The Power of Prayer

Bible Book: James  5 : 13-16
Subject: Prayer; Mother's Day

The power of a praying woman, I'm a product of that power. I'm a bi-product of the prayers of a woman who genuinely knew that she couldn't do it without God. Shortly before my fifth birthday I came down the steps of my home in Atlanta, Georgia and I looked at the face of my mom and I saw in her face something I'd never seen before. Surely there had been tears that had tracked down her cheek, her eyes were red, her cheeks were flushed; but there was a voice, a gentleness, a brokenness that I'd never heard before. She said to me as I crawled up in her lap, "Your dad is gone, he's not here." Dad hadn't run away. He hadn't abandoned us, or not purposely. But because of a heart condition and because of a stroke and because of an untimely death at 49 years of age, he was no longer there.

So it became my mother's responsibility to raise the five of us children, me being the baby of the family. She knew that she couldn't do it alone, and she confessed that right from the start, and God blessed that prayer of a godly mom.

I don't know what your picture of a mother is, but I know the picture that I have. It's just a reminder, just a shallow symbol of all that she was for me. But nonetheless it's a picture that I can look at and I can remember of a woman whose face was large and a woman whose life was given to God to do a work that she couldn't do alone. All five of us children made it. We didn't fall apart. We're still together with our original spouses. We still have children whom we love and care for, and God has given us opportunities to take the spiritual heritage that we had and to build on it and grow from it.

I want to talk to you about the power of prayer. James 5:13-16 begins with questions, good questions: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any of you sick? You should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. And the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man (or person) is powerful and effective.

Friend, the gift of speech is a marvelous blessing so how does God want us to use our tongues? Some of our tongues are really tame; they are used for the glory of God. Some of us are still working on it; we're still out there somewhere trying to get our tongue to cooperate with the voice of God so that He can speak through us.

The question for you today is how do you use the gift of speech? You see, for some of us it's a terrible use! We're still struggling with that and it's really a hard time. You're wrestling with it and if we look back into this same chapter of James, verse 9, we see this scripture was that of complaining. James was saying, "Don't complain, brothers; don't grumble with one another."

There are many voices like that today and not just from mothers, but also from dads and from sons and daughters and from every one of us because we don't think we get it our way. We want it a different way so we complain and we're good at it. We really are.

Then he taught us also form James 5:12 that we shouldn't swear. "Above all my brothers do not swear by heaven or by earth or by anything. Let your yes be yes and your no be no." God wants us just to live a life that represents honesty and openness where we don't have to use our speech to bring people down. You know, moms are incredible! They have such wonderful ways to teach.

Sometimes they're good and sometimes they're getting better. Here are some statements that I learned through the years from my mom and from other moms that I've listened to, particularly in the grocery line. These are great ways to learn how motherhood should and shouldn't be exercised. You know what I'm talking about don't you? Here are some of the reasons why I think moms are great:

Moms teach us, first of all to appreciate a job well done. I heard a mom say, "If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning this room."

Another mom speaks up and says as she's teaching her kids about religion, "You better pray that's going to come out of the carpet, boy!" Moms are great teachers as they teach us foresight and help us look ahead and help us to be future oriented and they says such things as this, "Be sure you have on clean underwear, you don't know if you're going to have an accident today." Another lesson I learned from moms is that they teach us how to be contortionists. I always wondered about this. My mom would say, "Just look at the dirt on the back of your neck!" I can't do it; I don't know if you can, but I can't do it! Then finally they teach us also how to understand the joy of hypocrisy or the lack of joy that comes within it. They would say something like this, "If I've told you once I've told you a million times, stop exaggerating." I'm not going to leave it at that; there is one more that I do want to share with you because you see moms teach us also about the circle of life, "Son;  honey;  daughter; dear, I brought you into this world and I can sure take you out."

Friends, we can use our voices for those things which are terrible or for those things which are terrific. In verse 12 of this same chapter we read, "Brothers (and sisters) be an example of patience in the face of suffering." In other words, proclaim God's word. Don't just freeze up; go ahead and faith it through the day. Quit faking it; start faithing it. Proclaim God's word.

I think the answer to being a person who uses their mind and their mouth to bring glory to God is simply by being one who prays and praises the Lord. Through praying and praising and that brings us back to verse 13 where we began.

I. Prayer Soothes the Suffering (v. 13a)

Point number one is simply that prayer soothes the suffering. Some of you are really hurting. I don't mean just because of the way that I could see you, but by the way that God sees you.

A. In Trouble

"Afflicted" = Suffering

The first portion of verse 13 says, "Are any of you in trouble?" You might say, "Hey, not me... you know, I haven't been caught - not yet... I'm not in jail...I'm going to church... I'm not in trouble... I'm not living outside of wedlock... I'm okay." But you know what? Some of you are in trouble even though somebody hasn't caught up with you and even though you're not involved in some sort of secret sin, you still are in trouble. You see, some of your translations say the word afflicted. "Are any of you afflicted?" Some of us would discount ourselves here and say, "No, I don't have any disease...I'm not afflicted in any way...I'm not being beaten at home." But the literal meaning of in trouble and afflicted means to suffer in difficult circumstances.

Many of us are suffering and many of us are going through difficult circumstances.

I don't know what yours are; I know what mine are. I know that when we get ourselves into those times of trouble and affliction and suffering in the midst of our circumstances, there's really one way out, only one way out, and that's to look up and begin to speak to God who can do something about it because when you speak to me about it, I can do a limited amount about your problem. When you speak to each other, you can help each other and we're supposed to do that; but when we speak to God, there's this incredible unfolding of a miraculous way that God begins to pound our lives, not with problems, but with solutions.

Then why don't we do it? What is it that this praying thing does to our life? Well, it changes us. Then why don't we exercise it more often? You know the Bible says that we don't have what we ask for because we are not asking for it. "You have not because you ask not," is the way the scripture reads. And there are so many times in our lives that we're in trouble and that we're inflicted and we talk to everybody else. We'll talk to our parents, we'll talk to our friends, we'll talk to our counselors, we'll talk to our teachers, but somehow or another it seems that it's got to be really big before we'll talk to God. All the while, He's waiting and saying, "Why don't you talk to me first?" "I'm the One who has the answer," God says. "I'm the one who brings to you the perfect solution for your life."

Friends, do you need soothing? You know what soothing is don't you? It's just like sitting down in a hot bathtub after a hard day and laying back and then hitting the button and the jets begin to bubble around you and then you get real excited because you start putting in some bubble bath and it's just all aromatic and your just so relaxed there. Some of you may remember that commercial from a number of years ago, " Calgon, take me away!"

Let me give you another Illustration. Imagine a mom with her daughter in her arms holding that child close and this is a picture of a mom who brings soothing to a child. Maybe the child fell of her bicycle, maybe the child had just been called a name by a friend at school, maybe the child just made her first "C" and she's always made "A's". Maybe the child was verbally or sexually abused by her father. Maybe the child doesn't understand God's love. But mom opens her arms and says, "Come, cuddle with me; let me soothe you." In the midst of your suffering this is a powerful picture for every one of us to remember that God opens His arms to all of us, even when our mothers don't. He says, "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I'll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you." Seize God's burden and your burden can be solved by coming and jumping into the lap of the Almighty God.

B. Don't Grumble, Criticize or Blame Others

I think we also need to understand, as we look at praying to relieve our suffering, that what we more naturally like to do is grumble and criticize and blame. I just want to remind you that the word of God says don't do it. Don't grumble about it. In a time of suffering, don't just say, "Hey get me out of this thing, this is the worst thing, I can't believe what he she did to me, you know how they are." When people come to me and begin to define their problems in terms of what others have done to them, they usually use these large generic terms like they and he and her. I'll say, "Who?" "You know, them

- those people; you know how they are!" I say, "Who?" "Well I don't know exactly, but you know it just hurts."

I normally come to a greater resolve when I ask God, "What is it that's in me that needs to change? What do I need to do to get right with you, God?" It's so easy for me to point out the failures and the fractures in other people's lives. I can look at them and say, "If you would fix this and if you would fix that and if you would do this, then my life would be easier." All the while God is probably saying, "John, if you would do what you see others need to do, then your life would be even better."

So we don't need to grumble, criticize or blame others. Instead of grumbling, God said believers should pray. James takes on his pastoral tone and he says, "I love you, I care for you and I want you to see that there is a way out." Let me give you a truth here. God can transform your troubles into triumphs! He not only can, He wants to do that. The reason I know this is because of what I've studied earlier in James 4:6. He simply says to us that he gives more grace and you know what grace is. It's not something that we earn, it's not something that we deserve, it is simply God's soothing for our suffering. The truth is that without it, you and I wouldn't have made it this far. But because of His grace, we are who we are and we've come as far as we have come today. So whatever trouble you have this day, I want you to know that God wants to transform it and He really wants you to be triumphant, having met Christ, having come back to Christ and having come to prayer to know that God gives answers.

II. Prayer Sustains the Satisfied (v. 13b)

There's a second feature that comes from the scripture. Prayer sustains the satisfied. I love the balance that James put in here for us.

He tells us that there's not only suffering, but there are some of us who are happy. Imagine that! The world hates happy people. You say, "I beg to differ." Well go around one day with a smile plastered on your face and see how many people say, "What's wrong with you? What's going on? Why are you so happy? Why don't you get real? Quit putting that plastic smile on." You know, friend, I'm admonishing you to smile. It takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown. It'll save your face and it'll save your life and it could save the spiritual life of others who ask you the question, "What is it that brings you such happiness?"

Recently I had the privilege of teaching and preaching and sharing with 300 college students from all over Georgia down in Panama City, Florida. I was challenging the leadership core, the upper echelon of the students across Georgia in Baptist Student Unions across the campuses, secular and spiritual campuses, state schools and private schools. They were there not because someone pushed them to be there, but because they chose to be there. They were on a mountaintop. They were spiritually high and they were singing and sharing and God was all over the auditorium. I thought, "What if life were like this all the time?"

I walked from that place thinking it wouldn't be all that it is and can be because you see, friends, until we get into the valley we don't really understand how wonderful it is to be on a spiritual mountaintop and until we get on the mountaintop, we don't understand how devastating it is to be down in the valley because Jesus our Shepard and our God says, "Yea though I walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death, I am there with you."

Some of you are in a valley today and it's dark and it hurts and there's no fun in it. But some of you are happy and you are indeed satisfied. And you know what? God says through your times of happiness, give Him praise. Honor Him, adore Him, worship Him and realize that happiness is not just something that you stumble on but it becomes a part of what God gives.

A. Happy

"Merry" = Cheerful/Courageous

Here's what happiness or merriment is all about. It literally means to be cheerful and even courageous in the original language. Isn't that neat! Does it take courage to be happy and merry? Sure it does because when you walk with God sometimes it takes courage to tell other people what the source of your joy is. It takes courage so I'm challenging you this day to be courageous.

B. Praise is Prayer

Make melody/pluck

If you are one of those who are satisfied, then let God sustain that satisfaction. Give Him the praise and the honor. What does that have to do with prayer? Here's what I'm trying to say - praise is prayer. When we celebrate as a church family through the time of singing together, this is a form of prayer. We praise God through the songs that we sing and through the hymns that we share, and God is pleased with that. In the original writing, we understand that to praise Him literally means to make melody and even to pluck an instrument. So what the praise bands is literally biblical. They are plucking their instruments. They are praying to God through their hands and we are through our voices. So it's a form of praise and prayer to the Lord.

Here's the way Paul wrote to the church at Colossi and the way the Holy Spirit writes to our hearts today in Colossians 3:16: Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. That's not just good for those who lived 2,000 years ago; that's good for today! The three forms of hymn tunes - the psalms, the hymns that have been written as spiritual, doctrinal foundations and the spiritual songs that we sing - are all right out of the word of God. It's a way that pleases God who longs to hear our voices.

Do you want to sustain your satisfaction with God? Keep praising Him. Even when you don't feel like it and even on those days when you are in the valley, begin to praise Him. Praise brings power and power is sustained through the prayer of praise by God's people.

III. Prayer Saves the Sick (vv. 14-16)

There's a third feature I want to introduce to you and it is simply that prayer saves the sick. You say you thought the sick need healing and not saving. Ah, but let's look at the biblical context of this word. To make well, as the scripture teaches us, literally means to save. It comes from a Greek word called sozo. I'm reminded that back in the gospel of Matthew and chapter 9 we find the woman who    was diseased with an issue of blood for twelve years. She heard that Jesus was coming to town.

She got in line like everybody else. She wanted to see the miracle worker; but you see her faith was a deeper faith than just curiosity. She believed that if she could just touch the hem of His garment, His toga or His tunic, as He came by, or if she could get her hands just to brush by His garment, that He would heal her. Jesus felt that touch! He stopped in His processional. He turned around and to the dismay of the disciples He began to talk to this woman who was obviously in agonizing pain. And He said to her in Matthew 9:22, "Take heart daughter, your faith has healed you." Notice that with me - your faith has healed you. The word for heal here is that same word sozo. Your faith has saved you.

You see that's what saves us. It is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that saves us. You may be physically sick, but all of us are born spiritually sick and we need a healing. The correlation and the relationship between physical healing and spiritual healing are magnificent. God proves to us that He does raise up those who are in need of restoration.

Did you note in the scripture that He said as you pray for one another you might be healed because the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective and it will raise that one up whom you pray over. What does it mean to be raised up? Surely it doesn't mean to come to somebody and just put him or her on his or her two feet and say, "Okay you're well, go on." It literally means to restore life. I'm reminded of Jairus's daughter. Here was a man who came in desperation and began to speak to Jesus and said, "My daughter is sick...sick unto death. Would you come, would you please come?" And Jesus had compassion in His heart and He did go there and in Mark 5:41 the scripture restores for us the understanding that Jesus said to Jairus's daughter, "Little girl I say to you, 'get up'." They had laughed at Jesus earlier because she was dead and He said He was going in there to raise her up. They said, "You can't do that." Yes he could; and He did!

Some of us are spiritually dead today and God wants to raise you up. Yes, He wants to touch your diseased body, yes He wants to help you through your time of suffering, yes He knows your times of trouble, but particularly Jesus wants to raise you up to a newness of life and to a consciousness of the Christ like you've never had before and the Father is reaching out to us even now.

There are three principles I want to share with you that have to do with saving the sick:

A. Disobedience to God Can Lead to Sickness

The first is that disobedience to God can lead to sickness. Did you know that? Does that mean every disease and every cold you get and every time you get the flu that you're sinning? No it doesn't. But disobedience to God can lead to sickness. I'm reminded of Paul's words as he was warning the Corinthian church about being sure that they take the Lord's Supper in the right way and the right manner. He warned them that if they didn't do that it could lead even unto death because it did for some who were there who were simply taking the Lord's Supper and that time of Communion as being a time just to feast and to get drunk and to eat and He said that their heart's weren't right.

Perhaps you've come to worship today too and God has said to you that your heart isn't right. The literal meaning of the scripture of those who were sick means those who have continually been sinning. It's not that you do just one sin and God gets you for it; that's not the picture of the Father. The picture of the Father is one who looks to your sin and looks to your sickness and wants to restore you. But He's warning us and reminding us that we can be involved in a sickness that could literally lead to death. I just simply want to extend God's warning to each of us to be certain that we don't go outside His boundaries but that we do walk with Him and that we do share in the warning.

B. Sin Affects the Whole Church

There a second feature here and it's that sin affects the whole church. Here's what most of us believe: What I do is my business. If I slip up and sin, it's not hurting anybody else and as long as I don't hurt anybody else it's just between me and me and maybe God too, if He wants to look. But the fact is that He not only wants to look; He is looking. Here's the truth: Whenever I would take a concrete block and drop it on my toe, my mouth is going to respond, "Aaaaahhh." Whenever I hammer my thumb and miss the head of the nail, my thumb is going to respond and my other hand is going to respond by reaching over there and rubbing it and probably my mouth and my mind too. In other words, any injury to my body affects my entire body. If I get cancer in my liver, my whole body is going to be wasted in time without some type of healing. If I cut off my right arm, do you think that my left arm just joyfully goes on and says, "No big deal, you got one of me and I'm okay, that's fine." It hurts too.

And whenever there's sin in the body of Christ, it affects the entire body! So what James is trying to remind us of is that when you're involved in sin, it hurts all of us because God is looking for a bride that is clean and adorned and ready for the bridegroom to come and when He comes again (and He will) He wants to take us to be with Him, unblemished, clean, holy, righteous before Him.

C. There is Healing when Sin is Dealt With

The third feature I'm sharing is that there is healing when sin is dealt with. The Bible says confess your sins to God and one another. Does that mean that every time we do something we've got to call somebody up and say, "I want to tell you how ugly and desperate I am and how awful I am and how no good and no count and unforgivable I will forever remain." No, it doesn't mean that. When you take your sins to God, the promise from 1st John 9 is that He will cleanse you and forgive you and He will restore you and He'll build you back up so that you might be strong again. You say, "Well John you're missing the passage here that talks about those who are physically sick." No I'm not, because I think the greater emphasis is on those who are spiritually ill.

But if there are those who are physically sick in midst, there is a three-fold pattern by which we are to follow. Call the leaders of the church, get them together, and anoint them with oil. What does oil mean? Oil was, of course, probably olive oil at that time. It was probably not just dripped on. Perhaps it was massaged on. Maybe that is a modern day analogy to those who have been given the medical profession and the training and who can use their hands and their heads and their knowledge and their understanding to bring healing so that the medical community today, along with God, work hand in hand to bring about a change. Call those who are leaders of the church, gather them together, anoint with oil, offer the medical help that can be there and God will heal. Does He heal every time? No, He doesn't. I've cried out to God in times of suffering and poor health and He didn't heal instantaneously. I've waited over the beds of those who have been suffering and hurting and dying and I've seen some restored miraculously and I've seen others who weren't. Does that mean God doesn't care, God doesn't heal, and God doesn't fulfill His promise? No, it doesn't mean that at all.

Paul cried out and said, "Lord this thorn in my flesh, what is this... nevertheless, I'll serve you." Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane knelt down and cried out before God, "If it be thy will, let this cup pass from me." In other words - don't make me go to the cross; it'll hurt. But He knew the will of God. "Nevertheless, not my will," He said, "but yours be done." And He knew what God was going to do through Him, as well as to Him for you and for me. And because of His suffering He did not take Him away from death.

Some of us need to understand that God's ways are different from our own. Let me share this scripture with you from 1st John 5:14: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." And you know what, His healing sometimes is far greater than what we would expect. His healing could very well that He allowed you to continue in the sickness that you're involved with so that you will come to a stronger relationship and a more reliant relationship upon Jesus the Christ who will give you the ultimate healing. If you trust in Christ and His death and His sacrifice, God promises for you a heavenly home. God promises for you a new body. God promises you a place of eternal rest and joy and worship and service.


In closing I have three questions:

(1) Are you suffering right now? I'm sure there are many who are, and Jesus cares about you. In your time of affliction and your time of suffering, He wants to bring healing.

(2) Are you sick physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually? If you're sick, the promise of God is that there is healing waiting for you. He wants to touch you, He wants to raise you up, and He wants to give you new life. Some of you have been putting this off a long time and you've been waiting for that right moment, you've been waiting for that feeling and all the while God is saying He doesn't want your feeling, He wants your faith. You can give your heart and your life to Jesus Christ and by faith you can be made whole. He can raise you up and make you new again.

(3) The final question is do you want satisfaction? Do you want to be on that mountaintop, do you want to be giving God the glory for all of life? "Is there any among you who are happy?" It can be all of us. If you want satisfaction today, I'm asking you to come to Jesus Christ, let someone introduce Him to you and confirm with you that your faith is real and more than just a fleeting feeling. Come and join hands with a family of faith believers who are looking to love God and share the love of God throughout your community. God's arms are open and He's waiting for YOU.