James finishes his letter by reminding us of the power of prayer in verses 13-20. We will be covering verses 13-15 in this post. These verses cover three types of prayer requests: affliction, prayers of praise and sickness.
There is something I have noticed during prayer requests over the years: requests for sickness far outnumber prayer requests for the lost. Our bible is full of challenges for us to tell the lost about Jesus. When we get out of balance on our requests it says something about us; it says we are living in the here and now and are not thinking so much about spiritual matters. However, to say that asking for, or praying for, the sick shouldn’t be done is not right either. James clearly states that we can ask for, and pray for, the sick.
In verse 13 the word “afflicted” can mean sickness of the body; it is more of a broad term referring to those who are going through hardships or trouble for some reason. James addresses physical sickness in a moment which leads me to believe that James was addressing those who are going through hardships or trouble. One example would be affliction suffered as a result of persecution. This means for those who are afflicted for their stand for Christ, whom Satan has attacked, can ask God for relief.
Continuing in verse 13 we are reminded to be thankful when times are good. God should be consulted in times of need and praised in the good times. So often people want to use God as a life preserver in times of need and forget who is really responsible for the good times.
Verse 14 gives us instruction on praying for the sick. You will notice a very big difference in the instruction recorded here and what is done today. What we will normally hear is “pray for brother Bob, he is having tests run and pray that God gives the doctor’s wisdom to treat him”. That sounds good but it isn’t what James says to do. We are to call on the veteran Christians, the prayer warriors if you will, they would join the sick in prayer to God. This type of prayer is an intercessory prayer asking God to heal. (Often times we say “Lord if it be your will heal them”.)
Verse 15 holds the key to the success of this type of prayer: we must pray, faith believing, that God will heal them. (We will all say God can heal but are we willing to be actively involved in a prayer of faith? It takes no faith to say God can do anything. True faith says God can do anything through me.) It also mentions here forgiving sins. Notice “if he hath committed sins”. Sickness can be a result of sin; in those cases confessing sin must be part of the process for healing to take place.
In the church I attend now I remember this specific procedure used to ask God to heal a young man stricken with cancer. The doctors had found several spots of cancer within his body; after the young man was prayed for the next scan revealed no cancer within his body at all. God can absolutely heal; it is the faith exhibited by those who pray that determines the outcome.
It is true that sickness can be part of God’s plan. The sickness of Lazarus that resulted in his death was part of God’s plan to show Jesus’ power to raise the dead.
Can God’s mind be changed by intercessory prayer?
David & Bathsheba: David prays but God does not change His mind. 2 Sam 12:14-20
God’s anger at Israel: Moses pleads and God does change His mind. Ex 32:9-10,14
The answer is yes; sometimes God’s mind can be changed.
** 1st photo shepherdsnotes.com
** 2nd photo wau.org