“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” James 5:14-15
Sixty –four years of attending prayer meetings have revealed a pattern to them that may explain their disappearance. No one ever survives them. Eventually everyone dies.
Asking for prayer requests at a typical Baptist prayer meeting, or sitting through the open assembly of a Senior Adult Sunday School Department requires a strong stomach, and smelling salts. The gruesome details and gory stories are the verbal equivalent of shock and awe. The first liar doesn’t have a chance.
As the sharing intensifies each request for prayer is met with a follow-up “I can top that” bombshell. When the one sharing the request hears the gasps from the crowd, and observes a shaking of heads, the sharer nods in satisfaction, knowing his work is finished here. He reaches for another cup of coffee, and a donut, but rarely hits his knees.
Unfortunately grim satisfaction is a poor substitute for intense intercession. A brief prayer covering a multitude of ailments may be an expression of moral exhaustion, but it is not Biblical intercession. Bless their hearts.
James reveals the content of a prayer meeting to be something quite different. In one brief statement the Scripture reveals…
· Admitting need
· Calling elders
· Believing prayer
· Anointing oil
· Restoring health
· Raising up
· Forgiving sin
The requests for prayer in the early church were not embellished in front of those who gasped at them. They were placed before men who would get a grip on them. The elders were not men who ran the church, but interceded for the church. They placed their prayers of intercession before The Father. A need would not be enshrined on a black board, or kept on a prayer list never to be answered or removed.
With the anointing of oil, and believing prayer the elders would intercede before The Father and expect their prayers to be heard and answered. Anything less glorifies a victim mentality in the prayer room. What is needed is a spirit of victory in the war room. Believing prayer turns a battleground into holy ground. This only happens…EVERY TIME.
When Jesus healed people, He was stunned at their level of unbelief. In His eyes, the greater miracle was the forgiveness of sin, not the healing of illness. Don’t take my word for it. Hear Him.
“ And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief.” Mark 6:5-6
“Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk '? "But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"-- He said to the paralytic-- "I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." Luke 5:23-24
James and Jesus point towards the forgiveness of sins as the key answer to believing prayer. Enduring physical illness pales in significance to experiencing spiritual separation from The Father. Jesus did not value temporary healing, over eternal forgiveness. Don’t change His price tags.
Believing prayer includes interceding for sinners to be forgiven of sin, not just to be healed of illness. Intercessors do not place a temporary bandaid over a sinner’s heart. They pray for a heart transplant, and a complete transformation to take place, in the name of Jesus.
Many times illness or disease puts a person in touch with their own mortality, and leads them to an awareness of their need to be healed spiritually, as well as physically. The real need is for the disease of sin to let go of its grip on the life of a person. To be forgiven describes the joy when a debt is removed and no longer owed, or a disease runs its course and leaves a person’s body. To be forgiven is to know healing, indeed!
Note to Self: The elders of the early church brought people before The Father, in the name of The Son to be healed at every level of their need. Follow their lead. With or without olive oil, never settle for praying for people to experience anything less than what it means to be forgiven. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!