The Responsibility of Prayer

I was going to write on Leviticus chapter 10 today, but God hammered me with a specific conviction that I feel needs to be communicated to as many as will read this (hopefully it is more than usual).

A couple of nights ago, I was preparing for an upcoming speaking engagement in the book of James.  My assigned topic is James 5:1-6.  As part of my preparation, I read the whole book of James, to make sure that I had a grasp on the overall picture of the book and to make sure I stayed in the context.  While reading the book, a beautiful thing happened: I read a passage that just stuck with me for days.  The passage was James 5:13-20.  The message in this text is that the faithful prayer of the righteous is effective.

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.” – James 5:13-16 (ESV)

James is very bold in this statement.  He says that “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”  Wow.  Does he really mean that if we are sick and we pray, he will heal us if we really believe?  Over the years, I have known people much more godly than I who have been sick, have prayed with faith far greater than mine, and have been told no by God.  In His sovereignty, God chose to deny their physical healing.  I am convinced that this passage is talking about something more…something greater than physical healing.

A few verses later, James says:

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins,” James 5:19-20 (ESV).

Jesus referred to those who had not met him as the sick.  In Mark 2, after Jesus partied with sinners at the house of Levi (current tax collector, future disciple named Matthew), he responded to religious criticism of his associations, saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” (Mark 2:17 (ESV)).  Jesus referred to Levi and his sinner friends as sick people.  Could this be the real meaning of James’ words about prayer?  Could James, one of Jesus’s brothers, have been saying that the prayers of a righteous man over a sinner, or a sick person, are powerful and effective…that they have the potential to bring about regeneration and sanctification?

Do not get me wrong.  I am not saying that those who are physically sick are sick because of their sins.  I am not saying that sickness cannot be healed via righteous and faithful prayer.  I am merely suggesting that James may have been referring more to salvation than healing from physical infirmities.  This is what struck me about this passage.

I have a nephew who is about to turn four (incidentally, his name is Levi).  He is one of my life’s great joys.  I love him immensely.  I know that one day, I will have kids and that I will love them even more…but at the moment, that is hard to fathom.  I am so sad and embarrassed to say, however, that I have never said a single prayer for my nephew’s salvation. In nearly five years since his conception and four since his birth , I have failed to love him with even a basic Christian love.  I have vowed, since the other night, to pray regularly for Levi’s salvation, as well as the election and salvation of my future children and my younger sister’s future children.  That is my word to you, especially those of you with kids.  It is NEVER too early to pray for the salvation of your child, or even your future child.  There is nothing more important on earth for that child than his or her election and salvation.  God wants to save them.  And he may choose to honor your prayers for the child’s salvation.  Please…please never neglect to pray for your child in this way.  This may be the most important thing you ever do.

After all, James said that righteous and faithful prayer heals sickness and that it has great power as it is working.  This is your Spiritual weapon.  Do not neglect to use it. 

Grace and peace.

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