Friday, November 27, 2015

The Prayer of Faith

In James 5:15, James speaks to the elders of the church.  They should gather around the sick and “anoint that one 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.”  In our Presbyterian denomination, the elders of the various churches do this. Often there has been healing.  What about those times, though, where healing has not come?  When this happens we tend to assume there was something wrong with us or our prayer.  This assumption is wrong.    First, remember the Syro-Phoenician woman to whom God said “no.” (Mark 7:24-30) What did she do then?  She pressed on.  Her patience, her perseverance, this was her faith.  Consider a second case, without a doubt Jesus is faithful and yet remember how even he had to persevere to heal the blind man. (Mark 8:22)  
The question might arise, “why must we sometimes persevere in prayer?”  The answer comes when we recall how God trains his people up.  Look at Judges 3:2, “When Israel came into the promised land, God left certain enemies in the land in order to teach the people to war, to train them up,” that is, to teach them to fight the good fight, to teach them to be patient and to fight despair.  The word “faith” can also mean our “establishment” from God. God may be establishing us by calling us to patience.  We may be showing “faith” or “establishment” through patience and perseverance.  Finally though, let’s cast a glance at the larger picture: Certainly faith raises people up from sickness and even from the grave. (Acts 13:34b-35)  This faith however is not necessarily our own!  God is faithful even when we are not. (2 Tim. 2:13) It was HIS faith that raised Jesus up from the grave.  Moreover, it was (to coin a word) Jesus’ “enfaithment” by his Father that “justifies many.”  Romans 3:22, Isaiah 53:11)  We see then that whichever way you look at it, faith is powerful; faith is healing.  Faith makes the dead live. And one last thing, remember that when we fail, his glory shines all the brighter. Think of Peter sinking beneath the waves-- but what did the Lord do?  “Immediately he reached out his hand” (Mt. 14:31) and saved Peter.  James commands the elders of the church to gather round the sick to anoint with oil in the name of the Lord and reminds them that the prayer of faith will save.  The Lord saves but he shares his power to save with us; all that he has he gives to us because he love us.  He has promised to do so (Isaiah 55:3) and he keeps his promises, not a word of his, falls to the ground empty. (55:11)  We are granted to work beside him in the vineyard, for “we were created in Christ Jesus to do good things that God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)