God’s Word for You
James 5:15 Prayer from faith
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, September 2, 2020
15 The prayer from his faith will save the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. And even if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
The doctrines of justification and sanctification need to be held up before God’s people regularly so that we will remember that in one sense, we have no part in our spiritual health, but in another sense, we have so much to do that we will never be finished. When you were born, you were not the one who got your heart going. And so it is with your justification. Christ started your spiritual heart beating; he is the one who freed you from death. He is the one who saved you through his one sacrifice on the cross. But every day, you affect the health of your heart. Bad choices can cause your heart to stop. Foolish acts can bring about your death in a moment. And so it is with your sanctification. Poor spiritual choices can cause the heart of your faith to stop beating in an instant. Foolish behaviors can damage and even ruin your faith. One of the best things we can do for our spiritual health is to pray.
Prayer belongs to our life of sanctification. God does not even hear the prayers of unbelievers: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear you” (Isaiah 59:2). But for those who trust in Christ, he sends an invitation: “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 16:23). Daniel preached one of the best sermons on prayer when he said, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy” (Daniel 9:18).
Prayer is a means of furthering our sanctification. How do we know this? How is this so? It’s because God invites us to pray for the very gifts and powers of sanctification. Sanctification is possible only for the Christian, and only through the powers God gives through the means of grace (the gospel in word and sacrament), but he wants to be asked for those gifts. Paul sets a good example. In 1 Corinthians 1:9-10, Paul tells the Corinthians that God has called them into fellowship, but then he also appeals to them prayerfully to agree with one another so that they will be perfectly united in that fellowship. He also urges us: “When we are cursed, we bless. When we are persecuted, we endure it” (1 Corinthians 4:12). What is blessing but a prayer that God will send his blessing on someone? I have no power of my own to bless, but when I appeal to God in prayer to bless my friend, God blesses. “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). God himself invites us: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). “You will call upon me and pray to me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12).
Now that we’ve remembered some important things about prayer, all based on passages of the Scriptures, let’s take another look at what James says. He cannot contradict anything else in the Bible since Scripture never contradicts Scripture. God does not lie (Titus 1:2), and God’s word is true (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17; Romans 3:3-4; Revelation 19:9).
The prayer that comes from faith is demonstrated in this case by the request that the elders come and pray over the sick man. Will he recover simply because he has faith? Not necessarily. God may want to call the man home to heaven at that moment in time, despite the fervent prayers of loved ones. They must not feel guilty if he dies, as if their prayers were not sincere enough, or worded correctly. God does not demand a pumpkin-patch sincerity from us; he wants us to trust in him. But God even said “no” to a prayer from Jesus Christ (Luke 22:42), and he might say no to us. That’s why we add, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Faith, however, is shown through prayer, and so the one who prays shows his trust in Christ, and his sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.
So pray. Pray boldly, with confidence that God hears you. Pray for the people you love and for the things that are in your heart. Let God’s will stand, but ask all the same. Jesus promised, “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16).
Christians, while on earth abiding,
Let us never cease to pray,
Firmly in the Lord confiding
As our parents in their day.
Be the children’s voices raised
To the God their parents praised.
May his blessing, failing never,
Rest upon his people ever.
Bless us, Father, and protect us
From all harm in all our ways;
Patiently, O Lord, direct us
Safely through these fleeting days.
Let your face upon us shine;
Fill us with your peace divine.
Praise the Father, Son and Spirit!
Praise him, all who life inherit! (Christian Worship 408:1-2)
Pastor Timothy Smith