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God's Apps for Healing

God’s Apps for Healing

James 5:13-20 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

There is a lot of instruction in these 8 verses. Although we are to pray unceasingly, this passage gives us some of God’s apps for prayer when:

1. We have trouble or afflictions

2. We are happy

3. We are sick

4. And, we are in sin.

Let’s consider each one of these and apply them to our lives.

1. The first part of verse 13 asks a question: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” The word “trouble” here refers to affliction of any kind. It can include sickness but also covers grief, disappointment, financial troubles, and persecution.

Ps 118:5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.

In Jesus Christ, we have the privilege of prayer where we can go to God at any time, in any situation, with whatever is on our hearts. If we are born again of the Holy Spirit though Jesus Christ, we are God’s children. We can tell our Father all our troubles and receive His comfort, strength, wisdom, and direction.

The Bible is clear that affliction is the normal expectation for every believer. Peter puts it rather bluntly in 1 Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Although we know this truth, we are still tempted to self-pity, resentment, and discouragement. That is another reason James says, “Pray.” That is what Jesus did and He gained strength to endure the suffering He faced.

Heb 5:7 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

2. Look at the last part of verse 13: “Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” Praying and singing are important elements of worship in the church, as well as in our personal time of worship, and as go through the day praying unceasingly.

Psalm 96:1-2, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day.”

We are to pray and sing songs of praise when we are experiencing happy times because these carefree times can cause us to ignore our relationship with God. Praising and singing to God keeps our relationship intimate, just like when we sing to and praise those we love.

3. Now, let’s look at what we’re to do when we are sick in verses 14 & 15. “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”

The question is not, “Does God answer prayer?” We know He does. The question is not, “Does God answer prayer for the sick?” Yes, He does. The question is not, “Does God sometimes answer in ways that are miraculous? Again, the answer is yes. All these things are true.

In fact, the focus here is not on what God is able to do. God is sovereign and we know that He can do anything He wants to do. Moreover, God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

The focus in this passage is on what the church can do! These verses tell us how a Bible-believing church responds to sickness in its midst. What should we do for the sick? The answer is both simple and profound. We should pray that God would raise them up. There are several steps to the process of praying over the sick.

Step #1: The sick person calls for the elders; otherwise, they don’t know your need. The Greek word here for “sick” is very broad. It includes any serious physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or sin problem for which you need prayer.

Step #2: If possible, the elders should pray together over the sick person because sickness is not just a physical problem but also a spiritual battle against the evil one. There is strength in numbers and together their prayers can be more fervent, powerful, and earnest. This is why Jesus’ sent His disciples out in pairs to various places.

Mark 6:12-13 They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Step #3: The elders anoint with oil in the Name of the Lord Jesus. The word “anoint” means to rub oil on him. The type of oil is not specified, but it was not motor oil! More than likely, it was olive oil. Oil is used to dedicate or consecrate things for the Lord.

Exod 40:9 Take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and everything in it; consecrate it and all its furnishings, and it will be holy.

The same is true when the elders anoint the sick person. They consecrate or dedicate him to the Lord. There is nothing magical about the oil, but there is a supernatural work of God happening when we have faith, just like there is with water in baptism.

Notice that the anointing is to be done “in the name of the Lord.” This is very important because God is the ultimate source of all blessing and healing. The power is not in the elders, in the oil, or even in the prayers -- but in the mighty name of Jesus.

Step #4: Verse 15 says, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well…” In one sense every prayer should be offered in faith or it can hardly be called prayer. A prayer offered in faith is NOT faith in faith or faith in prayer. It is faith in the One to whom we are praying. When we pray, we are to pray in the Name of Jesus with faith in God, who raises the sick person up and makes him well in whatever way He chooses. Our prayers, in the Name of Jesus, are effective in battling satan in the sick person’s life and enabling the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s will.

The text says nothing about how the Lord will raise the sick person up, nor does it rule out medical care. Whether the healing comes quickly or slowly, by miracle or by medicine, or by some combination of the two, God will heal His children in His time and in His way. We are to pray for the sick because there is a spiritual battle going on for the lives of God’s people, and God told us to pray (that is reason enough to pray).

Step #5. There’s another significant step to praying over the sick in this text. Notice the last part of verse 15 and verse 16: “If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Do you see the close relationship between the physical and the spiritual here? Sickness can be the consequence of unhealthy or sinful living. We should not expect healing until we confess our sin, repent, and change our lifestyle that causes us to be sick. Forgiveness is our greatest need for healing. Furthermore, confession and repentance are necessary for God to hear our prayers.

Ps 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;

Prov 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

Isa 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

David, after committing some horrible sins, felt the effects in his body until he confessed, repented, and received God’s forgiveness.

Psalm 32:3-5: When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Step #6. James says the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. He uses Elijah as an example. Elijah was just like us. But, do we pray like Elijah? He prayed earnestly (sincerely, eagerly, urgently, zealously, fervently, intensely, deeply convinced). Elijah also prayed for what he knew God wanted and when God told him to pray. He prayed until he had an answer. (7 times for rain, Paul—3 times for deliverance).

 Ps 34:15-19 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;

To pray effectively, we need to live righteously, but our power in prayer comes from the righteousness of God, not our righteousness.2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Therefore, when satan accuses us during prayer, we stand on the righteousness given to us through Christ and keep praying.

Although we are to pray earnestly, we are to pray humbly and submissively because God’s understanding of the total situation is much greater than ours. Just because we think physical healing would be best doesn’t mean that God agrees with us. We should ask for what we want without telling God how to answer our prayers.  We should listen for His response to our prayer so we know how to continue praying according to His will.

Most of us think of healing as “getting rid of the disease.” But healing is a very broad concept that involves coming into a right relationship with God first and foremost. Healing touches every part of our life -- body, soul, and spirit. This includes the healing of all broken relationships, sinful behavior, and bringing us to a place where we can receive God’s Spirit in a new and powerful way.

Someone has said that, “Healing in the Bible is not becoming what we were but becoming all that God intends us to be.” When we pray for healing, we should not focus on the physical to the exclusion of the spiritual, emotional, and relational sides of life. We are not completely healed until we are made whole on every level of our existence.

Step #7 That is why James tells us in verses 19-20, My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

When one church member hurts, sins, or has trouble, all the church family suffers with them. When one wanders from the faith in deception and sin, it effects all of us. We are to love each other so much that our love motivates us to minister to that wandering sheep and restore him to the Body. That love also covers a multitude of sin; that is, God’s love in us holds no grudges or unforgiveness towards the wanderer. That is how God heals the entire Body of Christ.

1 Pet 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.

As we survey this text in James in light of the whole Bible, two statements are true:

1. It is not always God’s will to heal physically or no sick believer would ever die.

2. It is often God’s will to heal ­ that’s why this passage is in the Bible. We should always pray in faith for God to heal someone, and not give up until God makes His answer clear. F.B. Meyer writes, “The greatest tragedy is not ‘unanswered’ prayer, but unoffered prayer.” This statement reminds me of what James said in chapter 4:2, “You do not have because you do not ask God.”

Part of our problem is that we have lost our faith in God’s will to heal and ignored how the Church is to pray for healing. We need to repent, ask God to forgive us, and to restore our faith in Him and His Word. Then we need to do what He said.

When you are sick and you call on the elders to pray over you and anoint you with oil, you are not relying on the elders or the oil. You are responding in faith in the One who told you to do this. You are acknowledging (acting like) God is your Healer. You are dependent on Him and Him alone. He is your Lord and He is sovereign. God loves you and has a perfect plan of blessing for your life that glorifies Him. If physical healing is part of that plan, then obedience to his command and faith in Him will glorify Him. Otherwise, you have not because you ask not. Therefore, obey God’s commands for healing and leave the results to Him.