When we find ourselves in something of a predicament, advice can often be helpful. Here James describes three conditions, offering wise counsel for each:
1A – Condition = Trouble (v 13a.)
The word trouble means “suffering” “afflicted” or being “ill treated.” This might be physical trouble (sickness); mental trouble (anxiety& stress); or spiritual trouble (enemy attack or carrying the cross.)
1B – Counsel = Pray
This involves God in the trouble (1 Peter 3 v 12) and opens up the possibility for deliverance (Psalm 34 v 8.)
2A – Condition = Happiness (v 13b.)
The word happiness means “cheerful” “glad” or a state of “well being.” Despite troubles, the Christian life is meant to be happy (1 Timothy 6 v 17 & Romans 14 v 17.)
2B – Counsel = Praise
In the light of God’s mercies which are new every morning, the response should be that of sung praise (Psalm 95 v 1 – 2 & Ephesians 5 v 19.)
3A – Condition = Sick (v 14 – 15.)
The word sick means “to be without strength” or “not functioning properly” and would suggest serious illness.
3B – Counsel = Call
The sick person is to take the initiative and call on the church leaders to visit, anoint with oil (Mark 6 v 13) and pray in faith for healing as well as forgiveness of sin, not that there is always a connection between sin and suffering (John 9 v 3.)
In the light of all this there are two other encouragements that James wants to offer regarding prayer:-
A – An Instruction (v 16.)
This directive raises the issue of who we confess our sin to. We are familiar with the practice of confessing our sin to God (1 John 1 v 9) and that no human intermediary, such as a priest, is required (1 Timothy 2 v 5.) But here we are being instructed to confess our sins to one another; which incidentally is not a mandate to hang out the dirty washing in public, but rather if convicted of sin by the Spirit regarding a relational breakdown, then we are to go to the person concerned, confess our sin and be reconciled (Matthew 5 v 23 – 24.)
B – An Illustration (v 17 – 18.)
James finishes with an example of effective prayer, but it comes with a caveat – “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Moral integrity is imperative (Psalm 66 v 18 & Isaiah 59 v 2) if God is to work through the prayer, with the example used being that of Elijah (1 Kings 17 – 18) who prayed for a drought, and then a few years later for monsoon rain.
Challenge – How large a part do these various aspects of prayer play in your life? How effective and powerful are your prayers?
Theme: “The power of prayer”
Reading: James 5 v 13 – 18
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Marion Brenchley