Thursday, November 20, 2008

Prayer for the Sick

"Is any one of you sick? He 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; 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 is powerful and effective." --James 5:14-16
The passage you just read is, by no means, a blanket formula for healing the sick. I have seen countless prayers offered up by "righteous men" that have simply gone unanswered. I think that the circumstance that James is talking about here is a special circumstance. I think James is describing a man in the church who is sick because he is being disciplined or chastened by God. This is made evident by the fact that he calls the elders to his church and confesses his sins to them.

A fine example of how to pray in faith is found in 1 John 5:14-15; "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." (emphasis added) The prayer of faith is offered when you know the will of God. The elders of the church would seek the mind of God in the matter, and then pray according to his will.

I find three excellent lessons to be taken out of this passage:

1. Sin can lead to sickness.
-After King David had committed so many terrible sins against God, his neighbor and the Nation that God had entrusted to him, rather than confess those sins, he chose to sweep them under the rug. Later, he would remember this period of time like this: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer." (Psalm 32:3-4)

2. Sin affects the whole church.
-Sin has a way of growing and festering within us. We sin and it causes others to sin. I believe one of the reasons this man had to call the elders to his bedside and confess his sins to them was because he had also sinned against the church itself. His sin had probably driven a wedge into the body of Christ and this man wanted to receive forgiveness for that.

3. There is healing when sin is dealt with.
-This healing is certainly spiritual, but it can also be physical healing. Proverbs 28:13 tells us that "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." As I've said before, there is no guarantee that physical healing comes with confession of sin. Sometimes it is just plain God's will that we are sick.Those who claim that God heals every case and/or that it is not God's will that anyone be sick, are denying both scripture and experience.