How to Walk with God in a Variety of Circumstances
Topic: Prayer Passage: James 5:13–20
HOW TO WALK WITH GOD IN A VARIETY OF CIRCUMSTANCES
An Exposition of James 5:13-20
By Pastor Brian Wilbur
Date: January 16, 2022
Series: God's Household
Note: Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I invite you to turn to James 5. We are in between two series of sermons: recently I finished up preaching through the Gospel of Mark, and Lord-willing next week we will launch into the Book of Genesis. But on this particular Lord's Day, I would like to speak from James 5:13-20.
I've titled the sermon “How to Walk with God in a Variety of Circumstances.” That title is unlikely to win any publishing awards, but it is hopefully clear and straightforward. God calls us to live as in His presence – with respect to Him, and in fellowship with Him, and in accordance with His purposes, and for His glory. We're called to live all of life in the presenceof God, and various Scriptures will give us some very specific instructions about how to navigate this circumstance or how to navigate that circumstance. We want to pay attention to those instructions. If you attempt to do the right moral things and the right religious things and the right family and neighborly things, but you attempt to do them independently of God – without His grace, without His empowerment, without His wisdom – then you are a moralist,but you are not a Christian. You are doing life, but you're not doing life with God.
The instruction of the New Testament in Colossians 3 is this: “And whatever you do, in wordor deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) And so, we want to do life with God. And in James 5:13-20, James highlights five types of circumstances, and then he gives us direction about how to walk with God in each of those circumstances. So let me go ahead and read James 5:13-20.
THE SCRIPTURAL TEXT
Holy Scripture says,
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? 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. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:13-20)
This is God's Word, and it is for our good. Let's pray.
Father, I pray that by the Holy Spirit, you would illuminate this passage, that you would put these instructions upon our hearts, so that we might walk with you, honor you, and bear the good fruit that you intend. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
So I want to walk through these five circumstances. I'm going to highlight each of these five circumstances in the form of a question – three of the questions come directly from the text,the other two I'm supplying as reasonable questions to ask in view of the instruction that James gives us in verse 16 and in verses 19-20. So here's the five questions:
- Are you suffering?
- Are you cheerful?
- Are you sick?
- Are you weakened by sin?
- Has someone else wandered from the truth?
So, let's walk through these five circumstances one at a time.
CIRCUMSTANCE #1: ARE YOU SUFFERING? (v. 13a)
First, are you suffering? Now the truth of the matter is that we experience all kinds of suffering, and various intensities of suffering, on a regular basis. This word casts a wide net to refer to many different kinds of suffering or hardship or trials.
Even within the Book of James, James highlights several examples of ways in which we might suffer. For example, in James 2:1-7, people might mistreat you because you are poor. Or in James 3:9, people might curse you. In James 4:1, people might fight and quarrel against you. In James 4:11-12, people might speak against you – they might speak evil against you or speak harshly or unfairly criticize you. In James 5:1-6, the rich might oppress the poor. In James 5:9, people might grumble against you. There are many kinds of suffering that you might experience because other people – people from within the church or people from outside the church – are troubling you and making life difficult for you. There are also all kinds of general calamities and tragedies and difficulties that people experience in life.
And what direction does James give us? “Is anyone among you suffering?” (v. 13) How does James answer this question? Let him complain? Let him get others to feel sorry for him? Let him plan a counter-attack, if you're suffering on account of other people's ill-behavior? That'snot the instruction that James gives us. What does James say? “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” (v. 13) Cool your jets. Calm your heart. Keep a level head. Nothing strange is happening to you if you are suffering. To be a human being in this sinful cursed world is in large measure to suffer. And so in the midst of the hardship, in the midst of the heartache, in the midst of the frustration, go to the Lord in prayer. Pray for help. If you go back to James 1, in the midst of trials we ought to seek God for wisdom and strength and His transforming power. If it is people who are mistreating you and that's why you're suffering, then what does our Savior tell us to do? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Sufferers ought to be diligent to go to the Lord in prayer.
The instruction here is specifically to the one who is suffering. If you are the one who is suffering, you ought to pray. But keep in mind the larger New Testament instruction that as a body of believers, if one member suffers every member is to suffer with that brother or sister (1 Corinthians 12:26). We are to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Ad so we also ought to share in the suffering and the prayers of those who are suffering.
CIRCUMSTANCE #2: ARE YOU CHEERFUL? (v. 13b)
Now let’s consider the second question: are you cheerful? This is a very interesting word that James uses here. He doesn't ask if your circumstances are favorable or if life is great or if everything is going your way. Now of course there are times, thank God, when there are measures of blessing that the Lord pours into our lives – there are encouragements, and there is peace, and there is health, and there is flourishing. And of course that may be part of what James is getting at here, that you are cheerful as a fitting response to the blessings andthe encouragements that the Lord has put into your life.
Nevertheless, the emphasis of being cheerful is not actually on your circumstances, even though you might be cheerful in relationship to your circumstances. What did James tell us back in Chapter 1? What should you do “when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2)? We are to “[count] it all joy (James 1:2).
So, here's the point I'm trying to make. When James asks “Is anyone cheerful?” (v. 13), James probably does envision at some level that you're not in the thick of suffering at the moment, that there is some favorability to your circumstances and that you are cheerful on that account. But nevertheless, if we're going to be honest with what James is telling us here, the real decisive issue is not the type or the level of your suffering or trials or your blessings and encouragements. The real issue is: do you have a cheerful disposition? Regardless of what's going on around you, do you have a cheerful disposition? Do you have joy? Do you have peace and contentment? If so, then what should you do? James says, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” (v. 13)
I really want to encourage you here, because I think that too many times we waste our cheerfulness. You see, if you're a Christian and you’re suffering, there is a tendency to have the heart and the mind inclined to the Lord in the midst of your suffering, to call out to Him in prayer, and to ask for others to pray. You can more easily get into a spiritual frame of mind when you are suffering and when you are facing trials. But when you're walking along and you just feel cheerful and you have a cheerful outlook – maybe you think to yourself that you are feeling really good right now, and life is good – then you might be inclined to say, ‘I feel cheerful and relaxed and free, so I'm just going to sit down and watch a football game, because I'm feeling really good right now.’ And so we might waste our cheerfulness and lose our spiritual edge.
So, we need to hear the Scripture – the second half of James 5:13 – as an encouragement to us to not waste our cheerfulness. Turn your cheerfulness into worship. Leverage your cheerfulness, leverage your joy, leverage your contentment in order to sing praise to the Lord. Don't waste the potency of cheerful moments by letting those moments dissipate in trivial activities, but instead praise the Lord. Take that contented and joyful energy, and sing a song of praise to the Lord.
The Greek word that is translated “sing praise” means ‘to pull, twitch, twang, play, sing’. I love that one ‘twang’. Is anyone cheerful? Let him twang. Pull out the banjo, strum the guitar,play the fiddle, lift up a song, make music, make melody in your heart, sing praise to the Lord.
And once again, if one member is joyful, Scripture instructs us to “[rejoice] with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15; see also 1 Corinthians 12:26). So even though the instruction is to you, the one who is cheerful, that you ought to sing praise and make music and celebrate before the Lord, as a body of believers others ought to share in your joy.
Are you suffering? Pray.
Are you cheerful? Praise the Lord. Lift up a song.
CIRCUMSTANCE #3: ARE YOU SICK? (v. 14-15)
And now let's go to the third question: are you sick? This question takes us into verses 14-15.
In verse 13, James is brief and to the point as he counsels us to walk in God in seemingly opposite – but as I explained above, not completely opposite – experiences. Are you suffering? Are you cheerful? And after each question comes the punchy instruction: pray, and praise God. But here in verses 14-15 he slows down. Now refers to another type of experience. You might look at sickness as a subset of suffering, but this is a very specific experience that he talks about here, and he talks about it at some length.
And so, this third circumstance is that you are experiencing physical sickness or physical weakness, that you are facing the loss of bodily strength and vitality. And I think that it is reasonable to assume that the sickness or weakness that James has in view here is serious and sustained. If you have spent the day shovelling snow and you come to the end of the day and you're exhausted and you're feeling a little bit cold and you feel like your strength isspent and you've got nothing left, you don't need to call the Elders into action! Enjoy some warm tea, get a bowl of chowder, take a shower, and go to bed, and you're probably going to feel a lot better in the morning. I don't think James envisions that every occurrence of the common cold, that every bout with these illnesses that travel about, that every occurrence of the 24-hour stomach bug, or that every occurrence of pollen-induced hay fever in springtime, is supposed to result in some dramatic call upon the Elders to come and pray over you. I think we should avoid this extreme.
But on the other hand, we should also avoid the other extreme. One commentator got me thinking along these lines, namely, that James does not limit sickness to the last stage of a terminal illness. James doesn't say, ‘If anyone is basically at the end of the rope and on death's doorstep, then that would be a good time to call upon the Elders.’ So he's not dealing with either extreme.
The sense we get from what his instruction is that there is a range of serious, sustained, and debilitating sicknesses or physical weaknesses. And at such times when the sickness or the weakness is overwhelming and unrelenting, you are instructed to call for the Elders of the church to come and to pray over you.
Now as I mentioned in an email a couple weeks ago, I really want to talk about this particular instruction this morning because I think it's neglected. And you'll notice that there is a responsibility placed upon the one who is sick. But one of my jobs as a pastor is to teach you the Scriptures. And so that's what I want to do this morning. I want you who might potentially be in this situation at some point in the future – I want you to understand what God's instruction is to you. If you are in this serious, sustained, and debilitating physical sickness or physical illness, then you ought to call upon the Elders of the church, not because that's what the Elders thought was a good idea. This instruction has nothing to do with what we, as pastors and elders, think is a good idea. The reason why you should call upon the Elders is because this is the Lord's idea. This is the Lord's instruction to you. He is setting the terms of how you should live and how you should navigate the difficulties and opportunities of life. Andso, the reason that a sick person should call upon the Elders of the church is because that sick person wants to obey Jesus. Obey Jesus by making a phone call or relaying the message through a trusted friend, requesting that the
Elders come and pray for you. Your job is to obey Jesus by calling upon the Elders (v. 14). The Elders’ job is to obey Jesus by responding to your summons.
And then that brings us into the remainder of verse 14. Once the elders are summoned to the sick man or woman, what should the elders do? Now keep in mind, this isn't like “drive-through prayers” or “drive-by prayers” or “cookie cutter prayers” where we show up, do the little prayer thing, and quickly go on our way. I mean, the church is a family. So, there is going to be some connection and some fellowship and some interaction, and some effort to understand what's going on, and the opportunity to encourage one another. But James focuses attention on the heart of the visit, which is to “pray over” the sick person (v. 14). This is the primary instruction to the Elders. And this primary action of prayer is to be accompanied by anointing the sick person “with oil in the name of the Lord” (v. 14).
Now the anointing oil is not medicinal. This is not some medicinal application of oil, with the thought that it might bring about healing. The oil is not to be understood medicinally. And the oil is also not to be understood magically. There is nothing inherently magical or superstitious about the application of oil. Now someone might ask the question: Is the anointing with oil really necessary? And my answer to that question is (listen very carefully to this answer): the oil, in and of itself, is not necessary; but anointing the sick person with oil is necessary because the Lord commands it. The reality is that the Lord has designed us as embodied human beings, and he intends for us to demonstrate our faith and our love and our fellowship in visible and physical and tangible ways. That's why we are baptized into water. There's nothing magical about the water. We eat the bread and we drink the cup at the Lord's table. There's nothing magical about that little wafer and that little cup. Or if we’re praying for someone or commissioning someone in the ministry, we might lay our hands on them on their head or on their shoulder. The New Testament says that we should greet one another with a holy kiss. We might deem it appropriate in our context to do the holy hug or the holy handshake. But the point is that in many ways there is to be a physical and tangible expression of our faith and of our love and of our fellowship with each other and of our trust in the Lord. Thus here: it is necessary for the Elders in this situation to anoint the sick person with oil in the name of the Lord, because this is the Lord's instruction.
I think we can understand that the anointing oil physically and tangibly symbolizes the Lord's gracious presence with His people and His love for the brother or sister who is sick.
So, the Elders might respond to your summons and come to you. And we take a little time for fellowship and for conversation. Perhaps we would sing over you or read Scripture over you. But then at some point we would anoint you with oil and then we would pray for you, trusting the Lord to work mightily in your sickness. And this leads to the promise of verse 15.
People can really struggle with verse 15, because it is such a bold promise. Verse 15 says: “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” So, there is a promise related to “the prayer of faith”. Remember the situation envisioned here: the faithful Elders were praying unto the Lord with confident expectation, trusting the Lord's goodness and kindness to heal. The promise here is that the Lord will work through the prayer of these faithful Elders to bring healing to the sick person. The one who has been laid low by physical sickness or weakness will be raised up. In other words, there is physical healing and physical restoration. And if there is a sin issue in conjunction with the sickness, then the sick person will also be forgiven of his or her sins.
Now I'm going to tell you how I process a verse like verse 15. And I want to say a couple things about it. The first thing I want to say is this: If we faithfully and humbly practice verse 14, then I believe that we will experience the reality of verse 15. Now, I don't think that verse 15 is a blanket guarantee that immediate healing is always going to happen in a person's life. And there's a number of reasons why I think that. Remember that it is not the purpose of any particular verse of Scripture to tell you the whole story. This why we have the whole Bible – this is why we let Scripture interpret Scripture – because we need all of Scripture in order to give us the whole story. So, let me give you a number of reasons why I think that verse 15 is not a blanket guarantee that prayer for healing always leads to immediate healing:
1) Sometimes there is a real mystery to the Lord's will. James told us in James 4: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”” (James 4:14-15) Job went through quite a season of suffering, didn't he? I suppose if the Elders of the church would come have and done this for Job early on in the process, I'm assuming that Job wouldn't have been healed right away because the Lord had a purpose for Job’s suffering, including the boils on his body – his physical ailment. TheLord had a purpose for all that, a purpose that was somewhat mysterious.
2) Here is another possibility (now steward this idea very carefully, don't wield it like a club to beat people down): we have to be honest about the fact that if the Elders are not praying in faith, or if the sick person is not repenting of the sins that are related to the sickness, then this unbelief in the Elders or this sin in the sick person may block the possibility of healing. Remember, there may be no sins related to the sickness. But if there are sins related to the sickness, then that's going to block the possibility of healing. When I say that unbelief and sin may block the possibility of healing, I don’t mean that they make it impossible for God to grant healing. Instead what I mean is that our unbelief and sin are at odds with what God wills to accomplish through a body of believers who are turning from sin and trusting Him.
3) Another thing to keep in mind is that the Apostles, including the Apostle Paul, had the ability to heal others. The Apostles outranked the Elders, and here in James 5 the responsibility is given to the Elders. But I don't get the sense from reading the Apostle Paul that he viewed healing as some kind of guaranteed thing in his back pocket that he could just pull out at will. In Philippians 2, he talks about how Epaphroditus had fallen ill and he was so thankful that the Lord had mercifully restored him. At the end of 2 Timothy, Paul says that Trophimus, one of his colleagues, was ill. But in neither situation do you get the sense that Paul was like, ‘Oh, you’re sick Ephaphroditus; boom, you’re healed! Oh, you’re sick Trophimus; boom, you’re healed!” You don't get that sense.
So yes, taken as a whole, I do believe that if we live obediently to verse 14, then we will experience the reality of verse 15. But you have to understand that there remains some mystery to the Lord's will. His calling upon us is to walk in obedience and to walk in faithfulness. And so let's do that.
TRANSITION: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SIN AND SICKNESS
Now as we transition to verse 16, there is something else I want to explore a little bit, and that is the relationship between sin and sickness. It is wrong to assume that if someone is sick, the reason they are sick is because of some pattern of sin in their lives. It is wrong to assume that. Do not assume that someone is sick on account of his or her personal sin. However, it is also wrong to assume that sin has nothing to do with it. So, if you want things to be neat and tidy – it's always this or never that – then you ought to find a different life to live than the Christian one. This is not neat and tidy. The reality is that sometimes a pattern of sin is the reason for – or at least a significant contributing factor to – the sickness, and this can happen in at least three ways.
- Some sins are inherently bad for your body. So the relationship is direct: you are sinning in such a way that by the very act of those sins, you are undermining your physical health.
- Sometimes the effect of sin on the body is indirect. But if you are carrying around boatloads of anxiety, boatloads of guilt, boatloads of shame, boatloads of bitterness – do you really think that doesn't affect your body? It does. And the deeper it goes andthe longer it lasts, the more your body will suffer on account of the shame and the guilt and anxiety that is bound up with your sin.
- A third possible explanation for the relationship between sin and sickness is the fact that God may directly afflict you with sickness or illness as an act of discipline upon you because of your sin. Paul told the Corinthians that because of the way that some of them were approaching the Lord's table and of the way they really weren't having proper regard for the Lord and for their brothers and sisters, that some of them were weak and some of them were ill and some of them had even died (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, especially v. 30).
So, do not assume that someone is sick as a result of his or her personal sin, but also don't assume that that person's sin has nothing to do with it. And I'll tell you this – I don't know if this applies to anyone here this morning – if your physical maladies are connected to your sin, then you need to understand that all of the physical and medical and therapeutic and nutritional interventions to restore your physical health are not going to work, because that's not the real issue. There are issues where there are physical and medical and therapeutic and nutritional interventions that you ought to pursue as a good steward of your body. But if you are suffering illness or weakness on account of your sin, then you need to understand that you've got to deal with the sin.
CIRCUMSTANCE #4: ARE YOU WEAKENED BY SIN? (v. 16)
Okay, now we're ready to transition to verse 16, because what's going on in verse 16 is this: James is taking the logic of verses 14-15, and he's making a wider application. And this brings us to the fourth question: are you weakened by sin?
In verse 16, It is as if James is saying, ‘Hey look, do you understand that the Lord is gracious? Yes, we fall into sins of various kinds, and when we do, the Lord is gracious and ready to forgive. And sometimes we experience sickness in relationship to our sin, and the Lord is ready to forgive the sin and heal the body.’ Of course, sometimes we experience sickness and it has nothing to do with our sin. But James wants you to understand that giventhe reality that some of us, some of the time, experience weakness on account of our sin – James wants you to see that the Lord is gracious. The Lord is ready to forgive. The Lord is ready to restore. And now, you Christians should enter into this reality by doing verse 16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.”
The word that is translated ‘healed’, while it can relate to healing in a broader sense, doestypically refer to physical healing. I want to encourage you with this thought that there may be healings that the Lord wants to pour out on this church family and on you or on a loved one, and he's waiting for you to do the first part of verse 16. He's ready to heal. He's ready to go. He's waiting for you to follow His instructions. So: “confess your sins to one another”. Of course, we should confess our sins to the Lord first and foremost, but there are also times – whether it is in ruptured relationships or just because we need the encouragement and accountability of our brothers and sisters – when we acknowledge our faults, when we confess our sins and our struggles to one another. And then we “pray for one another”. We are agents of the Lord's mercy and grace. And with the confident expectation of the Lord's gracious presence in our midst, we bring those brothers and sisters before the Lord in prayer.And as we do that, the Lord heals his people. So are you weakened by sin? Then confess your sins to your brothers and sisters, and pray for one another as a church family, that you may be healed.
I'm going to skip over the rest of verse 16 and verses 17-18 until the very end.
CIRCUMSTANCE #5: HAS SOMEONE WANDERED FROM THE TRUTH (v. 19-20)
Now let’s go to the final circumstance, in verses 19-20. Here is the fifth question: Has someone wandered from the truth?
The first four questions I was asking of you personally. Are you suffering? Are you cheerful? Are you sick? Are you weakened by sin? Now, the issue turns to someone who was once part of the Christian Community, at least outwardly. They were part of it and they had learned the Bible and they appeared to be walking with the Lord, but now they've wandered from the truth. Do you know someone like that? What is your responsibility? Now obviously one of the things we ought to do, for someone who has wandered from the truth, is to pray for them.
James has been talking a lot about prayer, and especially the power of prayer (v. 17-18). But nevertheless the instruction here in verses 19-20 is that if you know someone who has wandered from the truth, your responsibility is to do whatever you can to “[bring] him back” (v. 19), to bring that wanderer back into fellowship with God and back into the fold of God's people. And while prayer is part of that, bringing back a wanderer involves communicating with them, pleading with them, going to them, or given them a phone call or writing a letter – and humbly and kindly and gently and yet firmly pleading with them to return to the Lord and to be forgiven of sin and to be rescued from the folly of their ways.
So, in all these ways, we are called to walk with God in these various circumstances.
WHAT MAKES FOR EFFECTIVE PRAYER?
Now, I want to come to the end of verse 16, where James says: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” The instruction to pray is not the only instruction in this passage, but prayer does loom large. The English word ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’ or ‘prayed’ or ‘praying’ occurs seven times. Matthew Henry, that commentator from hundreds of years ago, calls attention to the fact that in verse 13, you are called to pray; and in verse 14, you are called to call upon the elders to come and pray; and then in verse 16, you are called to pray for one another. So prayer looms large in this passage. And James tells us that “[the] prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Sometimes we will say something like ‘there is power in prayer’, but we need to think more precisely about what we're talking about. There is not power in simply uttering the right prayer formula, as if the right prayer formula – like a magical incantation – has power to do the thing that you want done. Prayer is not powerful in that sense; prayer is not magic. In fact, effective prayer is bound up with the praying person being righteous – “[the] prayer of a righteous person” (italics added). An unrighteous person shouldn't expect to receive anything from the Lord. In Chapter 1, James talks about how a wildly doubting person shouldn't expect to receive anything from the Lord either (James 1:6-8). It is a righteous person whose prayer is effective. A righteous person is a person who is in a right relationship with the Lord. Righteous people are those who been forgiven and clothed with the righteousness of Christ. And now, transformed by the Holy Spirit, they are seeking to walk in the ways of the Lord, to live obediently and faithfully and righteously. That is a righteous person. And it is “[the] prayer of a righteous person [that] has great power”.
And then, in verses 17-18, James gives us an example, namely, Elijah. Notice that James doesn't say, ‘Let me tell you about Elijah, that great prophet of the Lord, that great man whostood in the presence of God and powerfully prayed to the Lord, and things happened. And you, ordinary Christian, you’re not like Elijah’. Now, if James had written such words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I would be okay with that. If the Lord wants to highlight the fact that I'm not like Elijah, that's His right to do so. I'm okay with that. But as a matter of fact, that is not what is here in verses 17-18.
What is here is this: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (v. 17). He was subject to the same temptations and the same weaknesses and the same doubts and the same struggles that we are. And so what James emphasizes here is not the uniqueness of Elijah's prophetic status, but the ordinariness of Elijah's fallen manhood. Elijah was just like us, and that is an example to us. Elijah stood before the Lord and prayed, and the heavens were shut and it didn't rain for three and a half years. And then after three and a half years, he stood before the Lord and he prayed, and the heavens were opened wide and the rain came forth and the earth bore fruit.
Matthew Henry comments on this passage: “Thus you see prayer is the key which opens and shuts heaven.” And I'd really like you to catch a vision here, because the Lord invites you as a son or daughter to exercise influence before His throne. He is calling upon you to pray. If you are a sufferer, pray. And pray for those who are suffering. And at times call upon the elders to pray. And pray often for one another. We are to be a praying community. And don't we want heaven to open up?
Now obviously in Elijah's case, the matter had to do with literal rain. But don't we want spiritual rain, forgiveness, restoration, wanderers brought back, struggling sinners within the fellowship healed and strengthened and sanctified, and people healed and raised up and empowered for service? Don't we want that kind of blessing to come forth from heaven into our community, bearing fruit upon the earth, through a very ordinary church like South Paris Baptist Church? Isn’t that what we want? Well then, brothers and sisters, take to heart that we are called to step into the place of prayer.
I have to give you the final thought here on the power of prayer, and then we're done. Ultimately, prayer has no power. And ultimately, righteous people praying has no power either. God alone is the ultimate source of power. God has the power to forgive sin. God has the power to raise up. God has the power to heal the body. God has the power to bring forth awakening and revival and renewal and transformation within the body of Christ. The remarkable thing is that He invites us to partner with Him, not because He needs us, but because He wants us to be His faithful sons and daughters who participate in what He is doing. And therefore, I urge you to stand in the place of prayer, stand in the place of praise,stand in the place of seeking those who have gone astray, and let God bring forth His power and His blessing through your life.
Father, I pray that you would open the heavens upon our little community here, to bring about awakening and revival and sanctification and holiness and spiritual earnestness and love for one another and humility, and even healing. We would delight to see those who are weak or ill raised up, restored, strengthened, made effective in service and ministry. So Father, I pray that you would teach us and shepherd us to walk with you in all of these circumstances. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
 See entry for “5567. psalló” at Bible Hub. Available online: https://biblehub.com/greek/5567.htm.
 See Curtis P. Giese, James (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2021: p. 435. Giese refers to and quotes Martin Luther regarding this matter.
 See entry for “2390. iaomai” at Bible Hub. Available online: https://biblehub.com/greek/2390.htm.
 Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible: Volume VI–Acts to Revelation. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company: p. 1000.
 Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible: Volume VI–Acts to Revelation. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company: p. 1000.
Curtis P. Giese, James (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2021.
Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible: Volume VI–Acts to Revelation. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company.
Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James (The Pillar New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.