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Confess and Pray for One Another (James 5:13-16)

Rev. Dr. William A. LewisRev. Dr. William A. Lewis, March 4, 2018

March 4, 2018 - Confess and Pray for One Another
James 5: 13-16
I read some instructions on life from a kid’s point of view: 9 year-old Rocky said, “When feeding seagulls, always wear a hat.” 12 year old Joel said, “Don’t pick a fight with your sister when she’s holding a stick.” James gives us some important advice about prayer.
Throughout my ministry people have shared they don’t know how to pray. I’ve told you about the 2 friends discussing religion and one challenged his buddy, “I bet you don’t even know the Lord’s prayer.” His friend said, “Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” The friend said, “Wow, I didn’t think you knew it.”
Sam Chadwick wrote, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayer-less studies, prayer-less work, prayer-less religion. He trembles when we pray.
Dr. A.C. Dixon said when we depend upon organization, we get what organization can do. When we depend on money we get what money can do, when we depend on education we get what education can do. But when we depend upon prayer we get what God can do. If you want to see the power of God in your life-pray.
James 5:13 says, “Is any among you suffering? Pray.” We all have troubles. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulations.” I’ve always read this thinking about all the struggles we face in this world. But, the Lord is talking about troubles that involve following Him. The evil one exists to interfere with our relationship with God. Jesus is a peacemaker, Satan is a troublemaker. Matthew 13:21 “Those who have no root have a faith that lasts a short time, then when troubles come because of His word they quickly fall away.”
Therefore, it is essential that we handle our problems correctly, otherwise they can interfere with our relationship with God.
When trouble arises, I start to go into stress mode, crises mode, worst case scenario mode, fall apart mode, who’s to blame mode. Then the Lord will lean in and ask, “What’s going on?” Nothing, Lord, just trying to handle a problem. Oh, wait Lord, I have a problem.” Will Rogers commented, “The trouble with our praying is we just do it as a last resort.”
A 16 year-old got her license and was given the task of driving her little sister to school. As 16 year-olds do, she was driving fast. Suddenly she heard her sister saying, “God is great God is good let us thank Him for this food.” The 16 year-old slammed on the brakes and yelled, “What are you doing?” The little sister replied, “Your driving is scaring me, and that’s the only prayer I know.”
Another boy prayed, “Dear God, please take care of my daddy and mommy and sister and my doggy and me. Oh, please take care of yourself, God, because if anything happens to You we’re gonna be in a big mess.” One of the secret thoughts that arise when we have a problem is, “Where are you God?”
However, one of the great attributes of trouble is it drives us into God’s presence. Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction I had nowhere else to go.” Prayer in times of trouble often delivers us out of trouble. Or, it reminds us we are not alone in the midst of our pain and redirects us to our Problem Solver. Philippians 4 states, “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”
Two men rested at the top of a mountain. The first turned to the second climber and said, “This is a tough climb, what brings you up here?” The man replied, “All my troubles are down in the valley and when I’m down there they seem pretty big. But up here they seem pretty small.”
Prayer takes us into the throne room of God. So, lift your focus up to the God up above it all. He gives you the proper perspective on all that is going on in your life…mainly that God Almighty has promised to be with you always. Prayer is our life’s routine.
Then James states, “If anyone among you is sick, call for the Elders of the church and they are to pray over him…and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick…And if they have committed sins they will be forgiven.”
Once I was at home sick and my wife brought in a sympathy card from my secretary. It was to her! What about prayers for healing of the sick? The sick one is to call for the Elders and pray for healing. Yesterday, I was driving around the Porch and Yard sale and came across a friend who is about to have surgery, so in the middle of the street I laid hands on him and prayed for his healing. Last night at a wedding reception I laid hands on and prayed for someone with a brain tumor. Prayer doesn’t have to be something that occurs in the hospital or a death bed moment. If someone asks you to pray, do it. Hebrews 4 tell us, “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
James 5:14 says the prayer offered in faith results in the Lord raising them up. When you pray for someone it entails the decision to believe that God can answer the prayer. It has been medically proven that patients who have been prayed over have higher surgery and recovery success rates.
F.B. Meyer writes, “The greatest tragedy is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” Prayer is an avenue that leads to healing. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with selfish motives.” Your life centers around you rather than God. Half of our prayers should be for others.
There is confusion about being sick and our sins causing it. Nowhere does the Bible teach that all sickness is the direct result of an individual’s sin. Most sickness is the result of living in a fallen sinful world. God does not punish your sin by striking you with a disease.
However, there is an uncanny connection between our emotional state and our physical health. I brought someone to the doctor’s and the Dr. told this person, “There is nothing wrong with you physically, talk to your pastor.” Psalm 32 reveals, “When I kept silent about my sin, my bones grew old through my groaning all day long. Day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped.”
The term sick (Kamno) is not confined to physical illness in the Bible. The term is often associated with weak, defeated believers. Address your emotions and soul and physical healing often follows.
This is where James 5: 16 comes into play... confess your sins to one another so that you can be healed. Confess means to find a believer and agree with what God says about your sin and His cure.
Protestants get hung up on confession because that’s a Catholic discipline with a priest and confessional and acts of penance assigned to you. I once spoke with a Priest and asked him about it and he said it’s basically a counseling session.
Another person involved somehow transforms your spiritual life as another person is carrying your burden, another person is lifting you up to God, another person cares about you.
Technically, we don’t need a human intercessor to reach God. Jesus Christ intercedes for us and we can take our sins directly to God Himself. But the “one another” component of our faith carries spiritual power. “When two or more are gathered in My name I am in your midst.”
Richard Foster tells the story of a friend counseling a 78 year-old woman who had been a missionary for 50 years. She lived in fear day and night. A deep sadness hung over her head all the time. She was so bad she was preparing to have shock treatments. The counselor asked if she had been happy as a child? “Yes.” When did you begin to feel this sadness? The reply was quick, “When I was sixteen I had an affair with a young man.” She carried this sin in her spirit for 62 years. They prayed for inner healing and within a matter of weeks the fears and depression began to lift.
By the way, if you are still carrying something from the past, hear the words of God, “I will remember your sins no more.” Your mom, your brother, your ex, the people at work might not let you forget your sin, but God is only interested in the future you and Him have together. So, if He has forgiven you—proven at the cross—then why don’t you believe in His free gift? All people sin, most have done or thought bad stuff. If murderers and terrorist get forgiven, than you are too. “Yes, but I can’t forgive myself”—which means you have not understood the faith message, that we’re all sinners in need of forgiveness, and Jesus provided it.
I’m sure the missionary woman had asked God to forgive her sin over the past 62 years. I’m sure God forgave her the first time she asked. But notice freedom and healing did not occur until she shared her sin with another person and then received healing for her past. You and I get to have an incredible calling to extend God’s grace.
When the Nazi‘s took over Germany, Deitrich Bonhoeffer conducted an underground seminary training new pastors where he lived with 25 students. He wrote the book “Life Together,” that covers the Biblical insights gained from that experience. He shares that mutual confession is necessary because sin brings isolation. Sin drives Christians apart and produces an individualism. Sin withdraws them from community, and the more isolated a person is, the more destructive the power of sin will be over them. We need each other to defeat the sin that circulates within us.
When someone confesses to you, what a privileged moment that you get to be the person who reminds them or pronounces the forgiveness of Jesus Christ to them!
Sometimes people will share intense sins or brokenness with me and then at some point later in our journey they will back stab or attack me. Then there is that moment when you want to say, “Let me tell people about what I know of you!” No. What was shared in spiritual confidence with an eye on spiritual growth is a sacred spot.
When someone’s humanity gets in the way, remember Galatians 6:1 “You who are spiritual”—in other words, it is time to bring some spiritual maturity to the situation. How deep it is when you take that broken person to Jesus alone and pray for them to receive grace and healing and silently fight for them in prayer.
When we handle situations like this, the Spirit of Jesus expands within us and we graduate to a higher level of our faith. Often these people will come back and apologize later in life. The mindset that we have is investing in another’s spiritual life. It is not about us, it is about orchestrating their relationship with God.
This does require you keeping confidences. I’ll ask my wife about so and so. She’ll tell me “Its private.” I’ll try to work the angles to get the scoop, “But if you tell me I’ll better know how to pray for them. Besides, I am a professional at confidentiality.” She says, “So am I, it’s none of your business.” The Christian’s way to gossip is. “Let me share a prayer request about someone.” Have a special spiritual relationship with people that is just between you, them and God. Are you a safe place for others to find Jesus?
Recently, someone said, “There’s not an ounce of Jesus in that person.” I happen to know that person is serious about their faith. But see what can happen if your focus gets off of Jesus and is placed on the wrong emphasis. All of us can have a bad day or season
In the church we tend to dismiss people who seem to be doing poorly or are struggling. We run from transparency and vulnerability. But that is the exact opposite to how a church should be, we are to be a safe place where we can share our deepest struggles and hurts and find healing on the walk with Jesus.
We assume people have it all together. One of my friends here in church said, “The scariest moment of the service is when we have to greet one another. All those saints around me that have it all together while I’m a mess.” I told him I know where you sit and trust me those people around you are beautiful souls, but most of them have stuff they carry.
When we take our masks off and invest in each other’s Christianity the Spirit of Jesus gets released. We can show how God’s love impacts a person who struggles with lust, or doubt, anger or pride. Yes, we want to be liked and thought well of, but what we really need is help to get right with our Lord.
With your work out partner, coffee bud, best friend, share your faith! don’t keep it superficial, or talk about politics or the family, or your health—bring Jesus into it—He is the source of life! He can change the political scene, the family dynamics, the personal struggles you have.
May I suggest how we can affect one another, a man met another on the street and said, “Good morning.” To which the reply came, “I’ve never had a bad morning.” The first man asked, “Explain that to me?” The gentleman said, “I’ve never had a bad morning because every morning I praise God, whether the weather is stormy or sunny, I am still thankful. I can never be unhappy because nothing happens that is not according to the will of God. His will is always good in whatever He does or permits. Therefore, His peace rules in my heart.” Happy people like this can be annoying…but the truth is what’s irritating is you wish you were living like them. Imagine if you were to trust God that implicitly with the events of your every day and inspire everyone who crossed your path with the reminder God is involved in their everyday.
Here is where the “one another” becomes important: The final instruction in the book of James is to bring back the believer who has left the faith. They will be saved from death and their sins will be forgiven. We all know folks who have wandered from the faith… do you have them on a list? Do you have a list?
Prayer is more than presenting God a list of requests and waiting for Him to answer. I’ve figured out if my prayers don’t move my heart, I doubt God is moved either.
It tells us Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain. It didn’t. Have you brought some tears and passion, anger, determination, deep pleading, even some negotiating with God… Luke 18 indicates we don’t have to negotiate. God’s inclined to answer our prayer.
Here is a key statement: if the answer does not come the way you wanted, don’t shrug your shoulders and say well I guess God isn’t real. No, you have engaged the Living God. He is on the move at work entering into your life events and maybe the prayer request is no or not yet, or I want to answer your prayer differently than you desire. He wants to bring maximum faith out of your situation.
I’ve been a Christian long enough to see over a 40 year period prayers lifted up long ago just now being answered. Too little too late? Or maybe I wasn’t ready, or God wanted to coordinate our lives with other national events, technological advances, give someone else time to go on a journey.
When Elijah prayed for rain he put his head between his knees. While the Bible does not say one posture of prayer is more efficient than another, you see the concentration and effort. To pray so the gates of hell are opened, mountains of obstacles are removed, till the fog is lifted, is hard work.
Desperation prayers are not something taught by principles, seminars and symposiums. “I ought to pray” is different than “I have to pray.” Elijah prayed 7 times for what God already told him was going to happen. Why so much partnership required? After all, Elijah prayed once and fire came down from heaven. Because Elijah is about to get scared and run to the Mountain of God and see God face to face. The seven times might have had a different agenda than God just sending rain.
Prayer moves the hand of God, but the prayers we want to offer are initiated by the Spirit of God. We pray what He wants. What a sobering exercise to examine your prayers and ask if this is for the Kingdom’s benefit or just for my cause? Your cause matters to God, He wants to give you the desires of your heart. But we exist for Him and heaven’s agenda. Earnest prayer is believing prayer. Expect an answer. If you pray not really expecting anything than don’t pray.
Sources: Peter Toy, Steve Shepherd,

About Rev. Dr. William A. Lewis: Rev. Dr. William Lewis has been the Senior Pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Celebration since 2009. Whether at a traditional service, praise service, or the more casual Thursday night service, you’ll find that Pastor William’s preaching brings the Word of God to life D.Min. McCormick Theological Seminary Th.M. Princeton Theological Seminary M.Div. Fuller Theological Seminary B.A. University Colorado
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