The Book of James

Lesson 13 - "Praying Powerfully"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 5:13-20, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”


-Introduction:

Why does God allow us to have so many problems in our lifetimes? The answer is: So we will learn to pray! Tradition says James had the nickname "Camel Knees" because he had such big knees from spending so much time in prayer. James had big problems because according to Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, James was condemned to death by the Sanhedrin in about 62 A.D. James uses the word "prayer" seven times in this final passage of his epistle as he focuses on the most important element of a "journey into faith that works"—praying powerfully! The only thing that limits the power of our prayers is faith.


We have a situation in Matthew chapter nine where Jesus is approached by two blind men. Matthew 9:27-30 says, “And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.”


This means prayer can do anything that God can do. In this passage we find two aspects of praying powerfully, beginning with...

#1) When to pray powerfully.

James 5:13-16 says, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

In these verses James gives us four specific times to pray powerfully.

1. We should pray powerfully when we are in trouble. James writes: Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. The word translated afflicted means to suffer from severe hardship or misfortune. It refers to severe problems, not just an occasional flat tire or the 24-hour flu. It may be trouble in our finances, relationships, careers, or jobs.


When we are afflicted we have two choices—we can worry or we can pray. Which of these do you think will do the most good? When praying about our trouble, we are not necessarily to pray for deliverance. There is nothing wrong with that, but we should also pray for sustaining grace to endure our problems if it is not God's will to take them away. We should acknowledge God's option by praying, "God, what are you trying to teach me or develop in me through this problem?" Like Paul's thorn in the flesh, God may want us to keep our "thorn" to teach us something.


2. We should pray powerfully when we are blessed. James writes: Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Mixed in with our problems are blessings that make us merry. In our lives we alternate between mountaintops and valleys. When we are on the mountaintops we are merry, so we should sing psalms. In other words, we should thank God by singing songs of praise because praise directed to God is actually a form of prayer. When we are merry because we have been blessed, we need to follow what example of David in Psalm 13:6 who said, “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”


Not only should we pray powerfully when we are in trouble and when we are blessed, but also...

3. We should pray powerfully when we are sick. James tells us: Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him. The word translated sick means "without strength" and refers to being weak to the point of incapacitation. This means the illness should be debilitating enough to require the elders or leaders in the church to come to the patient and pray over him, asking the Lord for healing.


James continues: anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. What is the purpose for anointing him with oil? In the New Testament there are two primary Greek words for anointing: chriō and aleiphō. Chrio is a specific word and refers to sacred or spiritual anointing. It is the word from which we get the word "Christ" which means "the Anointed One.


On the other hand, the word aleiphō refers to anointing of any kind, primarily with oil or ointment. In biblical times, oil was one of the few medicines available. It was used for its soothing and healing affect, as we still do today with lotions and ointments, such as petroleum jelly. The word translated anointing here in James 5:14 is aleiphō, and it refers to simply applying oil for its medicinal or soothing benefits.

There is no spiritual or supernatural significance implied. Therefore, the Bible teaches we should combine prayer and medicine. James tells us if we follow this biblical prescription... the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up. This doesn't mean every prayer for healing guarantees God will make a sick person well. This prayer must be offered in faith, meaning we have absolute confidence in God's will, and it is not God's will to heal every illness.


The great apostle Paul left a dear co-worker because he was too sick to travel. If anyone could pray in faith, it was surely Paul. In II Timothy 4:20 Paul wrote, “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.” When our prayers are offered in faith, we recognize God's will is supreme and will therefore pray like Jesus did in Luke 22:42, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”


We should pray powerfully when we are in trouble, when we are blessed, when we are sick, and...

4. We should pray powerfully when we have sinned. James writes:... and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Of course this phrase assumes confession and repentance have taken place. Sometimes it takes a very serious illness to bring us to the point of confession of sin and a change in lifestyle. I have seen this happen many times. Sometimes God uses illness to get our attention and to draw us back to Himself. However, sickness is not an indication of sin because James writes: If he have committed sins.


James also writes: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. Confessing the sins of resentment, bitterness, and envy can often lead to emotional and physical healing. Unconfessed bitterness, resentment, or anger toward a person creates emotional stress that can result in ulcers, depression, headaches, etc.


All kinds of serious diseases, including cancer, are affected by stress because it weakens the body's immune system and lessens our ability to fight infection and disease. Thus, confession often leads to healing.


It is very important to know when to pray powerfullywhen we are in trouble, when we are blessed, when we are sick, and when we have sinned. But secondly, we also need to know...

#2) Who can pray powerfully.

James 5:16-18, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”


James tells us: The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Our prayers can only be effectual and fervent if we are righteous. The word translated righteous refers to being right with God and right with people. Psalms 5:12 says, “For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.”


Sometimes we may think praying powerfully is only possible for spiritual giants. You may think "I could never pray and see somebody healed" or "I could never pray and see a miracle happen in my life." To dispel this idea, James uses the illustration of Elijah and writes: Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly for no rain, and there was no rain for three and a half years. Elijah prayed again, and it rained.


Later, on Mount Carmel, Elijah prays another prayer, one of the most powerful in the Bible, praying down fire from heaven. But what does Elijah do next? When Queen Jezebel hears about his prayer and the killing of her 450 false prophets, she orders his assassination within the next 24 hours. When Elijah hears of Jezebel's intention, he flees into the desert and goes into deep depression. He comes to a juniper tree, sits down under it, and prays this prayer according to I Kings 19:4, “And he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”


The great prophet Elijah, who just hours before had prayed one of the most powerful prayers in the Bible, is in the depths of depression and is asking God to kill him. So, we see Elijah demonstrate fear, depression, worry, and lack of faith. Now you know why James writes: Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are. We have fear, depression, worry, and lack of faith. To pray powerfully, we don't have to be perfect, but we do have to be righteous. Romans 3:22 tells us how we are made righteous. It says, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.”


And it begs the question, Who can pray powerfully? Only believers who have been make righteous through faith in Jesus Christ.


Praying powerfully requires we know when to pray powerfully and who can pray powerfully. James now concludes his epistle by writing about...

#3) Restoring wanderers.

James 5:19-20, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”


A "journey into faith that works" includes bringing wanderers home to God. The first step is to pray for them and act in love to encourage them. James puts it like this: Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth. The Greek word translated err is the word from which we get our English word "planet." It depicts a person wandering off, like a planet leaving its orbit.

James writes about such a wanderer: and one convert him. Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”


James writes that turning a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. Is this wanderer one with a superficial faith or a true believer? The Bible teaches if people permanently go out from us, they did not really belong to Christ in the first place. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”


When we bring back true believers who have wandered from the truth, they will be restored to fellowship with God. However, they may also be saved from premature physical death since the context of this hypothetical wanderer is dealing with physical illness. On the other hand, if the wanderer is only a superficial believer, we will save that person from spiritual death when and if they trust Christ!


To pray powerfully, we must know when to pray powerfully and who can pray powerfully, but we must also realize our responsibility in restoring wanderers.


Let’s pray.


*This concludes this study in the book of James.



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