International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday January 25, 2015
Purpose: To affirm the power of healing prayer
Bible Lesson: James 5:13-18
Background Scripture: James 5
James 5:13-18 (CEB)
(13) If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. (14) If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. (15) Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (16) For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. (17) Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. (18) He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
When most of us think of the Book of James, we think about the relationship between “faith and works” which James wrote about in chapters 1 & 2. The Book of James differs from other New Testament writings in that it does not follow a typical letter format. There is no farewell or benediction. While many think that the writer was a brother of Jesus, I will take a more orthodox position that James may have been a son of Joseph, by a previous marriage, but the Virgin Mary, was a forever Virgin. Which is the position of both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Therefore, I think James was a half-brother of Jesus not just because he was the Son of God, but also because James was not the son of Mary.
The Book of James is a series of thoughts on different issues, an essay on ethics. The writing is more like the Old Testament books of wisdom.
Chapter 5 starts with a warning to the proud and wealthy, and then issues a call for patience and endurance. And verse 12 talks about not making oaths. Starting in verse 13 we see that the writing talks about suffering and rejoicing. In verse 14 instructions for ministering to the sick are given.
When James uses the word elders, in verse 14, this would be a significant change from the elders in the Old Testament and the way elders were thought of at the time of Christ. In the Old Testament, elders were simply the older men in a community. At the time of Christ in the Jewish community, elders were a group of men in each Jewish community. The elders in each community formed the Sanhedrin. In the villages there were 7 elders in the Sanhedrin, in the cities, there were 23, and in Jerusalem there were 70 elders in the Sanhedrin. The elders interpreted and enforced the law. They were not responsible for the congregational worship or any religious rites. Only the priest were responsible for that.
In the Book of Acts, it seems that elders had a new meaning. Elders were anointed by Paul as he left each church that had been established. Elders also joined with the Apostles as a ruling body in Jerusalem. It seems that as the Apostles died or departed Jerusalem, elders were appointed to help with the governing aspect of this newly established religion. Elders became involved in the worship as well as governing in the early church.
These are the elders James is referring to in verse 14. The elders were those in charge both of the spiritual and in the everyday work of each congregation. Today, ministers in the United Methodist church are generally ordained elders.
James gives us some specific instructions on praying for the sick and confessing our sins to each other. James links our confessions, healing, prayers and anointing. He also reminds us that righteousness matters.
So, why don’t our prayers get answered? First remember that all Christians are healed perfectly when they get to heaven. Death and illness are part of our mortal life, but we will be perfect in eternity. Christians sometimes forget that this world is not our home. As the old spiritual says, “This world is not my home, I am just a passin through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue.”