James 5:13-18

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. James 5:13-18

I know a man who, went it comes to matters of faith, is a hard nut to crack. He was blessed with Archie Bunker’s personality and hasn’t had much difficulty over the years coming to terms with it. Throughout his life he attended church. Well, pretty much. Unless something better came along. Then he got sick. Really sick. Scary sick.

He had a lot of acquaintances and many friends. Many people told him they were praying for him. They sent him cards. Phone calls. Visits. He began appreciating prayer in a way that he never had before in his life. Maybe because he had never been to such a scary place in his life. The place where Jesus once said, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
He got better. He is still in church every Sunday. Unless a better deal rolls around. And he can’t talk about the idea of hundreds of people praying for him without choking up. It is real for him.

We used to do a worship service here at Faith called 6TEN. It was a unique service in that it took the spirituality of the 12 Step movement very seriously. We heard readings every week from the Bible and either the AA Big Book or the Al-Anon book. I learned a ton in preparing for each weekend. But the service never really took off.

People would come a few times and then we wouldn’t see them again. People in recovery would come and sometimes leave feedback that we were crossing a line that we ought not cross. People from church would show up sometimes but, far more often, what we heard was that people wanted to try it but were afraid that others would find out and wonder if maybe “they had a problem.” Yes, we do have a problem. We don’t take this passage from James as seriously as we ought to.

Imagine a community of people confessing their sins…not to thin air…not somewhere back in their minds and imaginations…not to a priest in a little booth or across a desk…but face to face, person to person, openly, honestly, directly. Scary, isn’t it? Part of the problem with the 6TEN service is that we could not capture the immediacy, the honesty, or the vulnerability that characterizes the life of a healthy 12 Step group. A public worship service is a good place to talk about confession but it takes safety, confidentiality, even anonymity, to actually do it.

But when it happens, confession is more than just good for the soul. It works relational and personal healing in a way that nothing else can touch. Like dying and rising to new life.

Why should we confess our sins to one another? Why should we pray for the sick, or for rain, or for world peace, or for recovery from natural disasters, or for anything else that we wish to pray for? Because “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.”

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you have promised to hear our prayers. Where two or three of us are gathered, you are in our midst. As we draw near to you in our prayers, you draw near to us with healing. As we confess our sins to one another, your grace enables us to forgive those who have sinned against us. And even, in time, to forgive ourselves. Such simple invitations. Such powerful promises. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “James 5:13-18”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thank the Lord for God’s GRACE! Remember the acronym:
    God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense.

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