Monday, July 11, 2011

The Power of Effective Prayer

A sermon based on James 5:13-18, developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett

Verse 13 - Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.
• It is interesting to note that the book of James opened up with an emphasis on dealing with suffering and it closes that way too.
• This is because the world we live in is under the curse of sin and is filled with suffering.
• A significant part of the Christian life is learning how to deal with suffering in our own lives and the suffering we witness in the world around us.
• Our very first response to suffering should be to pray.
• Far too often that has become our last resort instead of our first response.
• Prayer has the capacity to change our attitude and lift our spirits.
• Prayer often produces cheerfulness, even in the midst of difficulty.
• When our hearts are cheered, even in the midst of struggle, we can give praise to God.
• Praise turns our minds away from the negative and refocuses our hearts on the positive.
• The power of positive thinking may be limited, but the power of positive praising is unlimited!

Verse 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.
• Though there are many different types of suffering, one that we all face in our lives is sickness.
• While this might be referring to any type of sickness, the context of suffering seems to indicate that it is a serious sickness, not just a common cold or a headache.
• Though doctors and modern medicine are very important and should not be neglected, Christians should also look to the Lord for help when we face serious physical challenges.
• If a person is sick, he or she should call for the elders of the church.
• This is an indication that in most cases the sick person should initiate the request and the elders go to the person who is sick, probably in their home or the hospital.
• That does not mean that public healing services are not appropriate. It simply means that the primary place of healing was private.
• A sick person should call the for the elders to come pray with them and anoint them.
• The elders of the church are those who have been given the responsibility for leading the church and teaching the Word.
• This does not mean that people who are not elders can not pray. It just means the elders definitely should be part of the process because they can rally the entire church to prayer if needed.
• While praying, the elders anoint the sick person with olive oil in the name of the Lord.
• Olive oil is not magic.
• Olive oil has been symbolic of the Holy Spirit throughout the scriptures.
• Therefore, when a person is anointed with oil the person is symbolically asking the Spirit to be poured out on them and to fill them up so they may be closer to the Lord.
• We anoint a person not in the name of the church, or in the name of the elders, but in the name of the Lord.
• This is IMPORTANT!!!!!
• Healing power belongs to Christ alone.
• Neither the church nor an individual controls God or His healing power.
• What James is telling us to do is to submit ourselves to the Lord and trust in Christ alone.
• When we are willing to do that with a sincere heart of faith, we remove the barriers inside our hearts that have held back the Spirit and quenched His power in our lives.
• Freely flowing faith has great power.

Verse 15 - The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
• James makes a connection between healing and forgiveness.
• We find this unique relationship between healing and forgiveness frequently in the Bible.
• Psalm 103: 2-3 -Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.
• IF a person has sinned, they will be forgiven. Clearly some sickness IS a result of sin. But not ALL sickness is a result of sin.
• It is easy for us to directly connect certain sinful behaviors with certain physical illnesses. Other sicknesses have less direct connections to sinful behaviors and some have NO connection to sinful actions.

Rev. Harold Shepherd of St. David’s Anglican Church in Toronto, Canada reminds us that:
We often reap what we sow. We bring some illnesses on ourselves by our own actions. Examples include heavy drinkers developing liver problems, smokers developing lung cancer, drug addicts sharing needles contracting AIDS, and the like. Choices with respect to diet, exercise and stress management can also have a direct effect on our health.

Some psychological conditions can manifest themselves physically. In some (but not all) cases, a healing of the body also involves a healing of the mind. Putting the past behind us and experiencing the unconditional love and forgiveness of God is sometimes the first step to physical well-being. Forgiveness may be needed to purge us of psychological poison and restore wholeness to our whole being.

Verse 16 - Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.
• If the particular sickness we have is caused by our own sinfulness, we need to confess our sins.
• Notice that in this passage it says we should confess our sins to each other.
• This is not a formal “going to confession” but a sharing between Christian friends.
• Do not get confused. We actually confess our sins directly to God because God alone can forgive sins.
• But sometimes we need the help of Christian friends in order to overcome a habitual sin that has bound us for a long time.
• When we are honest about our sin, it has real healing power.
• Notice that along with the confession of sin to each other is the commitment to pray for each other.
• We are all in this together and we must support each other through prayer.
• Everyone can pray. We need everyone to pray.
• Some people have the gift of faith and have developed an intensity in their prayer life. We REALLY need those people praying!
• For prayer to be really intense, we need to be living righteously. Righteous simply means “right” before God.
• A person who is living right before God and has developed an intense prayer life is very powerful.
• But no one is perfect. Therefore to keep living right and to stay intense in our prayers, we must be constantly confessing our sins and seeking purity in our hearts with God.

Verse 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.
• James gives us the example of Elijah.
• Elijah was a powerful prophet of God who had worked miracles.
• But sometimes he got discouraged. In 1 Kings 19:4-5 Elijah was so discouraged he wanted to die.
• Elijah had to spend time resting so he could regain his strength.
• Then God had to remind Elijah that God was still in charge.
• Though Elijah had times when he was discouraged, when a prayed an intense prayer of faith, it did not rain for 3 ½ years!!!!

Verse 18 - Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.
• When Elijah prayed again, it rained and the crops grew again.
• Elijah was a powerful prayer warrior even though he had human weaknesses and limitations.
• We do not have to be perfect to pray effectively, but we do need to be constantly seeking a closer relationship with God.
• If we constantly seek a closer relationship with the Lord, then we will be able to overcome our temporary weaknesses and refocus our prayer life so that it is once again intense and powerful.
• If we did a “relationship check” today, would we be pleased with how close we are to God?

• Suffering is a part of life.
• The Christian response to suffering should be first to pray and then to praise the Lord.
• When our suffering is physical, we should examine our hearts for sin and then ask the elders to pray for us and anoint us with oil as a symbol of our submission to the Holy Spirit.
• When we live rightly and pray intensely, our prayers have great power.

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