OPENING SONG AND PRAYER
We started our time together by singing hymn #54 "My Lord, I Did Not Choose You."
MEMORIZATION & DISCUSSION
- A link between prayer and forgiveness of sins is community. In our individualized culture, we may not readily see ourselves living in community with others. But as Christians in a church community, we seek to serve and lead one another toward forgiveness through prayer. Praying for one another leads to healing. We live life in community, and so dealing with sins happens in community. James tells us to confess our sins to one another and to pray for one another.
- Physical sickness may actually be a result of sin. Of course, we understand that not all illness is a result of sin, but in this case, James says that the cause of the illness is a person's sin. Through confession of sins and prayer, physical healing can occur. Sickness that arises out of sin is a context in which we ought to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.
- In general, we confess our sins to God. But James deals with a context of a person who is sick as a result of sin; in this case, we ought to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. However, this communal activity is not the simple end of the matter. We must truly repent of sins and make real change in our lives unto holiness (James repeatedly reminds and commands us to do this throughout his letter). We must deal practically with our sin, pursue righteousness, and grow in holiness. God uses real events as these (trials, sicknesses, etc.) to get our attention and provide opportunities to work out our sanctification through prayer and repentance.
- "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." Prayer is a real means in which we can tap into God's strength and ability to accomplish things that we could never do on our own. Prayer can only be effective if it is actually prayed! And when we pray, we are confident that God hears us. When God answers our prayers, He accomplishes amazing things.
- However, God is not a genie who magically answers every prayer that a righteous man might offer. Rather, this righteous man is one who abides in Christ, and he is one in whom the Word of Christ abides. This man is asking for things that please God and align with His will. In this context, the righteous man is praying for healing of a person who is confessing their sin. The prayer is not just for healing, but on a larger scale, it is a prayer asking God for this person's restoration to Him.
- An example of a man who had his prayers answered if found in Elijah. Elijah was not a superhero; he was a normal fellow human being, "a man with a nature like ours." But he was a man who had faith in God. He prayed earnestly, and God heard him. When we pray, God hears us too. However, we ought to pray according to God's will.
- James is talking about prayer as it relates to care and love for one another. Prayer is not to be approached with a "ask for whatever you want and you'll get it" attitude. We ought to pray for one another in love and in interest for each other's souls.
- Jesus did not come to earth to save buildings, corporations, governments - He came to save people. Our prayers should be on behalf of people. In doing this, we can be sure that our prayers lifted in the interest of others' salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God are aligned with God's will.
- Passionate prayer does not automatically mean answered prayer. Although Elijah's prayers were earnest, God is the one who answers prayer whether they are filled with passion or not. God answers prayer that is meaningful, faith-filled, trusting, and of course, actually lifted up for Him to hear.
- A church community looks out for one another. There will be times when people stray or wander from truth, and we must pursue them and turn them back.
- He who turns a sinner turns him back to the truth. This man who returns to the truth makes a real change in his life and turns away from his sin.