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Lesson 12: Prayer, Healing and Restoration *

Introduction: Have you heard someone announce that they worship on their own? They are tired of "church" and communing in the wilderness is better because the wilderness does not say unpleasant things to them. While it is important to have private time with God, in our study this week James points out the benefits of regular fellowship with other Christians. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Fellowship with God

    1. Read James 5:13. This describes a lot of us. Chances are that we are either in trouble or are feeling happy. How should we respond to these greatly differing experiences? (By turning to God. Either we should pray for help or we should praise God through singing.)

      1. What is your normal reaction when you run into trouble? (In the past, I would immediately do what I could to fix the problem. Now I've learned that my first reaction must be to turn to God.)

      2. Do you become angry when you face problems? (Human nature is to blame others, and get angry because of what they have done to us. If, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we first turn to God it will save us from instantly saying or doing the wrong thing in anger. This avoids making the problem worse.)

    2. What kind of attitude is reflected in James' advice for us to pray or praise? (God is in charge of our lives. He is the one who is the source of all blessings. We turn to Him for help and we thank Him with praise.)

  2. Fellowship with Believers

    1. Read James 5:14-15. Being sick is a particular kind of trouble. Why not just pray on your own - as James mentions in verse 13? Why bring the elders into this? (God does not need elders to convince Him to heal, but the idea of fellowship with fellow believers is introduced here.)

      1. At times I have been a part of a group of elders who prayed and anointed a sick person. In America, drug manufacturers disclose the problems with their drug at the same time as they advertise how their drug can cure. My wife used to tell me that I needed to disclose that when I was a part of the prayer and anointing in the past no one got better. My wife was joking, but until recently, it was true. Is James making false promises about healing?

        1. Was I the problem? When James writes "the prayer offered in faith," was he writing about the elders' faith? If not, whose faith is he describing, the person who is sick?

    2. Read Mark 2:1-5. Whose faith is Jesus talking about here? (It is not clear. Jesus seems to be talking about the faith of all of them.)

    3. Read Matthew 18:19. What if the sick person had faith and only one other elder was righteous, would that be sufficient faith to cause the healing? (Notice that Jesus does not mention the degree of faith or righteousness required, He just mentions the number of believers who are in agreement. Two is enough.)

    4. Let's look again at James 5:15. Does James give a time for the raising and healing? (No. I'm sure that everyone in all of the anointing services in which I was involved were sinners - from the sick person to all of the elders. James does not say that we have to be sin-free, he says that we need to have faith. In addition, he does not give a time for healing. I believe that God will raise to eternal life all who fell asleep trusting in Him.)

    5. The most recent time that I was part of a prayer group of elders, the sick person was healed. God does miracles in my life and the lives of those for whom I pray, and I believe this has much more to do with the sovereign will of God, rather than my relative righteousness. What do you think?

  3. Healing, Faith and Sin

    1. Look again at the last part of James 5:15 and Mark 2:5. Jesus says to the paralytic that his sins are forgiven. James says, almost as an afterthought, sins can be forgiven. What is the relationship between the healing and sin?

    2. Read John 9:1-3. Why did the disciples ask about sin and blindness? (The understanding of the day was that sin caused diseases. I think there is still a lot of truth to their understanding.)

      1. What did Jesus say was the reason for the blindness? (That God might be glorified. It was not a matter of sin.)

      2. When sin is confessed and forgiven, is God glorified? (Yes! The statements of James and Jesus about sickness and sin have at least two explanations. First, the understanding of the people of the time. But, more importantly, God wants to cure us of sin. His ultimate goal for us is a life free of sin and sickness - and that goal will be realized in heaven.)

    3. I just came back from spending several days at Disney World, where fat people abound and ride around in electric carts. Indeed, most of those walking around were also fat. (Speaking of fat, I managed to gain four pounds during vacation!) At the same time, I saw almost no one smoking. It seems that the health risk of smoking has been exchanged for the health risk of obesity. Here is the hard question: can sin interfere with healing?

      1. If you would be reluctant to pray for healing for a smoker, what about an obese person?

      2. Aren't some people naturally predisposed to being fat? Does that matter?

      3. I've done a lot of reading about the brain, and I'm convinced that exercise is a universal "cure" for sickness of all types, including mental issues. Is the failure to exercise a sin that prevents us from being healed?

      4. Have I insulted nearly everyone? My point is that we look at smokers with lung cancer, and homosexuals with AIDS, and we feel less compassion for them because of their actions.

  4. Confession of Sin

    1. Read again James 5:15. What is the timing of the forgiveness? (After the person has been healed. This suggests that healing is available to all.)

    2. Read James 5:16. Wait a minute! After all our discussion of sin, is James saying that we need to confess our sins to be healed? Or, is the praying for each other the only factor related to healing?

    3. Look again at James 5:16. What do you think about confessing sins to our fellow believers?

    4. Read Psalms 51:4, Psalms 32:5 and 1 John 1:9. To whom do these texts suggest that we should confess our sins? (We sin against God, and it is God who has the power to forgive sin. Thus, it makes sense to confess our sins to God.)

    5. As you think about this issue, are there different kinds of confessions? (I think so. First, there is the confession and forgiveness of sin which is a matter between you and God. Second, Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:4 and Leviticus 6:1-5 all suggest there are sins that we need to make right with others. Third, is what I think James is talking about: a general sense that we work with fellow believers on the road to righteousness. We pray for each other, we discuss sins with each other, we discuss spiritual issues with each other.)

  5. Prayer Power

    1. Read James 5:17-18 and re-read the last part of James 5:16. We have been discussing sin, but I think James' focus is on prayer. Why does James mention Elijah as an example? (He says he "was a man just like us." All of us have the potential for powerful, effective, prayer.)

      1. Read 1 Kings 19:3-4. In our discussion so far, I have equated health issues with sin. Jesus suggests in Matthew 15:16-18 that this equation is false. On the other hand, not trusting God is a sin (Revelation 21:8). When James points us to Elijah, what is he saying? (Faith and earnestness in prayer are the key to healing, not an absence of sin.)

    2. Read James 5:19-20. This sounds like the ultimate "works" claim - if we re-convert "backsliders" many of sins will be forgiven. What does the context suggest is the proper understanding of this? (It speaks to our understanding of sin, rather than the nature of salvation. This chapter has been about fellowship. If your attitude is to uphold and save fellow church members, that, rather than your waistline, is what is important in God's eyes.)

    3. Friend, are you part of a regular fellowship? If not, you are missing a critical aspect of being a Christian. Why not repent of this and join a group who pursue faith and practice obedience?

  6. Next week: The Everlasting Gospel.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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