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JAMES 5:13-18

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 21, 1998

James 5:13-18:  Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise.  Is any 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 sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.  Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves 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 brought forth its fruit.

After King Solomon died the Kingdom of Israel was divided and many evil kings ruled over Israel and Judah. Probably the most evil was Ahab and his wife Jezebel. In fact, the Bible says that Ahab did more to anger God than any other of the kings of Israel before him. (1 Kings 16:33) Ahab and Jezebel worshipped Baal and led the people into tremendous sin. It was an absolutely evil time in the history of Israel. Elijah was a prophet of God during these days.

And as Elijah is in prayer before God - God gives him a message for King Ahab - a message of judgment. And so Elijah goes to King Ahab and says that there isn’t going to be any rain - or even dew on the ground - until Elijah says there will be. And then Elijah goes and hides from Ahab because - of course - Ahab is not too happy about this. And for 3 plus years it doesn’t rain - and there’s a severe famine - no rain - no crops - no food - dying cattle - and lot of hungry people.

Finally - again while Elijah is praying - God gives Elijah another message for Ahab - “Go show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain.” (1 Kings 18:1)

James writes about this and says that Elijah was a man like us - and when he prayed things happened: God answered His prayer - God used him powerfully. Elijah was not some marble saint - a saintly statue that we think about an pay homage to - not some unknowable super-hero saint with superhuman powers. He was a human being like us. He knew depression - despair - and doubt just like the rest of us. And yet God answered his prayer.

This morning we want to focus together on “Prayer and the Common Man” - average people like us - encouraged to pray. This morning I’d like to share two truths about prayer from James.


One of the best books I’ve ever read on prayer - was written by Mary Geegh - who - years ago - was a missionary in India. The title of her book is “God Guides” and it tells about Mary’s experiences as missionary and how God would guide her through difficult experiences in her life.

Mary would take every situation and circumstance to God in prayer - pour it out before God - and then wait and listen for His answer. Whatever He said to do - she would do. An average person - like us - trying to live in obedience to God in the midst of the circumstances of life.

Once there was conflict between a colleague and Mary. The colleague had 10 children and was usually sick and couldn’t carry out her work. Mary was critical - because this lady was trying to hold onto her job when she wasn’t able to keep up with her responsibilities. The conflict was getting pretty bad.

One morning Mary was praying about all this and God told her to take her colleague one fresh egg.

Mary writes, “A dozen fresh eggs might be reasonable - but one! That might insult my colleague. So I wrote if off, and gave up for that morning. At noon when I came home, there was a chicken in a large armchair in my living room! The hen flew down and started to cackle, and there was an egg, freshly laid”

Mary took the egg and went to her colleague’s house. Her son was outside and she gave the egg to the boy and left quickly.

That night the colleague showed up at Mary’s house and said, “How did you happen to bring me that egg? It was so fresh and good.”

Mary answered, when I was praying God told me to.

“Oh, that’s just like God!” said the colleague. “He knew I had nothing to eat this day. There wasn’t enough food for all, so I went without. Then you brought the egg for me. When I ate it, I felt so satisfied and strengthened.”

And that was the beginning of healing between Mary and her colleague.

Sometimes we think that God is impressed with erudite - pithy - prayers - lots of Thee’s and Thou’s - and shalt this and wilt that. “Oh Almighty Wondrous God of Creation - Thou who art enthroned above the firmament” - and so on. As if somehow if we don’t talk in King James English we aren’t good enough to speak to God. But God listens to the hearts of the common man - us. And God invites us to come to Him in prayer.

I’m often concerned when people say to me, “Badveli, please bless the table.” - especially when they look at me as if my prayers are somehow better than someone else's. First, I don’t think they really want me to bless the table - the food yes - the table no. And secondly, my blessing the food probably would poison it. Maybe I’m a little "charoug" about this - but I often say, “Let us ask God’s blessing on the food.” It’s not like Badveli’s are super saints or something. Prayer is a privilege given to every believer.

Have you noticed that in the order of service we call our morning prayer the “Congregational Prayer” - not the “Pastoral Prayer”. Have you wondered about that? When I was a kid the pastor used to pray the “Pastoral Prayer” and I could close my eyes and sleep till he was done. The longer the prayer - the better. Prayer is something that we do together. A privilege that all us ordinary people have been given by God.

In verse 13 - James talks to ordinary individuals - and says that in whatever circumstance they are in they should pray - prayers of request - prayers of praise.

In verse 14 - He says that the leaders of the church should set the example of coming together and praying for the needs of others.

In verse 16 - James says that we are all to pray for one another. All the people of the church in prayer for all the people of the church.

Prayer is a privilege that God gives to all of us to come together and praise Him - to give thanks - to bring our joys and concerns to Him.


We become more “common” when we pray

A few years ago I was on the Island of Kauai - laying out on the beach - enjoying just being away from everything. When I noticed that there were hundreds of little sand crabs all over the beach.

When the water would go back out - they would pop out of their holes and go running around looking for food - each one doing its best to avoid making any contact with the other one. Then when the next wave came back in they would rush back into their holes and wait for the water to go out again.

So often our community life as a church can seem like that. Individuals rushing around trying to get their needs met - avoiding unnecessary contact - trying to endure the circumstances of life - waves crashing over us. And even though we’re all crabs - there’s a lack of community. And God has called us to community. We miss community when its not there.

James says in verse 16 - “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you my be healed.” - physical healing - healing of relationships - healing in the community of faith. “Confess your sins to one another” - that’s hard. In fact its scary. For each of us rushing around as individuals - to be that open and honest. And yet, that type of prayer life is what builds the community we long for.

How can we have this kind of sharing? I’d like to share something I’ve been learning - I’m not there yet - but it helps me - and can be a help to all of us.

Please turn with me to 2 Corinthians 3:13. Here’s the background to 2 Corinthians 3:13. The setting is 3,500 years ago - the Hebrew people have just been released from slavery in Egypt. For 2½ months they’ve been traveling through the Negev desert.

For 40 days they’ve been camped at the foot of Mount Sinai waiting for Moses - the great Moses who called forth the 10 plagues - defeated the armies of Pharaoh - who led the people of Israel though the Red Sea and into the wilderness - and who’s now up on the mountain talking with God.

When Moses comes down the mountain - the people are afraid. Moses is holding God’s law - written on tablets of stone - by the very hand of the almighty God. And Moses’ face radiates with a great brilliance - its shining. To all who are there - the glow declares the glory of God’s presence. Moses has been with the almighty God.

And Moses tells the people what God spoke to Him on the mountain. When Moses finishes speaking with the people, he puts a veil over his face. Whenever Moses spoke to the people he would take off the veil - and the people would see the face of Moses and that the skin of his face was shining with the glory of God. The shining of his face would remind the people of Moses’ special position before God.

Now - 2 Corinthians 3:13 - We are not to be “....like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor.” The veil stayed on long after the glory had faded. The veil became the symbol of Moses’ position before God rather than the glory which had faded. And Moses - who was a man like us - kept the veil on - because he was afraid of what the people would think of him.

Veils. We all wear veils. Symbols of our relationship with God - veils of attendance - appearance - service. Veils of who we would like people to think that we are - veils of family life - social position - knowledge.

And we are we so afraid that people will see beneath our veils. There are even some who go around trying to tear off other people’s veils. Afraid to see themselves - they would rather expose others.

Paul says - 2 Corinthians 3:16,17 “But when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” - liberty - liberation from fear and insecurity through turning to the Lord.

When I’m most afraid of exposure - of people seeing me as the sinner that I am - when the glow under the veil doesn’t exist - and I’m afraid - its because I’ve taken my eyes off of Jesus and put them on myself. The closer I get to God, the less concerned I am about what others see. The more I’m willing to trust Him - the more I realize His power - His sufficiency - His security in my life.

And prayer - as the Body of Christ - this community that we are a part of - draws closer together. The secret is to first trust God and not ourselves or the opinions and attitudes of others.

James says, “the prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” “Righteous” doesn’t mean a life of holiness that we common people can never reach. James uses Elijah as the example of righteousness. A common man like us trying to live trusting God.

Each one of us is like that. And our reason for being here is that God has - by grace - called us to this community. And we together seek to live trusting Him - to find our security and strength in Him. Let’s admit when we’re not there yet and trying to give the impression that we are.

“Prayer and the Common Man” - average people like us - encouraged to pray. Prayer is a privilege that God gives to each one of us. He listens to every one of our prayers. And if we can exercise this privilege in humility and faith - prayer can draw us so much closer to God and to each other.