is based on how I look, and then I see wrinkles when I look in the mirror, I don’t have to panic as a Christian, because God said that “…our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
Romans 8:19-23 days, “… the whole creation groans…” It is in a state of groaning because of Adam’s sin. Who else is groaning? Are you? You are also groaning; it is in Rom 8:23, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, …” I am groaning because I am in a body that is decaying, and I am “… waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” So, wake up every morning singing the Star Spangled Banner, singing ‘Oh say can you see…’ The problem is that as you get older, you wake up and sing prolonging the ‘Oh.’ ‘Ohhhhhhhh…’. Your body is deteriorating; it is a physical reality which has nothing to do with whether or not I am habitually living in sin. The aging process is still taking place. All of that to say: Does sin cause sickness? Yes, it does. Is every sickness attributable to sin? No. That is why I want to be careful when viewing James 5:15.
Different kinds of prayer: if afflicted, pray a prayer of dependence, if you are happy, pray a prayer of praise; if you are sick, summon the elders and the elders will anoint your head with oil and lay hands on you, and if it is God’s will, then He will heal you.
Next, he describes a fourth kind of prayer: prayer of confession. If you are in sin, pray a prayer of confession. Notice 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another,… [you mean that I should go to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and confess my sins to them? I thought that we believed in the priesthood of all believers. There are a lot of denominational hierarchies who will tell you that to get to God, you must go through a priest. You must confess your sins to a priest to get to God. If you are in that kind of system, Roman Catholicism as one example, but there are other protestant systems that teach it as well; they have a priesthood and they’ll quote to you 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another,…” You don’t have to do that as a Christian; you don’t have to go through a man to get to God because there is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. If you have a relationship with Jesus, you go through God the Son to God the Father under the direction of God the Holy Spirit, which means it isn’t necessary to go to a priest to get to God. The fact is that you are a priest! It doesn’t matter how we look or feel; if I am a New Testament Christian and believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I am already a priest.
In Rev 1:6, John is writing and says that you, his audience has the same privileges that he has. “… and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father — to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen…You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign [basileuō] upon the earth [gē].” You are a priest now and you are destined for authority as a priest in the future Millennial Kingdom. Once you understand this, then you know that you realize that you don’t have to go through a man or a denomination to get to God. When I go out to lunch with people after church, and we are at the table, and when the food comes, everyone is awkwardly waiting for someone to pray so that we can eat. If I am in the group, everyone looks at me as though it is my responsibility to pray because I am the Pastor. It is a privilege for me to pray but you need not wait for me to pray; we believe in the priesthood of all believers. You all have the same privileges with God as I have because God has made us all priests, so you pray, and I will eat. A better deal is you pray and you pay, and then I will eat. I am just joking. I am going through these verses carefully because they are distorted.
However, if all of that is true and all of us can go to God on our own, then why would James 5:16 say to confess our sins to one another? There might be a special circumstance when that is needed. For example, you may have offended someone. You may have sinned against someone. When the Bible says we have done that, in Matt 5:23-24, it says “…first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” In Matt 5:23-24 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” It may be a circumstance when you are going to church, to pray, or to worship the Lord, and you recall that you offended someone or said something against someone that isn’t right, regardless of the circumstance, the Lord says, ‘I want you to go get reconciled horizontally first before you approach Me vertically.’ There may be circumstances like that where you have the need to confess your sins one to another, but it isn’t saying that you can’t get to God unless you have a priest because you are a priest already.
In Israel, the priests came from the tribe of Levi, so not just anyone could be a priest in the Old Testament. You had to be born from a Levite and from Aaron’s line. Not everyone in the Old Testament Israel was a priest. Old Testament priests were a special group of people, but that isn’t how it works in the church age. All of us are priests in this church age, so there is no need to go through Aaron, or his sons, or some man-made system to get to God, because you are already a priest. Don’t confuse this verse with teaching some sort of limited priesthood. That isn’t what it is teaching because we believe in the priesthood of all believers.
By the way, one of the greatest proponents of the priesthood of all believes was Martin Luther, the church reformer. He stressed that. That is why Luther came up with the German translation of Greek and Hebrew Bible. He spent, I think, around 11 weeks or 11 months translating the Greek into German for the German people. Then he spent 11 years translating the Hebrew and Aramaic into Luther’s German translation. Why would a man do that? Because he believed in the priesthood of all believers, which Roman Catholicism, which he was reacting against for the past 1,000 years, did not agree with. All over Europe prior to the Reformation, people had no access to the Bible. In fact, the Bible was chained to the pulpits, and the people were told they weren’t qualified to understand it, especially since it was the Latin Vulgate and the people did not speak Latin and since the service was in Latin. They maintained that if the people wanted to understand God, they had to go through a priest to get to Him. They had to get all their understanding of God through a priest, and the priests abused their authority by teaching the people doctrines such as when the coin in the coffer rings the soul from purgatory springs. Johann Tetzel [a German preacher] taught that, and that’s how the Roman Catholic church became so wealthy. I’ve toured Vatican City and you would not believe the wealth there. They acquired that wealth by teaching this false doctrine of man-made priesthood and swindling them out of their money for over a millennium. When the Protestant Reformation began, Luther hated what is called the sale of indulgences, and he built from the Scripture, using verses like Rev 1:6, 5:10 the concept of the priesthood of all believers. That is why he spent so many years translating the Bible from the original languages into German so that people could have a Bible since they didn’t have any such thing prior to this.
We have a rich heritage, and we are all priests so don’t think you have to go through a priest to get to God because you are a priest. At the same time, there might be circumstances when you want to confess your sins to someone such as when you need to get right with someone else horizontally before approaching God vertically.
- Is anybody afflicted, pray a prayer of dependence.
- Is anybody happy, pray a prayer of praise.
- Is anybody sick, get the elders of the church to come and anoint his head with oil and
that person, if it is God’s will for them to be healed, will be raised up.
- Is anybody in sin, pray a prayer of confession to a fellow brother or sister in Christ who
they have offended.
The last one is a repeat of James 5:14, but is anyone sick, they should call for intercessory prayer. Look at 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” There may be a circumstance with a fellow brother or sister in Christ and they are suffering — physically or otherwise, so James says that when you see that happen, don’t just feel sorry for them, which is a good step, but allow that compassion to translate into prayer. Do intercede for them in prayer without them knowing that you are interceding for them. That is a wonderful way to pray — to think of others who are having problems and go to the Lord and pray for them. This is a different kind of prayer life because my prayer life is not all about me, because much of the time when we pray, we are thinking about ourselves, and there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that because we all have needs, but James says a healthy prayer life also involves intercessory prayer for others.
These verses are wonderful because they give all these circumstances and different types of prayers that apply to them. To reiterate, if you are afflicted, pray a prayer of dependence; if you are happy, pray a prayer of praise; if you are sick, summon the elders to pray for you, if you offended someone, pray a prayer of confession, or confess your sins to them, and if you see someone who is sick, maybe it is an opportunity for intercessory prayer.
Next week, our last meeting of the spring quarter, is about if prayer really works. Going to the Lord in prayer, does it really work? We will see an answer to that in James 5:16-18, and then the book of James will end with how to restore the erring brother or sister. If someone has wandered off the path of Christianity, how do you bring them back to the right path. Many parents are in that situation with their kids when they go off to college and dump Jesus, how do they bring them back? There will be information in James 5. We will try to wrap up the book of James next week.
I have had a great time studying this and trying to learn it.