We Can Pray (James 5:13-20)



When we purchased our house there was a home warranty included in the purchase by the seller. Whenever we have a problem with a house appliance, we contact the company for our home warranty and pay a deductible for them to send a qualified technician to come and fix the problem. So far, we have had multiple calls and feel comfortable that we have a home warranty.

Whether you have a home warranty or not, most of us do not ever plan to contact a warranty company unless there is a problem. In fact, I hope to never really think about the company unless there is an issue I cannot fix for a low cost.

The same is true for many of us in the way we treat prayer and praise. Many of us have blessings and we fail to recognize God as the source and give Him due praise. And many of us have burdens that we fail to truly seek His wisdom and work to solve our issues. We treat prayer and praise as actions that fit our comfort and convenience rather than a central way we understand life.

Today’s message will identify ways we can include prayer and praise as a more common and ordinary approach to life.



The book of James is written by the Lord Jesus’ brother. He wrote to Jewish believers enduring pressure and peril. James refers to them as “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (James 1:1).  The opening remarks of the letter exhorts believers to patience and perspective when facing trials: “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And endurance must have its full effect, that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4).

From James’ writing, the believers were suffering and responding in anger with lots of verbal quarreling (James 1:20, 3:2-12, 4:1-12), being oppressed by evil rich people (2:6-7), and being impatient and untrusting of God’s care (3:13, 4:15, 5:7-20). Therefore, James exhorts them toward humility, service, and above all prayer.

In this passage James references at least 3 types of prayer

1)   We can pray with cries and celebrations (James 5:13).

James asks rhetorical questions: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him praise.”

The questions assume you will experience both suffering (κακοπαθει̑ν means to experience wicked suffering or evil harm) and cheer (εὐθυμει̑ν means good spirits) because there are applied actions to assume. prayer_1

In suffering cries we pray, in cheerful celebrations we praise. Both actions are in the present tense suggestion continuous action. In fact, life is filled with pleasure and pain, blessings and burdens. As God’s children we are called to rejoice always and give thanks in all things (1Thess 5:16, 18). Even though we may not feel like finding joy in hardship, we must persevere knowing God loves us and will provide us the strength to persevere. Every test becomes an opportunity to give testimony of God’s faithfulness and provision.

James uses the word ψάλλω/psallo (where we get word “psalms”) for a prayer and praise response.

è Prayer is not a simple lever to pull or button to push, but a relationship to pursue.

è Sing! Songs show a level of learned faith that are sung as self-reflection and instruction for others (1Cor 14:15; Eph 5:19-20; Col 3:16-17).

  • What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer. O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer. Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

è Read Psalms! Psalms provide us the language of prayer for both cries and celebration.

o   Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul, He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
2)   We can pray with our church elders (James 5:14-15).

James asks another rhetorical question, “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.”

Reference of those sick/weak (ἀσθενει̑) could refer to either or both those who are physically ill, or perhaps more specifically those who are weak in faith due to the pressures and persecutions that James has been referencing throughout the letter.

The instruction to call the elders of the church to pray affirms the role of the local church. Those who diminish or dismiss the importance of becoming a member with a local church should pay attention to the value of being a church member. The privilege of having elders to call when one is sick/weak is truly a benefit and blessing of the local church. Non-members do not always have the same access and availability to the elders’ prayers and participation into their lives.

Elders are shepherds who serve, love, pray, and give oversight to the people of God. It is not only their duty but delight to share in the helping and healing of people in God’s kingdom. Again, the language is in the present tense suggesting not a single event but repeated prayer experiences.

Sometimes the elders services comes in helping with spiritual encouragement or exhortation, and sometimes it comes through the hope of praying by faith in God’s power to heal. In all, the elders do not become faith healers but faith helpers to encourage the individual toward faith in the Lord – the only one who can raise them up.

James also references the elders anointing the sick/weak individual with oil. The anointing with oil had multiple connotations. Oil was symbolic of God’s presence and a sign of blessing (Deut 11:14; Judg 9:9; Song 1:3; Job 29:6; Ps 23:5, 45:7-8, 133:2; Prov 27:9; Eccl 7:1, 9:8; Isa 61:3; Joel 2:24). Oil was also used in spiritual acts of worship or ceremonial anointing (Gen 35:14; Ex 40:9-11; Lev 8:10-11, 8:30; 1Sam 10:1, 16:13; 1Kings 19:16; Amos 6:6; Mat 6:17, 26:6-13; Lk 7:36-50). And lastly, oil was used for ordinary purposes such as cooking (Num 11:8; 1Kings 17:12-16; Ez 16:13; Lev 2:1-4; Rev 6:6), cosmetic (Ruth 3:3; Ecc 9:8); fuel (Ex 25:6; Mat 25:3); medicine (Isa 1:6; Lk 10:34; James 5:14). In this instance it would appear that oil was either or both symbolic of God’s presence (Mark 6:13) as well as perhaps medicinal usage (Luke 10:34). However, anointing with oil is not a necessity to prayer for healing, with numerous instances of Jesus and the Apostles praying for God’s healing without anointing oil.

è Entrust yourself to your church leaders.

  • o Just told person who’s candidating to be a pastor this weekend to remember the value of the congregation balancing the pastor’s influence and power. Only dictators like “yes crowds”.
  • o Entrust is comparative to submit, but both are biblical (Hebrews 13:17).
  • o Those not members, consider starting the process to unite with spbc.
  • o Those who are members, listen for how God may be leading you to further entrust/submit to your church leaders. It may be to call upon them for prayer; or to heed an exhortation from Scripture (not man-made opinion – always guard and discern for the pastor’s voice vs God’s voice).
  • o First step may be to present yourself to God at the altar – “Lord, I Need You”; altars alter you!


3)   We can pray with other Christians (James 5:16-20).

James includes a third type of prayer in that of with other believers: “pray for one another, that you may be healed” (5:16). By including other believers in the role of intercessory prayer, James is showing that the faith-filled prayer, not the person, is the means through which God’s power to heal is provided. That is not to say that the gift of healings (1Corinthians 12:28) is irrelevant, yet simply saying that no person or group of people has the monopoly of effective and healing prayer.[1]

Praying for one another should include confessing sin to each other (James 5:16). These exhortations are also in contrast to James’ previous warnings to “not speak evil against one another” (4:11) or “not grumblings against one another” (5:9). Specifically, confessing sin is related to effective prayer in that our sins hinder God’s answering our prayers (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15; 1Peter 3:7).

Answered prayer in the affirmative or physical healings are not always assured to us on earth. Sometimes non-healings are used of God for a season or the duration of someone’s life (cf. John 9:1; 1Cor 11:30; 2Cor 12:1-10; Php 2:25-30; 2Tim 4:20). God’s silence does not imply His absence or avoidance of our prayers, but it could include our iniquity against God. Therefore, we must confess sin and have close ties to the Lord’s grace, so the “prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

James provides an illustration with the prophet Elijah of a righteous person who prays. Elijah was a man with a nature just like ours or more literally: “a man of like suffering” (ὁμοιοπαθής) 5:17[2]. Elijah prayed fervently for no rain and for 3.5 years there was no rain, then praying for rain it did (1King 17). In all, Elijah is used as an illustration of one who lived in a national turmoil and trying times – like the audience of James – – and like us today – – and yet persevered in prayer.

James closes his letter with emphasis on the prayer and participation in each other’s life. Those who warn the wandering sinners and confront the wayward will save souls.

è Prayer partners. Learning to pray often occurs best when praying with others. Praying for each other’s struggles and confessing sins to one another is part of the disciplemaking process for us all.

è Prayer ministry. People who pray for requests and needs both apart from those in need and together with those in need. Personal visitation among those who are hurting or needing hope takes an active and ongoing presence within the body life of the church.

è Prayer house. Jesus never said His house would be a place of preaching but did say it would be a house of prayer. D.L. Moody said, “I’d rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” O that God’s people would pray!



Our prayer life reflects our belief in God. When we think that we need to be strong in order for God to accept, love, or use us then we have misunderstood the gospel. God does not want us to be robust but to be reliant upon Him

2Corinthians 1:8-9 “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

Colossians 1:11 “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” 

Weakness sounds like weekly, that we may be reminded every day of life on earth is to be lived in His power and not our own. Strength in the midst of suffering does not come from escape of circumstances but endurance in prayer. When it seems like you cannot take another step; when you fear looms over your thoughts and doubts lurk inside your heart then you must remind yourself that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1John 4:4), and “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; Jesus has overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Prayer is possible because God is personal.

[1] In fact, Paul’s argument to the Corinthians is that all do not have the gift of healing, by using the language with an implied negative in 1Cor 12:30.

[2] The Bible records Elijah as hungry (1Kings 17:11), afraid (1 Kings 19:3), and depressed (1 Kings 19:3, 9-14).

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