Jack Graham - Healing Prayer
Turn to James chapter 5. Lifeworks is our series and yet we have to ask ourselves the question, what works when life doesn't? When life falls apart, when we suffer, when we're sick, how do we respond? James is certainly interested in that. He writes regarding the prayer of faith. The title of the message today is "Healing Prayer". Healing Prayer, verse 13, "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit".
With that I say let it rain. We're praying for a downpour this morning. You might suspect that James would be interested in prayer. He was known, if you recall, his nickname was "camel knees". Old camel knees. He got that reputation because he was so often on his knees praying. Knots on his knees, as he prayed again and again, not only for himself but the people of God. James therefore talks in his letter about prayer often. In the very first chapter when he tells us about those trials that come our way, "Count it all joy when these trials come". One of the reasons we can know joy in the midst of sadness and struggles and suffering is that we can ask of God to give us wisdom, that's prayer.
As you would expect James who was always sort of in our face. Just straight up with James, not a lot of nonsense with James. In chapter 4 when he was talking about prayer he said, listen to me, "You have not because you ask not". Boom, there's James. You have not because you do not ask. Then in chapter 5, 7 times in the verses that are before us, he references prayer or praying. There's no way that James or I could exaggerate the importance or the significance of prayer in the life of the believer. It should be as normal as breathing for the believer. "Pray about everything," the scripture says, "Pray at all times". That's normal Christian living. But there are times when extraordinary prayer is needed. An exceptional situation that requires something extra, when we need God to touch us, and even to heal us.
Now, I believe God heals. You ask, "Jack, do you believe in divine healing"? There's no other kind but divine healing. Whether it is by medicine or by miracle. Whether it is natural healing as the body heals itself, or if it is supernatural healing, when God moves in and performs a miracle. It doesn't matter the means, whether it is medicine or miracle, we know that God heals. That God alone, and God can do things that medicine cannot do. If you have a diagnosis, some of you have a diagnosis that is very serious and very critical, or maybe it's cancer, or maybe it's some dread disease, and the doctors have said, "There's not a lot we can do". When the doctors say, "There's not a lot we can do," there's still a God who can do a lot. God almighty. Jesus is the great physician, the great I am, one of his names is Jehovah Rapha, which means the God who heals you.
Yes absolutely, God heals. What James is showing us here, ever practical, teaching us here, is what to do when we suffer, when we get sick and even, when we stray away from the Lord. First of all, what do you do when you suffer? You pray for those who suffer. Look at verse 13 again. Verse 13, "Is anyone among you suffering"? Now it's not a question as to whether or not you will suffer. Fact of life, no one Christian or non-Christian, is immune, gets a pass on suffering. None of God's boys or girls are in a bubble. We are prone to illness and sickness because we live in a decaying, dying world. We do get sick and yes we suffer. The word here is actually the word afflicted, or stressed or distressed. It's a word which means, when it says suffering there, suffering of all kind, whether it is emotional pain, psychological pain, physical pain, family issues, financial problems. You're just overwhelmed.
This word here, if anyone is suffering, it means you show up for the day and it happens. It's bad. Bad. You look at this thing in your life and you say, "That's bad. That's really, really bad". Whatever it is that causes us to suffer, Jesus said, "In this world as long as you live there will be tribulation". James, as I said earlier, in chapter 1 said, "When you fall in the various trials and tests in your life," not if and or but, you will. You will. You know, you are either going into a trial right now or you're in the middle of a trial right now, or you're coming out of a trial. But all of us face trials in our lives. Psalm 34:19, the Psalmist admitted this, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, and the LORD delivers him out of them all".
Now the Lord delivers but he doesn't deliver us from affliction and problems and pressures of all kinds. Yes there are physical problems. There are also psychological problems that we face. You're not exempt, you may find yourself under emotional pressure or pain. There's also spiritual struggles and suffering. Fear, anxiety, depression. There are toxic emotions that can attack the mind and the body, like jealousy and envy and bitterness, which is an acid that destroys its own container. You know, the body, the mind, the soul, the spirit are so interrelated and interconnected that someone said that they catch each other's diseases. There's a powerful connect, God created us, a powerful connect between the mind and the body, the spirit and the soul. Suffering can come as a result of spiritual struggles. Some are suffering because a direct assault and attack from Satan himself.
Paul experienced that, the great apostle. He was not immune from Satan. Our old friend Job, he was attacked by Satan, never saw it coming. But with God's permission Job was attacked by Satan. Again, Paul had a thorn in the flesh, probably a physical illness. He was suffering, it was a thorn, it means a stake, can you imagine? A stake in your heart. A stake in your life. He said it was a messenger of Satan that came to buffet me. Don't be surprised if you determine to carry the cross and sell out to follow Jesus Christ, that you will face some heat, the flak you will face persecution. In fact Paul said in Timothy, "All who live Godly in Jesus Christ will suffer persecution". For some even in your family, and among your friends, if you stand for Christ and bear and wear the cross of Christ, you will face opposition and some resistance. Don't be surprised at that. In fact Jesus told us in the Beatitudes, "If you're persecuted for righteousness sake, then rejoice and be exceedingly glad because great is your reward in heaven".
But you may be suffering, you could suffer in some way because of your faith. What do you do? What does James say to do? We're going through all this suffering and James straight up, he says, "Pray". Bam, that's it. Now, that's not the natural thing to do when we hurt, when we suffer when we're in pain. What do we do? Well we cry a lot, and that's normal to cry when we hurt. But beyond that sometimes we are discouraged and even defeated in our faith. Some despair and give up hope. That's what the world does, that's the natural thing to do. But the supernatural thing to do is to pray. To call on the name of the Lord our God, the great I am. To pray and ask God to help us, to sustain us, to deliver us. When you pray, when you suffer and you pray it doesn't mean that in the next 15 minutes you're going to no longer suffer.
You say, "Well I prayed, I was hurting, I was suffering, and I prayed. It didn't do any good, I was suffering when it was done". You are thinking, "Okay, I pray, magic formula, magic potion, I'm out". It doesn't work that way. God uses pain as a process in our life to teach us and train us in Godliness. Adversity advances us in our faith. In His own way and in His own time, God will bring about healing. Genuine faith, praise, even when you don't feel like it. Good days and bad days. But the fact is, most of us though not all us, but most of us have a lot more good days than bad days. The problem for some of us is on those good days we forget to give credit to God and to glorify God by singing and praising our God. James is telling us here, when you suffer, when there's adversity, pray. When there's prosperity and pleasure, sing to the Lord. Literally sing songs of praise.
You say, "I don't always feel like singing," the Bible says, "He gives songs in the night". And when the wind blows, that's the time to sing. We have some little chimes on our back porch, wind chimes, and typically of course when the wind isn't blowing you hear nothing. But if the wind stirs up and starts blowing about us, then they start to make music. They just tingle all over the place. Now when the wind blows into our lives there should be music coming out if we're believers, and when the wind isn't blowing there still should be song of praise. I'll tell you this, suffering is inevitable but misery is optional. Did you know that? Suffering is inevitable but misery is optional. Paul said, who knew a lot about suffering, he said in 2 Corinthians 6:10, that he was in sorrow, yet rejoicing. In sorrow, yet rejoicing. In other words, even when you're sad there is happiness in knowing the Lord.
The Christian should be the happiest persons and people on the planet. God has given us such great happiness and joy and gladness, and when you survey your Bible you see words like happy, or glad, or cheerful, or celebrate, or festival. Through and through the Bible is chock full of this incredible happy experience of knowing our God. Every day there are thousands of reasons to praise God, right? A day should never go by that you don't praise Jesus, what he's done in your life. We pray for those who are suffering, and then we pray for those who are sick. That's what James is talking about, ever again practical and personal. He says, "Is anyone among you sick"? Verse 14, who's sick, he says, anybody sick, he says, all right here's what you do, you call for the elders of the church, and let the elders come and anoint him oil, we'll talk about what that means in a second, and pray the prayer of faith in the name of Jesus and God will raise the sick.
James focuses on praying for sickness. This is a unique prayer for someone suffering physically. Again it's an extraordinary prayer, it's not just when you've got a sinus headache or a gimpy knee. Fine, you should pray for those things too, we're to pray about everything. But this is more serious than that. This is when you're really sick. James says for the Christian, "Call for the elders of the church, ask for the elders of the church". Now, the elder, basically these are the pastors of the church. These are the spiritual leaders of the church. Notice what he doesn't say, he doesn't say call for the healers, or call for the miracle workers, or go get in a healing line on television. No, he says right there in your own church, in your own spiritual family, among the people that you know and love and trust, the leaders in your Bible fellowship class or the pastors of your student ministry, the pastors of the church. You get them together and bring them in and pray over you.
Notice their presence is needed, now you can pray for people at a distance. Distance makes no difference with God. Your prayers can circle the globe for people. But in this case where there is this kind of sickness, this is the ministry within of the body of Christ. It's the beautiful ministry of the body of Christ. One of the big time reasons you need to be connected with a local church, a local congregation. Every one needs connectedness. You need a family of faith. Especially when you have needs or you want to meet needs, do it through the church. Call for the elders of church, the spiritual leaders of the church. There is particular power in presence and the laying on of hands, in the touch that transforms in the name and the power of God. Hands of faith. Not only to pray for you but he says to pray over you. There's the asking, ask for the elders of the church to come, but then there's the anointing, he says, "Anoint with oil".
Now, there's debate as to exactly what the oil is. Could be medicinal purposes, the oil was used for medicinal purposes in the New Testament era when the man was broken on the road, the story of the good Samaritan. Remember he was beaten and bruised and the man came along, the Samaritan, and he poured in oil and wine. This was medicinal purposes. It's true, they rubbed oil on everything. If you were sick, "Go get the oil". It was like some of you used to have a grand mama who said, "Oh she's sick, go get the castor oil". But it could have been medicinal purposes, but probably not. My view, the oil here, the anointing of oil speaks of 3 things. It speaks of refreshment, restoration, like when David the Psalmist said, "He anoints my head with oil," he wasn't talking about physical oil but the symbolic use of the oil to signify the restoration. He'd been through the valley of the shadow and now he's coming through and he says, "You anoint my head with oil".
It also symbolizes consecration and separation. It is a symbol of the prayer of faith, the anointing of the spirit of God, the empowering of the spirit of God in the prayer. Look, it's not the oil that heals, it's not the elders who heal, it's not even the prayer that heals per say. It's God who heals. It's His touch His power, His spirit. Then there's one final thing and I'll close this message, but there's not only the asking here and the anointing, but there is acceptance. The big old huge question mark that may be in your mind right now is, what about the cure? Does God always promise? Is that what God is saying here? That God promises that when we pray like this, a prayer of faith, anoint in oil, that if you have enough faith you will always be healed? Absolutely not. Obviously not. Because we all know people for whom who have prayed, and prayed fervently long and hard, and anointed with oil and in the name of Jesus asked God to raise them up.
We all know people who are now in heaven who didn't make it. They weren't healed, or they went on to be chronically ill. What's the answer? We know God doesn't choose to heal everyone, Jesus himself didn't choose to heal everyone. He didn't heal everyone in everyplace who was sick. Paul admitted this, there was a man that he prayed for and left for sick at Miletus, Trophimus. In 2 Timothy 4:20 he said, "I left this man sick," why didn't Paul heal him? Why didn't he pray for him? If the prayers of Paul the apostle don't work, what's up with that? He said, "I left him sick". It's not God's will always that you be healed. Philippians 2:27, Epaphroditus a very dear friend and companion of Paul. Paul said he became critically ill. So was Paul.
I've already told you about his thorn in the flesh. He prayed 3 times for God to deliver him. Again and again and again he prayed, "God deliver me from this standing pain. God deliver me from this terrible crushing thorn in my flesh". Probably some kind of physical illness. But God didn't heal Paul. We assume he took to his martyred death this pain, this thorn. He learned the lesson that in the thorn and the pain and the struggle and the sickness, that it was in his weakness that he was made strong. In fact the word here for sick, "Is anyone sick"? Means weak, can't stand up, weak. After Paul learned the lesson he said, "You know I was so full of pride".
Paul knew he was smarter than everybody. He was trained, he was powerful, he was the missionary of all missionaries. He said, "I struggle with pride but God used this thorn in my flesh to keep me humble and dependent on the Lord". He got to the place in his life when he said, "You know what? I think I'll keep the thorn. I think I'll just keep the thorn, because God's using it for His glory and my good". God may choose to heal, God may choose not to heal. The key thing here is acceptance. Pray in the name of the Lord. I'll end with this, you know what it is to pray in the name of Lord? It means to pray with the approval and the authority of God's name. It's not just something we do, a little incantation at the end of a prayer, "In Jesus name we pray".
When you pray in Jesus' name you're praying in His authority the right that you have to pray because he gives you the authority to come boldly before God's throne. It also means approval. It's like if you sign your name to something, that's your approval. You sign a check, that's approval to take it out of your bank account. If you sign a paper, a legal document, that's your approval, that's authority, that's approval. Not just when we pray, men and women, but the way we live and all that we do, whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You ought to be able to sign the name of Jesus to everything you do in your life as a Christian. When you sign on the name of Jesus, it's tantamount to praying this, Lord not my will but your will be done.
You say, "That's a cop out pastor". No it isn't. It's not a cop out, it's reality. That God is God and I'm not and neither are you. That God is sovereign over my days and your days. The apostle Paul got to that point. In fact he says in Philippians 1:20, look at this verse and we're done. Paul said that Christ would be magnified in my body, in life or in death. When we pray for the sick and we are sick and get prayed for, it is always with this truth, with this trust that God knows what is best. There comes a time when we're going to take our last breath if Christ tarries, and immediately be in the presence of Christ. That's not a bad thing, that's a really good thing. God gives us time, God gives us years, we live them for the glory of God, but whether we live or whether we die, whether we get well or we don't, there is acceptance and the trust that when we pray with conviction and compassion, that God will answer in His own way, in His own, in His own time. Trust Him.