August 26, 2009 – James 5:13-20
James 5:13-20 → There's a lot within these 7 verses. It is, overall, an explanation of prayer and the need to pray, along with the release of God's power when prayer is done right. Even in James' day, there were physicians, there was medical knowledge, but he advises the sick to ask for prayer. He tells the suffering to pray. He doesn't outright forbid seeking medicine, but I think he'd be aghast at our tendency in the American church to seek doctors first and prayer second. James 5:13-14 show me that suffering and sickness should be met with prayer first. I see suffering as mental/emotional issues and sickness as physical. Both may need a doctor, but first the church should be in prayer for the ones dealing with these. We have, unfortunately, gotten too individualistic in the American church. I can't ask you to pray with me over depression because I don't want you to know.
Why don't I want you to know? Because we lack the discipleship in our churches that helps us trust each other with that information. We've got some people in the church I serve suffering through things, and there is concern that once the information goes public, it won't be used to pray, but to gossip. Why? Because we have, as churches in general, failed to disciple people, train them in God's word and in righteousness enough that we have true fellowship and trust for each other. Yet we see here in James that prayer from others is essential. This section starts and ends with that. James 5:20 addresses the need for us to be involved in the lives of our fellow believers.
Elijah prays for no rain, and gets no rain. He prays for rain, and there is rain. Why? Because Elijah was in a right relationship with God, and what he prayed was in line with the character and heart of God. God desired the people of Israel to turn with their whole hearts back to Him, and Elijah was His instrument to make that happen. Elijah was no less an inheritor of a sin nature than I am, yet do I pray like him? Do I act in faith like that? Not often. It's something that we must do!!
Our faith is useless unless we act on it, and part of that action is involved in trusting others to act in faith as well. We have faith that God can heal, but we don't trust the prayers of our family of faith to be a part of that. Why not? Is it because our own prayers are so weak? One area of life that I'm striving to grow in is my perception of others. There is a human tendency to perceive the behavior of others through our own self-understanding. I interpret your actions based on what my motives might be.
You see this when you notice that politicians seem to be distrusting of honest people, like citizens at town hall meetings. The politician has an ulterior motive, a hidden message, a group behind him telling him what to say. Since that's true of him, he assumes that the person speaking is the same way, whether they are or not. We do this when our own insincerity, for example, causes us to doubt the sincerity of another.
So, we doubt whether anyone else really prays for us, because we don't really pray for others. Sure, we give it lip-service, but we don't really do it. We don't agonize in prayer on behalf of our family, so we don't think they'll really pray for us. Two things need to change there, your perception of others and your own actions. Change your actions first. Determine to do what you would want others to do, not what others have done. We tend to turn Matthew 7:12 on its head and use it to justify our shortcomings. Jesus wasn't giving us an excuse, but a challenge.
Then you'll see your perceptions shift on their own. You'll find a willingness grow to allow others into your life. You might not find reciprocal interest from the people you are around, but be patient with them.