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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Mission Smithers -- Fort Babine
 Fort Babine, British Columbia
Title:Prayer offered in true faith has a great power
Type:Mission Sermon
Text:James 5:13-18 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Prayer offered in true faith has a great power

Beloved congregation,

Tonight's sermon, as I said, is on James 5:13-18. I wanted to preach on this text for two reasons. The first reason is that this passage has a lot to say about prayer. I know that we are all very interested in what the Bible says about prayer. The second reason is that this Bible passage talks about anointing with oil; we find that in verse 14. James tells us the sick person to call for the elders of the church to come and pray over him and "anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord."

People understand those words in different ways. The Roman Catholic Church reads these words and says that this is talking about the sacrament of anointing the sick. When somebody is maybe about to die or have an operation, then the priest comes and anoints the person with oil. But this passage does not talk about that. The way the Roman Catholic Church does the anointing with the sick is a lot different than what James says here. James talks only about people who are sick - he doesn't say anything about dying. He only talks about plain olive oil - he doesn't say holy oil which has been blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday. And if you are going to make a sacrament out of what we read here, then you should also make a sacrament out of spit and dust. You may remember that the Lord Jesus used spit and dust to heal a blind man. He put the spit and dust together and put it on the man's eyes and he could see again. So, this anointing in James cannot be a sacrament like baptism or holy communion.

Other people read these words of James and say that the oil was medicine. The elders were supposed to come and pray and then give medicine to the sick person. But this does not make any sense either. Why could only the elders of the church give medicine? Even in those days they had doctors. A doctor would give the medicine. So, the oil cannot be medicine either.

These are hard words to understand. I will be honest with you: I don't know exactly the right way to understand them. With what it says here, I cannot say, "Thus says the Lord." What I can tell you is that I do not believe it would be a sin to follow what it says here. If you read these words and you are sure that this is what God wants us to do, there is no problem with that. There is no problem, as long as you follow exactly what the Bible says. If you are sick, and want to be anointed with oil, then you must call for the elders of the church. It does not say that just anybody can anoint sick people with oil. Only the elders of the church. In our case, that would be me. Right now, we don't have any other elders in Wit'at Reformed Fellowship. I would come and anoint you with plain olive oil in the name of the Lord. Then you have to know the reason we do it. We don't do it because it is magic or because it is a sacrament. It is not holy oil or holy water. We do it to show that you are being made special for prayer. We are praying for you and God is going to hear us. If you do it like that, then you are following the Bible. There is nothing wrong with that as far as I can see.

But we have to keep in mind that the main thing here in our text tonight is prayer. You will see that the anointing is only talked about in verse 14. You don't read about it again. Prayer is much, much more important than anointing. It is talked about in all the verses we're looking at tonight. So, for the rest of this sermon, I want to preach on this part of the text. James shows us here that prayer has great power when it comes along with faith.

James talks here about how prayer affects our health. He talks about a sick person. In verse 15 it says, "And prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up." That means that prayer has great power for the health of our body, for our physical health. If we are sick, then we should be praying. We should ask others to pray for us. James points us to Elijah as somebody who prayed. His prayers had great power. Why? Because he was a man who was right with God and he prayed in faith. We cannot think that our prayers are going to go anywhere if we are not right with God through Jesus Christ. That includes the prayers we make when somebody is sick. We must believe in Jesus Christ if God is going to hear our prayers!

Does that mean that God will always heal the person who is sick? No, sometimes God's will is that a person stays sick. Sometimes God's will is that someone even passes away. When those things happen, it is not because we did not have enough faith. It is not because the person who is sick did not have enough faith. The Bible teaches us that we cannot twist God's arm. God is the big king and he will do what he knows is best. He knew what was best for Paul, for example. Paul had something that was causing him trouble. He called it a thorn in his side. Maybe he was sick with something. He prayed to God over and over to take it away. Paul had great faith. But God decided to let Paul keep suffering. He knew that this was best for Paul.

What does this mean for us? When we pray, we believe that our prayers, brought to God in the name of Jesus Christ, have great power. The Holy Spirit makes our prayers perfect and powerful! But at the same time, we should always pray: Your will be done. If you are praying for a sick person, then say, "Lord, we leave him in your hands. We really want to see him get better. Please give healing. But we know that you are God and you know best. Father, your will be done with him. Help us to accept your will and trust you more."

You see, that is what it means to pray in faith. The power of prayer is not in us making God what we want him to do. We cannot do that. The power of prayer is in making us humble, making us submit to God's will in faith. At the end, prayer is about God changing us, not about us changing God.

Prayer has great power with the health of our bodies. It also has great power with the health of our spirits or souls. This text from James shows us that prayer has the power to bring spiritual healing, too. Sometimes it happens that we do a certain sin and then we get sick because of it. God is using that sickness to help us see our sin and make us come back to him. It doesn't always happen that way, so we have to be careful. You can think of Paul again - that thorn in his side was not because he had sinned. You could think of Job too. But there are other times where it does happen. Somebody lives a bad life with lots of sex sins and they get AIDS or some other disease. Somebody is always getting drunk and they get a rotten liver. Somebody smokes and they get lung cancer. It seems that the sickness in this passage from James was something like that.

In a case like that, the most important thing is to get spiritual healing. The sickness of your body is not as bad as the sickness of your soul. If your body is sick, it will not say where you end up forever when you die. But if your soul is sick (or even better: dead), it will say that you end up in hell forever. That is why verse 15 talks about the forgiveness of sins. That is why verse 16 tells us to confess our sins. Whether we are sick or healthy in our body, we should make sure that we are right with God. We have to find the forgiveness of all our sins in Jesus Christ. If we have sinned against somebody, we have to go to that person and tell him what we did wrong. We have to ask that person to forgive us. We have to tell him or her that we are sorry for what we did. James also says, "Pray for each other." For us, that means we should pray for each others' health, not only the health of our bodies, but also the health of our souls. So, let me ask you, are you praying for each other? If not, make a commitment to the Lord to start today and do it every day!

God will bless those prayers when they are offered in faith. If we believe in the Lord Jesus and pray in His Name, those prayers will have great power. God will hear our prayers. He will work with his powerful Holy Spirit among us. He will make us have greater love for our Saviour and greater love for each other. Then we will have the most important kind of health: spiritual health. God wants that for you. He may decide to keep your body weak, but the Word of the Lord is that he definitely wants your spirit to be strong! Have faith in his promises to you and pray to him, not only for yourself, but also for others.

When we pray with faith, it has great power. It says in verse 16, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Another way of saying that is, "The prayer from the heart of a man right with God has much power." It has power because it is God's work in us. It is God's work for us. God is the one leading us and guiding us to himself and his power. The power does not come from us. It comes from above. When we think about that, then we want to praise God. It makes us happy to know God! Then the words of verse 13 about being happy are for us: "Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." The power of prayer leads us to praise our God, the one who cares for us. AMEN.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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