"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (Jas 5:16 AV)
I was thinking earlier this morning on the responsibilities of the saint and came upon this passage. In this age when carnal religion and charismatic excess present themselves as mediocre counterfeits in the church, it becomes far too easy to miss the importance of charisma and responsibility in our relationship with Jesus Christ and the Father. As I type this I cannot help but experience another déjà vu as I know this matter has pressed me repeatedly in past discussions and experiences. It is always troubling when the solid ground is missed because of one's excess and another's dismissal. One cavorts in the midst of a money scheme while the latter wallows in his cessasionism. I think it is the latter that troubles me more. The hyper-Charismatic with his prayer cloths and anointing oils sold by the gallon is easily identifiable. The dogmatic cessasionist, on the other hand, hides his rejection of the work of God behind a cloak of presumed orthodoxy only to feign an allegiance of charisma with the presumption that the gifts of God must certainly exist but not in any way imaginable today. The church world is full of both kinds today but I have to wonder how many of those James refers to as righteous men are offering fervent prayers for the glorious healing powers of God? Ezekiel pushed the thought further in another context when the prophet offers … "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." (Eze 22:30 AV). The LORD desires those righteous men who know His power and His promises.
I was going to take this thought to a polemic against Calvinist determinism but will save it for another day. There is no shortage of opportunities to expose the poverty of such thoughts but too many times I fail to dial into these more important issues in our sanctifying walk in Christ. I am a fervent believer in the power of prayer. I know that I know that I know, endlessly repeated, that the LORD works through our prayers and grants the wishes of a faithful servant. Sometimes those fulfillments are not exactly what we expected but we find our position granted as we desired. I needed to find another job a couple of years ago, one located back where we had previously lived and where our grandchildren now live. It took several tries, several prayers and at the end of the day, we are where we desired. Now I had prayed to the LORD for a particular opportunity but he gave me something better. Had he granted my particular wish, we would be in a lesser position, in a place that might have proved difficult to us knowing what we now know. Instead, He placed us where we can accomplish our immediate goals with little impediment. I want to bring this back to the passage from James.
When I was a young boy, I was enamored of an elderly man who operated a small dry cleaner shop in the neighborhood I grew up in. He was in his late seventies at this time and he took ill one summer with his very life threatened. Suffering from pneumonia, his lungs were filling with fluid and I remember my mother discussing the dire condition with several of the neighborhood women. None gave him any hope and as I sat on the upper steps of our stairwell I wept. I wept for an old friend and cried out to the LORD asking Him to save his life and bring him back home. I was not ready to see my friend go. Now, I was raised as one who sought out his own faith while a child excepting my forced attendance at the local Congregational Church Sunday School classes. I knew much of the scripture and as a child I knew Jesus was LORD. I can be ashamed of my later life but at that time I believed and trusted that the LORD was true to His Word. So weeping on that step and praying to the LORD, I knew He listened. I knew that my prayers mattered. I knew there was an effect. The LORD brought that old man home, restoring his health when all others prepared for his death. He became a testimony to me of the power of prayer that I cannot shake today. I have come to believe and know today that as James stated, the prayers of the LORD's children have an effect on our walk, the people around us and in fulfillment of the desires we have as children of God.