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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

January 9, 2013

James 5:13-20

  1. Verses 13.All through the book of James, the writer was inspired to call our attention to how we talk to each other, and how we talk to God. We were challenged to keep our tongue on tight leashes, as well as refrain from complaining to God. James was dealing with a church whose conversations were not always praiseworthy. In the preceding verses, James has given two negative commands regarding the use of the tongue – they should not grumble, and they should not take oaths designed to be broken. Now, James turns to the positive use of the tongue. In verse 13, the tongue should be employed in prayer and praises to God. The “suffering” James refers to in this verse is a general term for affliction. When adversity comes our way, we need divine wisdom (see James 3:13-18), and we are to pray to God, knowing He will give it to us (James 1:5-8). Adversity should draw us toward God, and prayer should be our first response to our trials. In response to our prayers, He will give wisdom, strength, and peace of heart and mind (see Philippians 4:6-8).The response to adversity is prayer versus grumbling and complaining. Trouble will come, but the response should be consistent with our new relationship with God. We are now children of God, so our attitude toward trouble is that God can help us. Instead of calling out in complaint we can call out in prayer. The second positive use of the tongue in this verse is praise. If one is happy, then he should “sing praises.” Here, James sees our praise being expressed in song. It is evident that James sees music as contributing greatly to our communication with God. This reminds us that we need to have a registry of inspirational songs on tap just for times of joy and times of trouble. The response to happy times is not arrogance or conceit but praise to the one who gives every good and perfect gift. There is a temptation to become haughty and arrogant in times of great happiness. Our happiness should be times to give God all the praise. James has already told us that we should receive trials and trouble with great joy, now he says we should enjoy happy times with praise as well. From the perspective of this writer there should never be a time when we are not praising God. II. Verses 14 -16. For the next several verses the writer teaches us more on prayer.

  2. Verses 14 -16. For the next several verses the writer teaches us more on prayer. Specifically our verbal response to sickness is not fear, but prayer. If a person is sick, (and this verse seems to point to one who is very sick), then they should call for the elders who will come and pray while anointing with oil. If they were too sick to pray, call for others who can pray. The writer has asked us to pray, to praise and to call others for prayer. These are the proper uses of the tongue. The tongue should be used to summon others believers to come to our aid in times of crisis. The writer lets us know that the prayers of the righteous community are very effective. When the community prays there is great power and influence with God. Instead of the community complaining and grumbling, the faith filled community is praying to God seeking God’s favor. Within this prayer, James also refers to things that can hinder our prayers. James mentions sin and its effects on our prayers. Sin can hinder prayers, so another use of the tongue is to confess sin. Because sin can hinder prayers the believers are encouraged to confess their sin to God and to one another. This is important because person A could be praying for person B’s healing, but person B may need to repent for something that is hindering person A’s prayer.

  3. Verses 17-18. James gives us an example of a powerful prayer warrior Elijah. When he prayed God held back the rain, and when he prayed God released the rain. His prayer was powerful and effective. The point James wants his readers to see is that your prayers are powerful and effective. He uses the example of Elijah to emphasize the fact that the prayer of a righteous man has great effectiveness. Elijah was a man of like passions, a man like us. He was not perfect, as a study of his life makes clear. His prayer to resign from his ministry and from life itself was rejected by God, who told him to go back to work (1 Kings 19). But his prayers to stop the rains and to start them were acts of obedience on his part, and God answered them. Note the fact that the word “prayer” is singular, not plural, and so is the word “man.” Here, James is not emphasizing the need for persistence in prayer, though our Lord did so (Luke 18:1-8), along with His apostles (Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 1:4; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:3). We should surely be persistent in prayer, but that is not the point here. James is saying that one prayer, prayed by one person, can be exceedingly powerful. If our prayers are powerful and effective, we should be committed to taking everything to God in prayer.

  4. Verses 19-20. Finally James encourages us to use our tongues to lead others back to the fellowship who have wandered from the faith. James doesn’t explicitly highlight the tongue in these verses, but one can assume that the main way someone can be brought back is through some sort of conversation and encouragement. James had previously highlighted the way the tongue could be used to tear apart the fellowship, now we see how the tongue can be used to repair the fellowship. People will from time to time wander from the faith, it is our duty to speak to them and do our best to lead them back to the fellowship. In times like this we must pray that God will give us the words to say to help our brothers and sisters back into the fellowship.

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