I find it amazing how James, the brother of Jesus, took very complicated matters of spirituality and made them very practical matters of daily living. I think in light of this we can be accused of making faith complicated for the average person to understand. It is no different with the last subject James writes concerning in his epistle. The prayer of petition is not a complicated thing; you need something, you ask. It is no different when we are praying about healing:
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:13-14)
You would not believe how many people have let go of this knowledge that God heals through prayer. Instead prayer becomes a thing of a desperate person, a last resort thing. People in the last stages of their illness will seek out a healer, not realizing that the elders of the church have such authority. They do not realize it because the elders do not realize it. We have let it go. Why? Because it seems too weird? Too "medicine man" like? Too unsophisticated? Well, I hate to disappoint such a mindset but prayer and healing is part of who we are and it is the responsibility of the elders who are to look after the flock:
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:15-16)
Did you catch that? "Offered in faith", "of a righteous man"? There is a lot of belief in the Church but is there much faith? Remember the phrase Jesus used with a lot of people he encountered and often with his disciples, "Oh you of little faith". He even pondered:
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
What did Jesus see? Did he see today or maybe a little further into our future? There are pockets of faith but on the grand scale of things, at least in North America, there is a short supply of daily, practical faith living taking place. Instead it seems as if the darkness is overwhelming us as we let go of such a fundamental matter.
Then there is the matter of righteousness. In such a world as ours, with all its distractions and attractiveness, are we even attempting to live a Christ-like life? I think many of us could be accused of stretching God's grace pretty thin as we lean heavily on the theme of life, "I'm not perfect, just forgiven." No wonder our prayers are ineffective when we do remember to pray. We are God's instruments and servants in this place. We are holy and filled with the resurrection power through the Holy Spirit in us. We are not some common "joe" on the street who gets to do whatever he wants. We are the children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, and we have been promised that our prayers would be heard and answered, all we have to do is have faith in the asking.
James wrote earlier in his epistle:
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:6-8)
It is like bookends this thought of lack of faith in God as we pray. We do not make prayer our priority and when we do pray we do not have faith to believe for the answer. This makes for a weak and powerless Church that does good works but has no substance. I pray this does not describe your life, prayerless and powerless. This kind of life does not honour nor please God our Creator because he has given us a second birth with something completely different in mind. Heed what James has to say on this subject, seek forgiveness for your lack of faith and allow yourself to be used powerfully by God to reveal who he is to those who are seeking to know. Jesus promised you that you would do even greater things than he did, so let us stop living a second rate Christianity and let us show the world who our God is.