Turn On The Power When. . .
April 29, 2012
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
13 Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.
19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, future US Presidents, were among the delegates meeting at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, on March 23, 1775, considering a resolution sending Virginia troops to the Revolutionary War. The Virginia House of Burgesses was unconvinced. Finally, Patrick Henry spoke. He concluded:
“What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Reportedly, those in attendance, upon hearing the speech, also shouted, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
That passionate speech is credited with turning the tide. It is one of the most passionate lines from the American Revolution. It changed the course of history.
That line reminds me of a passionate prayer, prayed over 200 years earlier. John Knox prayed “Give me Scotland or I die.”
John Knox was described as low in stature and of a weakly constitution. A contemporary, Mr. Thomas Smeaton, said, “I know not if God ever placed a more godly and great spirit in a body so little and frail.”
When that frail body went to his knees, Mary, Queen of Scots, trembled. She said she feared the prayers of John Knox more than the combined armies of Europe.
Larry Christenson in his book, The Christian Family, says John Knox prayed with such power that all Scotland was awakened. He goes so far as to attribute the whole reformation of Scotland to Knox’s prayers. He writes, “‘Lord, Give me Scotland or I’ll die!’ [Knox] cried. And he prayed with such intensity that the Lord answered.”
There is power in prayer! Prayer is something we say that we believe in, and we talk about solving our problems with prayer, but it is something we don’t practice as often as we should. We sit in the darkness because we never turn on the power!
As we wrap up our study of the book of James, he closes with a command for Christians to turn on the power! For 5 chapters, at least as we view it—James viewed it as one letter—James has been telling us what we needed to do. He’s been giving us instructions for practical living. Now, at the close, he tells us how to do it. He tells us how to turn on the power.
Turn On The Power When You Are In Trouble
Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray.
The photographer for a national magazine was assigned to get photos of a great forest fire. Smoke at the scene hampered him and he asked his home office to hire a plane. Arrangements were made and he was told to go at once to a nearby airport, where the plane would be waiting. When he arrived at the airport, a plane was warming up near the runway. He jumped in with his equipment and yelled, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” The pilot swung the plane into the wind and they soon were in the air.
“Fly over the north side of the fire,” yelled the photographer, “and make three or four low level passes.”
“Why?” asked the pilot.
“Because I’m going to take pictures,” cried the photographer. “I’m a photographer and photographers take pictures!”
After a pause the pilot said, “You mean you’re not the instructor?”
Well folks, if there were ever a great time to pray, this is it! Now you might be thinking that trouble is usually when most people actually do pray, but that is not always the case. Sometimes a false sense of pride keeps us from getting on our knees and taking our troubles before the Lord.
Sometimes we have the feeling that we don’t want to bother God with trivial concerns, but scripture commands over and again that we need to take our troubles to God. That means that God is expecting it! Sometimes I tell folks “Give me a call if you run into trouble” and the next time I see them I hear this tale of woe and I’ll say “Why didn’t you call me?” and invariably they say “I didn’t want to bother you!”
Sometimes we don’t really believe He will help. We have a crisis of faith, and we just don’t believe that God is going to do anything about it. This is a condition that most often effects the fervent believer, especially after something really terrible happens. We begin to doubt our faith, and we begin to doubt God. Ironically, it is at these times that we need Him the most!
Other times we don’t go to God because we are not in the habit of doing so. We just simply don’t pray on a regular basis so when things are bad we don’t go to Him. If you are a believer and this describes you, well then, shame on you!
Psalm 120:1 (NCV): ” When I was in trouble, I called to the LORD, and he answered me.”
Listen up! When the photographer is teaching you to fly the plane that is the time to bother God!
Turn On The Power When You are Happy
Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.
If you’re happy and you know it, then your life will surely show it,
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.
Such a simple little song, isn’t it? Yet it contains such a powerful scriptural mandate. When you are happy–pray. Praise God for every good thing!
- When your plate is full of wonderful food—Praise Him!
- When you bills are paid—Praise Him!
- When you can wake up in the morning—Praise Him!
- When your children or grandchildren remind you why you suffered for them—Praise Him!
- In everything, great or small—Praise Him!
Praise is one of the most neglected of Christian disciplines. We often just forget to pray when things are going well. It’s not malicious, and it’s not intentional, it just happens. If we want to truly experience the wonderful power of God’s Spirit, then when things are going well, that is when we need to pray!
Sing your praise to the Lord, everybody sing Hallelujah!
Turn On The Power When You Are Sick
Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Now let me say right up front: I believe that God HEALS! I believe in the supernatural, life altering, disease beating, life sustaining power of prayer. I believe that one can be sick, and through the power of prayer be healed in the name of God.
What I don’t believe is that this verse is some sort of magical talisman that when invoked brings about unicorns and puppies. I believe God heals, but I believe that God heals when it is His will and it has nothing to do with our actions.
The laying on of hands, the anointing with oil, none of this changes the will of our Sovereign Lord. I believe that it is an important distinction. It’s all in God’s hands, not ours.
Look at it this way: Gathering the elders, laying on of hands, anointing with oil—none of this obligates God! We can’t manipulate God with rituals. However, prayer does move God. God does hear when we entreat Him, and there are countless examples in scripture where God stayed His hand of judgment because of the prayers and repentance of His people.
Verse 16 of our text reminds us that:
The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.
So praying is effective! Some people use this passage to decline medical attention when medical attention is required. I think that is a dangerous misinterpretation of James’ intent when he wrote this verse. When you slip and fall and break your arm it’s ok to pray about it. It’s even a great idea to pray about it, but it is also urgent that you go get it set and a cast put on!
Turn On The Power When You Sin
16Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.
Four preachers met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one preacher said, “Our people come to us and pour out their hears, confess certain sins and needs. Let’s do the same. Confession is good for the soul.” In due time all agreed. One confessed he liked to go to movies and would sneak off when away from his church. The second confessed to liking to smoke cigars and the third one confessed to liking to play cards. When it came to the fourth one, he wouldn’t confess. The others pressed him saying, “Come now, we confessed ours. What is your secret or vice?” Finally he answered, “It is gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here.”
They said that confession was good for the soul, but I’m not sure that was what they had in mind! When we have sinned, is when we need to come before God and kneel in prayer. When we sin, judgment is not what we want, we want absolution. That absolution, or forgiveness, only comes when we go to the Lord in earnest prayer.
James finishes up by sharing with us an example that his audience was very familiar with, and that is the example of Elijah.
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.
Now that is some might powerful prayer! James is teaching us that we too have that power. Notice what he said in verse 17. He said Elijah was an ordinary man. He had a nature just like ours. The lesson for us today is that the same power that Elijah called down from heaven above is available to us as well.
We have the power! We just need to turn it on!