Step Towards Transformation

PART 17-James 5:13-20; How And When To Pray.


James 5:13-20

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 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.

15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.

18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,

20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

So far, we have examined

  1. How To Respond To Trials,
  2. How To Seek Wisdom In Trials,
  3. How To Have Proper Prospective In Life,
  4. How To Understand & Defeat Temptation
  5. How To Look In The Mirror Of The Word And Be Doers Of The Word.
  6. How To Deal With The Sin Of Partiality
  7. How To Prove Your Faith With Works
  8. How To Discipline The Tongue
  9. How To Have Good Conduct With Godly Wisdom.
  10. How Worldly Wisdom Affects Our Prayers.
  11. How Worldly Wisdom Affects Our Relationship With God.
  12. How To Follow A Battle Plan For Victory
  13. How To Stop Judging
  14. How To Plan Your Life With God
  15. How To Be Wise With Our Wealth
  16. How To Be Patient In Sufferings.

Today James is going to tell us – How And When To Pray.

Illustration; A pastor had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard and then was afraid to come down. The pastor tried everything to get the kitten down but it would not move and the tree was too narrow to climb. Finally, he decided to get a rope. He threw the rope up to one of the branches and tied the rope to his car bumper. He backed up until the tree bent down, but just before he could reach up and get the kitten the rope broke and the tree snapped back into place and the kitten was gone. He looked all around the yard but there was no sign of it anywhere. The pastor felt terrible so he prayed, “Lord, I just commit this kitten to your keeping.”

The next day he was at the grocery store, and met one of his neighbours. He happened to look into her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food. This woman was a cat hater and everyone knew it, so he asked her, “Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?” She replied, “You won’t believe this, for weeks my little girl has been begging for a cat, but I kept refusing. Well, yesterday she was begging for a cat again, so I finally told her that she could have a cat when God gives her a cat. So I watched her go out into the back yard, get down on her knees to pray, and, really, Pastor, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, a kitten suddenly came flying out of the clear blue sky and landed right in her arms!”

Now this final section of the letter we will learn on How And When To Pray– James concludes this letter by describing four situations that require prayer; And four situations in which God answers prayer.

James understood this as well as anyone ever could. How is that? Because he had observed the habits of his brother, Jesus, The Great Physician, firsthand himself.

Luke 5:16 (MSG): “As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.” Now if prayer was that important to the spiritual health of The Great Physician, shouldn’t it be for us as well?

Illustration:  Imagine you are in a boat and you are approaching the river bank and You throw a rope and hook to the bank and pull.

Question: Do you pull the river bank to you?  Or do you pull yourself towards the bank?

Prayer is not pulling God to my will, But the aligning of my will towards the will of God.

For prayer to be effective and bring victory,  Surrender to God’s will and co-operation with God’s will is essential.

Now, contrary to what many people believe, The Bible doesn’t encourage long prayers. the New Testament seems to emphasise; In public – short prayers and in private – longer prayers.

And nowhere in this passage is it emphasising long prayers; But The emphasis is on the effectiveness of one’s prayers. Because an effective prayer life Indicates we are praying for the things God wants us to pray for.

That means that our prayer life is a reflection of our relationship with God. So James concludes this letter by emphasising the necessity of prayer; And the encouragement that God answers prayer.

(1). Prayer When Life is Hard or Easy (vs 13).

When we have troubles (verse13b) “ Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. In verse 13 James returns to the subject of suffering. Remember that was a key theme in chapter 1.

Note: Life is often like a roller coaster, One month we are on a high and one month we are on a low; Some of you are thinking; “Months! I have weeks or days like that!” Everyone experiences good days and bad days. That’s what life is made up of!

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” The word used here refers to suffering of any kind. It can include trouble, disappointment, and persecution. The Bible is clear that suffering is a normal expectation for every believer. And the apostle says; “When we’re in trouble…” In tough times – pray. In good times – praise.

Illustration: I read this true story this week; A woman at work received a phone call from her daughters school; The girl was not very well and could the mother come and collect here. She left work and stopped by the Chemist (pharmacy); To get some medication for her daughter. When she came out of the store she realized that she had locked her keys inside the car. She didn’t know what to do and started to panic. Then she remembered seeing in a movie; In which someone had used a coat hanger to get into a locked care. She looked around the car park; And to her amazement found an old bent rusty coat hanger on the ground. She looked at the hanger and prayed, “God, I don’t know how to use this – please help!”  Just then a man roared up on a motorcycle and pulled into the parking space next to her car. He saw she was in trouble and asked if he could help her. The woman thought, “Wow, thank you God, what answer to prayer!” So she handed him the coat hanger; And in less than a minute the car door was unlocked and opened. She hugged the man and through her tears she said, “Thank you so much! You are such a nice man.” He said “No, I’m not, Lady. I just got out of prison for car theft.” Still hugging him she cried out through her tears “Thank you God, you didn’t just send me any old help, you sent me a professional!”

When you are in trouble, PRAY! When times are good, PRAISE!

When we have success (verse13b) Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

James continues here saying “Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” James is saying here that not everyone goes through troubles at the same time. God balances our lives. We will all have good days and bad days. The key is to make sure you remember God, even on the good days.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world — C.S. Lewis

God shouts to us in our pains, so it is easy to pray when we go through trials. The word “happy” means to be of good cheer, and suggests a state of mind that is free from trouble. When we are happy we need to also stay fervent in prayer. Often our faith is tested more by our successes then our suffering.

Illustration: In the Old Testament we read about the life of King Hezekiah. He was tested by God in 3 different ways.

The first was the test of SECURITY. The king of Assyria came and laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. He had sent a letter to Hezekiah saying that God was unable to save him and that the city would fall. Instead of panicking and giving up, Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed and God sent an angel to kill 185,000 enemy soldiers. The king returned to Assyria in disgrace and his sons killed him while he was in the temple there. Hezekiah passed the test.

The second was the test of SICKNESS. After seeing God defeat the Assyrians Hezekiah became ill and was told by Isaiah that his sickness would lead to death. He wept bitterly about this and God saw his tears and had mercy on him and added 15 years to his life. Again, Hezekiah passed the test.

The third test was the test of SUCCESS. Hezekiah had seen the miracle of the Assyrians defeat. He had gone through sickness and had been given more years to live. He had been a very successful king and he had many riches. Envoys then came from Babylon to meet Hezekiah and see the great things that God had done for Israel:

2 Chr 32:30-31 It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David. He succeeded in everything he undertook. 31 But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.

Instead of giving God the glory, Hezekiah took credit for his success and showed the envoys everything in his kingdom, boasting about his accomplishments. God’s judgement on Hezekiah is immediate:

Isaiah 39:5-6 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD.

Because he did not give God the glory, he lost everything. His own success destroyed him. James is saying, when we are happy we need to also stay fervent in prayer. Everyone one prays when they are in trouble; But we can see easily forget God when times are good and life is comfortable.

When things are going bad in your life, PRAY! When things are going good in your life, PRAY!

(2). Prayer When We Experience Ill health (vs 14-15a)

“Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up….

IllustrationA woman went to her doctor’s office. She was seen by one of the new younger doctors rather than her regular family doctor. But after about 4 minutes in the examination room, She burst out screaming and ran down the hall. A nurse stopped her, took her into a side-room and asked what the problem was. The woman started to explain. The nurse then went to see the new doctor and demanded an explanation. The nurse said: “What’s the matter with you? Mrs. Terry is 63 years old. She has four grown children and seven grandchildren, And you just told her she was pregnant?” The new doctor smiled as he continued to write on his notepad. Without looking up he said; “Cured her hiccups though, didn’t it?”

I hope we believe an interventionist God; One who hears our prayers, one who cares for us, and one who acts for our good.

“Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.” But when we call upon him he does hear, he does care, And he will bring something about for our good.

  • “If the request is wrong, God says, “No.”
  • If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.”
  • If you are wrong, God says, “Grow.”
  • But if the request is right, the timing is right, and you are right, God says ‘Go!’”
  1. “If the request is wrong, God says, “No.”” This is when we ask amiss out of the will of God
  2. “If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.”” This is when there are other things that need to happen before the answer comes. God’s delay is not God’s denial.
  3. “If you are wrong, God says, “Grow.”” The answer does not come because you are not ready to handle it.
  4. “But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, “Go!”” This is promise fulfilled and Heaven coming down to earth.

Verse 14 starts with that word “anyone”. This verse is given in the context of whole Church together. We should all be praying for one another; We are all (not just the elders) responsible for the welfare of this Church.

Now notice the steps of action that James suggests:

Step #1. The sick person calls for the elders/leaders of the Church

The Greek word translated into English as ‘ill’ or ‘sick’ is very broad in its meaning.

  • It can mean physical sickness i.e. Cancer, M.S. that type of serious illness.
  • It can mean mental sickness i.e. Depression.
  • It can mean emotional sickness i.e. Grieving for the loss of a child.
  • It can mean spiritual sickness i.e. Someone out of step with the Lord.

So this word is much broader than we usually think of it. It is referring to any sickness that has become just too much for someone to bear.

Note: So if you have a headache don’t call me, take an aspirin! The fact the individual calls the elders; Suggests they cannot go to them. The idea is that person maybe housebound or in hospital.

Step#2. The elders/leaders go to the sick person.

The word is plural. The elders go together. There is strength in numbers. There is comfort in numbers. And by going in person we are communicating to that person that we really care.

Step #3. The leaders pray and anoint with oil.

When the leaders show up James tells them to anoint the sick person with oil. To anoint simply means to ‘mark out’, to ‘pour oil’ on the persons head.

Symbolically – Oil was of course a symbol of the Holy Spirit. As you pour oil you are symbolically asking the Holy Spirit to fall on that person.

The apostle James says we are to use it in this context when we pray for someone; And that when we do so, we must always pray in the name of Jesus. This is a reminder to us that it is not the elders; it is not the oil; It is not even the praying church that heals. It is Jesus!

Step #4. Healing comes.

Verse 15 is such a good verse. “…and the prayer offered in faith WILL make the sick person well.”

James refers to this as the “prayer offered in faith” The verse does not say anything about how the healing will take place. It doesn’t rule out medical care alongside prayer.

Healing is healing. God heals through medicine as well as supernaturally. Some people heal quickly others may heal slowly. Whether the miracle is by prayer or medicine or by some combination of the two, God is able to heal His children. God should be the one praised.

Illustration: We have seen this in our congregation before. One man I met who was suddenly developed some severe health concerns and he was diagnosed with cancer. A fast growing type and he and his family were more than concerned. Someone asked me if I would go over and talk to him. So I did and he and his wife came to church and we gathered over him and prayed for him and he was healed. The doctors were stunned. The family was amazed. We were all thankful. This man had a limited amount of time left here on earth and God did a miraculous thing. Why? Because His people prayed.

And I believe God will do it again and again and again. Never stop praying. Never, ever give up on God.

(3). Prayer When We Have Sin in Our Lives (vs 15b-16).

“If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”.

Illustration: One day at a Church elders meeting; One of the elders said; according to James chapter 5 verse 6; We should be confessing our sins to one another… so here goes…

The first elder said, “My secret sin is I just love to gamble. When I pass by an amusement arcade, those machines are calling my name; And it’s cha-ching cha-ching, let the machines ring.”

The second elder said, “My secret sin is that I just hate working. I copy all my sermons from the internet and repackage them.”

The third elder said, “My secret sin is gossiping and, oh boy, I just can’t wait to get out of this room!”

We may be comfortable talking to God and confessing our sins to him in prayer; But confessing to each other, that’s a little too risky. What will people think if I told them THAT about ME!

Confess your sins to each other. And it would be important to confront those situations in order to move forward. Especially if those sins involved each other.

Principle in these verses is: Unconfessed sin hinders prayer; Righteousness compliments prayer.

Verse 16b…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”.

Illustration:  A mechanic was removing the cylinder heads of a motor when he spotted a world-famous heart surgeon in his shop.  “Doctor, please come over here.” He did. The mechanic pointed at his work, “See here, Doctor. I also open hearts, take out valves, put in new parts, and when I finish, this patient will run like new. So why do you get paid the big money for basically doing the same thing?”  The doctor smiled, leaned over and whispered to the mechanic, “Try doing it with the engine running!”

Illustration: I love the illustration he uses regarding Elijah the prophet of God.

Verse 17-18:“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops”

When we read about Elijah we think: He’s in the big leader.I’m still an inexpert. He’s a giant. And I’m a dwarf.

But look again at what the text says: “Elijah was a man …….Who was as a mighty prophet of God – NO! Who was a powerful worker of miracles – NO Who was a model believer that none other could match – NO Who was very unique & special – NO

NO! It says; “Elijah was JUST LIKE US”.

  • Question: But what did he do?
  • Answer: Verse 17: “He prayed earnestly”. Verse 18. “Again he prayed”.

He was a man who relied on his God: He was a man who drew power from his God:

 “Prayer is not a check request asking for things from God. It is a deposit slip – a way of depositing God’s character into our bankrupt souls.”

(4). Prayer When We See Believers Straying (vs 19-20).

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins”

Few things are sadder to witness than people we know (or family members); Who once professed the faith leaving it all behind.

How do believers wander? #1 Willfullness, #2 demonic influence, #3 worldly influence. The cause is NOT the issue… that a brother needs snatched from the fiery pits of hell is!!!

Illustration : She was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, She is known professionally as Katy Perry, and is an American singer and songwriter. Her childhood was spent singing in church; She even pursued a career in gospel music as a teenager. But later on in her teens something went wrong; And she wandered away from the faith. Her parents Keith and Mary Hudson are both Pastors of a Church; Keith is on record as saying; “I want you to pray for my daughter, don’t judge her, pray for her.”

James says exactly the same thing: Prayer is implied here; As James encourages us to seek to restore those believers wander from the truth.

Illustration: Philip Keller was a sheep farmer who wrote a book called, “A Shepherd Looks at the Twenty-third Psalm,” One of the things he says in that book is this; Sheep have no homing instincts. If lost- a dog, horse, cat, or a bird can find its way home, But when a sheep gets lost, it’s a goner unless someone rescues it.

The Bible describes you and me as sheep. We too need to help one another, especially help those who wander off. It is not talking about conversion but restoration. Whenever a Christian wanders away from the Lord: We should be concerned and pray.

Note: The phrase in verse 20: “…whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”


  • Do you believe that prayer can meet all the things and needs that you will ever face?
  • Do you have the confidence that your prayers are heard and are answered?
  • Do you need to pray for someone who is hurting? Sick? Lost? Straying?
  • Is there a sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
  • What can I model and teach? What does God want me to share with someone?

For More Teachings And Articles Visit Our Website:  http://www.wmtlc.org

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