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James; The prayer of Faith

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posted on Dec, 10 2012 @ 05:16 PM
In the last part of his New Testament letter, after dealing with various “enemies of God”, James turns back to giving advice to the brethren.
The final theme is “Faith”, with special reference to patience in suffering and confidence in prayer.
James looked at the first of these two topics in ch5 vv7-11.
From v13 onwards, he’ll be considering aspects of prayer.

Between those two sections, he inserts (v12) a condensed paraphrase of the teaching of Jesus against swearing (Matthew ch5 vv33-37).
Why was Jesus giving this injunction, and why is James repeating it?
Strictly speaking, “swearing” is the act of calling upon a spiritual power to confirm the truth of a statement, or punish an untruth.
Many expletives found in popular speech tend to be much-abbreviated versions of the same thing; “May this bad thing happen to me if it is not true that I am surprised by this event”.
I’ve always thought that the real meaning of the third commandment was about falsehood in swearing.
If you make an oath, appealing to the Lord as a witness, you are “taking the Lord’s name”.
If you make an oath, appealing to the Lord as a witness, and attach that oath to a falsehood, that’s when you are taking the Lord’s name “in vain” (i.e. without true purpose).
Jesus refers to this line of interpretation (“You have heard that it was said…”), but tightens up the command by demanding that men give up oaths altogether.
I think his motive was the conviction that swearing and falsehood had become inseparable.
We can make the same discovery by listening to the people around us, and finding that those who are swearing most fervently and vociferously (“It’s all true, on my mother’s grave, on my child’s life”) are the very people most likely to be lying.
When swearing by God’s name is routinely attached to a falsehood, then God’s name is dishonoured.
The same is true when the oath is made by heaven or earth or anything else that belongs to God.
So Jesus cuts it off altogether and says “Don’t bother”. They should just give a plain statement, a straight “yes” or “no”, and make sure that it’s true.
Anything else will come, as James says, “under condemnation”.
I take it that this warning was part of James’ normal pastoral advice, presumably because the problem was persisting in his own community.
Therefore it gets included here in what amounts to a compendium of his teaching.

V13, taken In isolation, is a neat little axiom; pray when you’re suffering, sing praise when you’re not.
In this context, it’s a connecting link between the two sections on Faith.
The first was about Faith in suffering, the second will be about Faith in prayer.
So this verse bridges the gap between the two by pointing out that if you are suffering, then you should be praying.

Some of our prayers must be about ourselves, and James makes reference to those in other parts of this letter.
“You do not have because you do not ask”- ch4 v2.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”- ch4 v3
“If any man lacks Wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him”- ch1 v5
In this final portion of the letter, he’s considering the kind of prayer that benefits the other brethren.
This means, in the first place, prayer for the sick.

James gives advice to the sick man which probably reflects the current practice of the church.
He should request a visit from the elders of the church, and they will pray over him, anointing him with oil.
The anointing of the sick is also mentioned in Mark ch6 v13, but I haven’t seen any reference to it as a non-Christian practice.
I would assume that the purpose of the oil was to symbolise the power of God at work, the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit. Hence “in the name of the Lord”.
Nevertheless, it is the the “prayer of Faith”, and not the anointing, that will “save the sick man”.
The real essence of the healing is the prayer made by the sick man’s brethren as represented by the leaders present at the scene.

The effect of this prayer is described in four different ways, in vv15-16.
“…will save the sick man” has already been mentioned.
“And the Lord will raise him up…”
“And if [KAN] he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
Finally, in v16, “Pray for one another that you may be healed”.

At first glance, we would take “saving the sick man” to mean the same as “healing the sick man”.
But we could find a double meaning in that promise that “the Lord will raise him up”.
For if we understand sickness as an “ebbing away” of life, then healing can be seen as a foretaste of resurrection.

How does the forgiveness of sins fit into all this?
The summary of the process, in v16, begins with “Confess your sins to one another”, which implies that part of the prayer, at least, is about the sins which have been confessed.
Which implies, in turn, that they need to pray for the forgiveness of these sins before the man can be healed.
So the background assumption is that if the sick man has been committing sins (that “if” allows for exceptions), they may have been contributing to the sickness.
Which is why the response from God would combine the forgiveness of sins and the healing.

The other assumption is that prayer for the forgiveness of sins is more effective coming from the brethren than it is when the sinner prays on his own.
That’s why James gives that assurance about the effectiveness of the prayer of a righteous man, which he then re-enforces by quoting the example of Elijah.
1 Kings (chs.17-18) tells how Elijah announced the arrival of the great drought (we’re not told that he prayed for it), and how he prayed successfully that the rain should return.
If Elijah, just an ordinary human like ourselves, was able to pray effectively for the life-giving rain to replenish the land, then the rest of us can pray with confidence for life to return to ailing brethren, giving them forgiveness of sins and healing.
This gives us another double meaning, for the previous promise that the prayer of Faith will “save” the sick man.

On the same principle, we can also pray for the man who’s “ wandering from the truth”, moving even further away from God.
That’s the message of the last two verses of the letter.
Two promises are made in the event that someone “brings back” such a sinner.
Firstly, the rescuing brother will be saving “his soul” (the soul of the sinner, I take it) from death.
The second part of the promise is that the rescuer will “cover” (that is, obtain forgiveness for) a multitude of sins.
I’ve been tempted by the idea that he receives the covering of his own sins, as a kind of reward for services rendered.
Closer examination forces me to abandon that line of thought.
The second promise is really completing the first promise- the covering of the sins is what saves the soul from death.
In principle,then, it’s the same action as the prayer for sickness- praying for the sins of the brother, winning him forgiveness and healing and life.

James ends the letter on that note, which brings us back to his opening theme.
The opening passages of this letter were about the importance of Faith, and how it should be preserved.
While the closing passages have been about the prayer of Faith.
The opening verses were about the trials which might cause Faith to break down.
While the closing verses deal with the restoration of a man who has lost contact with Faith.
So this letter, in effect, comes round full circle, and now returns to the starting point.

edit on 10-12-2012 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 10 2012 @ 06:25 PM
This thread is the sequel to an earlier thread covering the first half of what James has to say on Faith;

James; Waiting for God

edit on 10-12-2012 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 11 2012 @ 05:21 PM
Thoughts on sickness and sin

Is there a connection between sickness and sin?
The assumption made in this passage of James is that healing of sickness and forgiveness of sin go hand in hand.
As I observed, the implication is that unforgiven sin may be one of the reasons for sickness.
We can find the same connection in some of Paul’s remarks.
He tells the Corinthians that “many of you are weak and ill, and some have died”, because of their failure to “discern the body” in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians ch11 vv29-30).
It’s been suggested that the sentence “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Corinthians ch5 v5) involves the belief that the man would be more vulnerable to sickness when God’s protection had been removed.
Do we accept this connection as a complete explanation for sickness (which conflicts with modern explanations), brush aside what James and Paul taught on the subject (which might seem a little presumptuous), or look for a middle course?

Some observations can be made.
The first is that James himself doesn’t assume that sin is going to be present in every case.
The wording is “if the sick man has committed any sins” indicating the possibility that he won’t have done.
(I’ve double-checked- that “if” is there in the Greek. It’s not just a translator’s way of dealing with a hanging clause.)
Therefore James is not claiming that sin is the only reason for sickness.
That reduces it to a contributing factor, alongside any other reasons there might be.

The second is that both James and Paul are talking about sickness within the faithful community.
Believing that people under God’s protection should be less vulnerable to sickness, they’re treating sickness within the community as an anomaly which needs to be explained.
So if there is a one-to-one connection between sickness and sin, it might be a by-product of the relationship between God and believers
Outside that relationship, the only connection might be the more generalised link which Christian teaching believes to exist between the very existence of sin and the very existence of suffering.

If a believer is suffering from sickness, therefore, it might be appropriate for him to examine his life for any sin that might be a contributing factor, but it would be less appropriate for us to make that assumption about the sickness of other people.

posted on Dec, 11 2012 @ 06:31 PM
Thoughts on “covering”

What is meant by the “covering” of sin?
James will be thinking of the Hebrew word KAPHAR, which gets translated by phrases like “cover over” or “atone for sin”.
That’s a very suggestive combination of ideas.
It implies that the forgiveness of sin is to be understood as a kind of “concealment”
We know from the stories of Adam and Cain that sin can’t really be concealed from God’s knowledge.
But if God cannot be ignorant of sin, he might be willing to ignore it, like Nelson “turning a blind eye”.
Perhaps what we call an “atonement” is the kind of action which God is willing to accept as a reason for disregarding the sins that have taken place.
The practical effect would then be the same as allowing the sin to be concealed from his eyes.
That could be one reason for saying that the sin has been “covered”.

posted on Dec, 12 2012 @ 05:06 PM
Two different verses in this chapter refer to the ” righteous man” (DIKAIOS).
In v6, it is the righteous man who has been condemned and killed by the wealthy.
The promise in v16 is that the prayer of a righteous man “has great power in its effects”.
Who is this “righteous man?”
It seems to me that in both cases the term “righteous man” is used to mean “member of the faithful community”.
In other words, it's the equivalent of the phrase “the saints", found in Paul and other New Testament writers.
This would be yet another example of James apparently avoiding Pauline terminology.
The practical effect of this conclusion is that what James says in v16, about the power of prayer, is a promise that is applicable to any member of the community.

posted on Dec, 13 2012 @ 05:19 PM
It’s possible, as I’ve suggested in other cases, that vv19-20 were part of the normal pastoral teaching of James before they were brought into this letter.
Those two verses, taken in isolation, could have had a slightly different emphasis.
In the present context, tacked on to the end of a discussion on the importance of prayer, the natural assumption is that the wandering brother is to be brought back by the same means.
In the original teaching, as part of the encouragement of the “rescuing” brother, more might have been said about the role of persuasion.

posted on Dec, 14 2012 @ 06:07 PM
For information;

Now that this series is complete, I propose adding an "Index" thread to link the various threads together, as i did in the case of the Revelation series.

posted on Dec, 14 2012 @ 06:07 PM
For information;

Now that this series is complete, I propose adding an "Index" thread to link the various threads together, as i did in the case of the Revelation series.

posted on Dec, 18 2012 @ 04:27 PM
Now that the series on James is complete, an Index of the various threads can be found at this location;

James; Teacher of Faith and Wisdom

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