Pray About Everything

Pray About Everything

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 are a lot of situations for prayer in these 8 verses. Although we are to pray unceasingly, this passage encourages us to pray specifically when:

1. We have trouble

2. We are happy

3. We are sick

4. And, when we have sinned.

Let’s briefly consider each one of these occasions.

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 afflictions of any kind. It can include sickness but also covers grief, disappointment, financial difficulties, persecution—anything that causes us distress, anguish, pain, and suffering.

In Jesus Christ, we have the privilege of going to God, our Father, at any time, in any situation, with whatever is on our hearts and minds. We can tell our Father all our troubles and receive His comfort, strength, wisdom, and direction.

Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD, the LORD answered me and set me free.

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 by self-pity, resentment, and discouragement when troubles arise. That is why James says, “Pray.” Furthermore, that is what Jesus did, and He prayed and gained strength to endure the suffering He faced.

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

Now, look at the last part of verse 13: “Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” Singing is an important element of worship in the church, but it is also a way to pray unceasingly, praise God, and proclaim His salvation throughout the day.

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 happy times can cause us to ignore our relationship with God. When everything is going well, we tend to ignore God. Praising and singing to God keeps our relationship intimate, just like serenading and praising a person we love fosters intimacy.

Now, let’s look at verses 14 and 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 issue is not, “Does God answer prayer for the sick?” The question is not, “Does God sometimes answer in ways that are miraculous? In fact, the focus here is not on what God is able to do. God is sovereign and He can do anything He wants to do according to His purpose.

The focus in this passage is on what the Church can do! These verses tell us how a Bible-believing church should respond to sickness in its midst. While we often say a general prayer for the sick, there are specific things the Church is instructed do when someone is sick.

First, the sick person calls for the elders to pray for him and anoint him with oil in the Name of the Lord. This call is the responsibility of the sick, exhibiting faith in God and His Word, and inviting the elders to pray.

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. Together their prayers can be more fervent, powerful, and earnest. This is one reason Jesus sent His disciples out in pairs.

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.

While praying, the elders anoint with oil in the Name of the Lord Jesus. The word “anoint” means to rub or pour oil on him. The anointing oil described in Exodus was olive oil blended with spices. The oil is used to dedicate or consecrate things for the Lord.

Exodus 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 the sick person to the Lord. There is nothing magical about the oil, but there is a supernatural work of God happening when we have faith in God and do what He says. This is also true about the water used in baptism. There is nothing special about the water, but a supernatural new birth takes place when the believer acts in faith, doing what God has said to do.

Therefore, when the elders pray over you and anoint you with oil, you are not relying on the elders nor the oil. You are responding in faith in the One who told you to call the elders and have them anoint you. You are acknowledging that God is your Healer. You are dependent on Him and Him alone. He is your Lord and He is sovereign, so you are doing what He says to do. If physical healing is part of His plan for you, then faith in Him and obedience to His commands will glorify God.

Notice that the anointing is to be done “in the name of the Lord.” This is very important because the Lord is the ultimate source of all blessing and healing. The power is not in the elders, nor in the oil, nor even in the prayers, but in the mighty name of Jesus!

The first part of 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 nor faith in prayer. 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.

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 because God told us to pray and to anoint with oil.

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.

Obvious examples of an unhealthy lifestyle are addictions to drugs, alcohol, food, tobacco, etc. We need to repent of these unhealthy behaviors so we can be healed.

Stress, over-working, not sleeping, and not eating properly can also lead to sickness. We need to repent from our anxiety, busy schedules, and lack of self-control. We must refocus our minds upon the Lord and obey His Word in order to be healed.

Isaiah 26:3-4 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Additionally, unforgiveness and bitterness are sins that will affect our mental and physical health and these are often overlooked. Those with hate and resentment cannot expect any healing until these sins have been forsaken. Therefore, forgiveness, confession of sin, and repentance must take place for God to hear and answer our prayers.

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

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

Isaiah 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.

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. Then he prayed until he had an answer (7 times for rain). Do we pray like that?

Psalm 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;

Therefore, to pray effectively, we need to live righteously, be quick to confess our sin, and walk in constant repentance and obedience to the Word and the Holy Spirit. Then God will hear our prayers.

But often our accuser, Satan, will bring doubt by reminding us of past sin. When Satan accuses us during prayer, we can rebuke him in the Name of Jesus and maintain our faith in the righteousness given to us through Christ, and keep praying to our Father in Heaven.

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Although we are to pray earnestly, we are also 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, it doesn’t mean God agrees with us. We should ask for what we need 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, “Healing in the Bible is not becoming what we were but becoming all that God intends us to be.” After all, our bodies will not inherit immortality. God intends for us to inherit a new glorified body.

Therefore, 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.

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, he is walking in the pathway of death and it effects all of us.

We are to love each other so much that our love motivates us to minister to that wandering person, save him from death, and restore him to the Body of Christ.

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

That means God’s love in us holds no grudges nor unforgiveness towards the wanderer when he returns. That is how God restores the sinner and heals the entire Body of Christ.

From this text in James and other references in the Bible, we see two things that are true about praying for the sick.

1. It is not always God’s will to heal physically; otherwise, no sick believer’s body would ever die. Even though his body dies, the believer in Christ will live forever.

2. It is often God’s will to heal the sick person’s body. That’s why this passage is in the Bible. We should always pray with faith in God to heal someone in spirit, soul, and body, 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.”

Therefore, we need to obey God’s commands to pray about everything and leave the results to Him. Prayer is constant communication with our Father in Heaven. Every day we can hear His voice and see His answers to prayer if we pray without ceasing about everything.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Perhaps you find it difficult to pray about everything because you don’t have a relationship with the Father. You can begin that relationship by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, who atoned for your sin on the cross. If you believe in Jesus, repent of all sin, and dedicate your life to Him. Then make your faith public through baptism, and you will receive a new life born of the Holy Spirit. God will be your Father and you can communicate with Him throughout the day. His Spirit will speak to you, lead you, correct you, teach you, and tell you how to pray about everything.