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 Prayer and Restoration: Part 3 - James 5:16

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LaRosa
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PostSubject: Prayer and Restoration: Part 3 - James 5:16   Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:08 am

Prayer and Restoration: Part 3 - James 5:16
Written by LaRosa Johnson
Monday, November 24, 2008

In our previous lesson, we looked at James' instructions for the weary to call the elders for prayer as a means of receiving spiritual refreshment. The passage concluded with a note on the forgiveness of sins, being that during prayer, any sins committed will be forgiven. Today's lesson continues in that same line of thought as we move forward to verse 16 where we find more talk on confession and teaching on prayer. So, if hearts and minds are ready for the study of Biblical truth, let's open our Bibles and begin.

Quote :
James 5:16 (NASB) - Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

James begins the verse with a "therefore," and whenever we see that, we have to ask ourselves, "what is it there for?" Well, given the context of our previous study and the instruction that James had given, it becomes more of a "because you did this, you are to also do this" kind of statement. Because you were weary and called on the elders of the church for prayer and restoration, also do this. What is that something that the therefore is instructing the reader to do? The instruction can be found by reading the rest of the sentence which says to "confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed." This is then followed by a statement of affirmation concerning the power of prayer. Given the clear breaks in this verse, the best course of action is to deal with them individually, starting with confession.

This idea of confession is an interesting bit of text. In much the same way as the previous study, this is an area where a lot of confusion comes into play and errant doctrine exists as a result of misinterpreting the text. When most people hear the idea of confessing sins to one another, their mind more than likely goes immediately to the Roman Catholic church and the idea of confessing your sins to a priest and so on. To be clear, that is not what James is talking about in this passage. It's best to think of this idea as giving a prayer request to another believer so that they can pray for you. Going a little bit deeper than the surface, the Greek word used in this text isn't the common word for confession, but is, instead, a compound of that word that changes the meaning to imply an open confession. That is to say, you're not confessing your sins to God alone, but openly sharing them with a trusted person for the purpose of prayer. With that in mind, there are a few things that this doesn't mean. First, James is not saying that we need to have "accountability partners" that we give all of our dirt to so that they can keep us in check. Nor are we to go around telling people about every little sin that we commit. Most importantly, it doesn't mean that you have to go to another person to get forgiveness of sin, as that only comes through Jesus Christ. The point is that we are to share our struggles (which are sins) with one another so that we can encourage them through the activity of prayer. A good example of this can be found in Acts 19:18, 19 where we see public confession taking place.

The sentence continues by stating that believers are to "pray for one another so that you may be healed." As we've already stated, the purpose of a weary believer confessing and sharing their shortcomings is so that other brothers and sisters in the faith can pray for and encourage them so that they're no longer discouraged. This is akin to what takes place often in church prayer meetings when believers gather together. They share their concerns and burdens in order that the other believers present can intercede on their behalf, instead of simply praying and trying to stand alone. It is these prayers that bring about spiritual healing, much like we learned in our previous lesson. When believers pray for one another and confession takes place, the Holy Spirit is then able to come in an restore the person to fellowship and to a position where they are no longer spiritually destitute and defeated. This is the important thing to remember is that confession is for the purpose of prayer and uplifting. Often times people will ask for prayer requests and such so that they can get the latest gossip, but a believer whose heart is in the right place will be doing it because they are genuinely concerned and want to help their brother or sister along. Please note, we are one body with many members, and if one part of the body suffers, then we all suffer; that is why prayer is important. A stubbed toe may seem insignificant, but if left untreated, it can have negative affects throughout the entire body. The same holds true for believers in the Body of Christ; we don't want to have any place that's hurting.

After emphasizing praying for one another, James then makes a statement concerning the power of prayer when he says, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." This truth is attested to numerous times throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. One of the first places where we see a righteous man interceding in prayer is when Abraham is praying for Lot after God had warned that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:23-32). It was through Abraham's persistence in prayer that the Lord answered and spared Lot and his family (19:29). Another example is with the children of Israel as the wrath of God was coming down and they entreated Him to stop (Num. 11:1-2). A New Testament illustration can be had in Acts 12:5-11 when Peter was in prison and was miraculously able to escape as a result of the prayers of many believers.

Now, there are principles to be had in the matter of effective prayer. First, you have to be a believer because God will not answer the prayer of an unbeliever (John 9:31). The only prayer that an unbeliever is able to pray that will be answered is a prayer of salvation; other than that, God only hears the prayers of believers. Secondly, we have to go to prayer asking for what we need as it lines up with His will (Matt. 7:7-11; 1 John 3:22). Thirdly, we have to ask in faith because God does not honor the prayer of a double-minded person (James 1:6). From there, we must pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), knowing that it is through persistence that many prayers become effective (Luke 18:1-5). With these steps in place, the overarching theme that we want to keep close to heart is that this is the manner by which we are to be praying for others. A good portion of our prayer time should be dedicated to interceding on behalf of other believers who are facing various trials so that they would remain in the will of the Lord, encouraged, and strengthened in the Spirit.

In closing, the aim of believers should be to share in the load of their brothers and sisters so that we can all stand firm in the faith. As we share our struggles with one another, we should be committed to praying for them, actually doing it and not just telling them that we will. It is when we do this that we see the Lord move on our behalf and restore our weakened siblings to full spiritual strength. In our study today we have highlighted many examples from Scripture of how believers were effective in their prayer lives, but James provides us with an example of his own in verses 17 and 18, which we will take a look at next time. Until then, keep praying for one another!

devotion courtesy of Trailblazin Ministries
http://www.trailblazinministries.com/devotions/james086.php

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