Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life. Prayer is our means of communication with God. Through the avenue of prayer, we can enter into the very throne of God and bring our petitions before God. This access that we have to God in prayer is made possible by the blood of Jesus. Read Hebrews 10:19-22. According to these verses, we have boldness to enter into the very throne of God because Jesus is our High Priest. We have access to God. We can draw close to God because of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. For the believer, access to God is made possible by the blood of Jesus, and prayer is the vehicle through which we access the throne of God. Therefore, prayer, must be an essential part of the daily life of every believer. In our text in James 5, we learn several things concerning the importance of prayer.
The purpose of prayer (v. 13). James gives a very clear purpose for prayer here in verse 13. When someone is afflicted, he should pray. When someone is merry, he should praise. This activity of praying and praising is a constant action in the life of the believer. There is always affliction in this life. There is also always joy in this life. Therefore, prayer and praise is a constant. They go together. James specifically mentions that we are to pray when we are afflicted. What does it mean to be afflicted? To be afflicted is to suffer or to have trouble. If you think about it, there is never a time when we are free from suffering and trouble in this life. There are always burdens to bear. The Bible teaches us that we are to bear each other’s burdens. So, even if you are not suffering or in trouble at this present moment in your life, there are those who are suffering or in trouble and their burdens are also placed upon you. The weight of affliction is constantly upon us. Therefore, we must constantly prayer.
The people of prayer (v. 14). In verse 14, James mentions that if someone is sick, he should call upon the elders of the church to pray for him. There are a couple of things to clarify here. The idea of sickness in this verse is both physical and spiritual. There are those who are physically sick and they are in need of prayer. There are those who are also spiritually sick. The spiritually sick are those who are either unsaved or they are believers who are struggling with sin and/or in their walk with God. The term elder in this verse refers to the leaders of the church, namely the pastors. However, it is not just the pastors that are to pray. The entire church body is to pray for one another. The anointing of oil in this verse is mainly a symbolic gesture signifying the action of faith in prayer. What we see here is that the people of prayer is the church. We should be known as a praying church.
The power of prayer (v. 15-16). There are those who believe that God is an unresponsive God. In other words, God has a set plan and every detail of that plan is laid out in such a way that it cannot be changed or altered in any way no matter what man may do. There is some truth to that idea. God does have a plan for this world and He does have a plan for every individual on this earth. God’s overall plan for this world cannot be altered, yes, but, the details of God’s plan can be altered. There are many examples of this in scripture. There are several occasions where God moved and worked in response to the intercession of His followers. James mentions that the prayer of the faith will save the sick. Again, the sick here is both those who are physically and/or spiritually sick. In verse 16, we see how we are to keep each other accountable by confessing our faults to each other and how we are to pray for one another. Why do we hold each other accountable? Because the success of our prayers is dependent upon the purity of our lives. Why do we pray for one another? Because the prayers of the righteous accomplishes much. You see, prayer moves the hand of God. When God’s people who are living right, call upon Him in prayer, God listens. God is moved to action by the prayers of the saints. Now, God does not always answer in a way that we think is best. God’s way is always greater and better than our way. However, we need to understand that prayer is a very powerful thing. Things happen when God’s people pray. Souls are saved when God’s people pray. Hearts are changed when God’s people pray. Hard hearts are softened when God’s people pray. Blind eyes are opened when God’s people pray. Anything can happen. Nothing is impossible. When God’s people pray.
The possibilities of prayer (v. 17-18). Elijah prayed and the weather was changed. Imagine that. You never know what can happen when we pray. Never say that something is impossible. There is absolutely nothing that God cannot do. When we pray with a pure heart and with pure motives, what we think as not possible suddenly becomes possible.
It is a dangerous thing when we don’t pray. It is a dangerous thing when we do pray. Prayer moves the hand of God. The question is: do we understand the importance of prayer? Will we commit ourselves to being people of prayer.