James 5: 13-18
Step 5: Be willing to admit your wrongs to God, self, and others.
When facing problems and obstacles or in any situation, what are we to do first? Is it to complain? Argue with one another? Be stressed? Get really upset? Take a smoke, go to the bottle or the extra piece of pie or the needle or…NO! We are called to pray, as prayer not only sets the tone for our behaviors and insights, but it also brings Christ into the picture with us more powerfully and effectively. Life is not about getting what we want, nor is prayer, as we may get a yes, or a no, or maybe a call to wait for the right timing. This passage is a series of calls to prayer and confession. We all indeed are called to seek forgiveness and reconciliation and prayer is a key for this to happen. That is why God says so in this passage.
Prayer is the active communication we have with God; it is the most important act for us in any matter or endeavor. Prayer is not about our will; rather, it is a means of seeking His (Matt. 6:33). Prayer does not just prepare us for recovery and service; prayer is our service to enabling His work in us for life and recovery. Prayer is not just a means of preparing us for the encounters and battles of life; it is the battle! Prayer is more about being the greatest work we can do than about the results we receive from it! Remember, our obedience is what is important, not how others respond to us. We are even called to bless those unreasonable people, and we do that, as we mature, by remaining true to His Lordship. You cannot be responsible for how others act in response to or treat you when you are conducting yourself with godly character (Romans 12:14-21).
- Suffering here means "in distress," and includes physical sickness, being stressed out, or having emotional and/or personal problems, including our addictions and dependencies. To us in this situation, hope seems to be missing and relief is absent, but when we come to them, we bring the hope and relief!
- Sing songs means praising our Lord, in unity and with a willing, loving heart. This is an aspect of real worship and music, which is never a show; rather, it is a response of our love giving praise. We, as a congregation, are the performers, and Christ is the audience. Real, authentic worship is to be inspired by who Christ is and what He is doing in us. It is not about form or function or type; it is about our hearts showing our love to Him. Prayer and worship share the same heart and attitude (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:12-17).
- Sick. The call for us here is to engage them with love and care; it is not about the healing, although, whenever possible, we are to seek the best and continual medical attention and psychological intervention. It is more about showing our love and willingness to be healed coming from His love. Also, the call for the sick person is to make sure others know they are sick so the others can respond. We who are in dysfunction need to reach out our hand for help and remove any pride that would keep us from doing it!
- Elders are the people selected to be in charge of the local church, whose call is to train, care for, and administer His love and precepts to the rest of the congregation. They must have the qualities of Christ working in them before they can help others. The connection is that the elders should be the primary ministers to the people of the church, making sure those who need help get the help they need (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1 Tim. 3:2-7; 5:15; Titus 1:5-16; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
- Anointed with oil has two meanings: "the healing power of God," a call, and also to "seek medical attention." It is not a ceremonial procedure, although it can also infer actually applying oil to the person and praying over them. We are called both to pray, have the determination to work out our psychological or chemical problem, and to also seek the medical attention we need (Isa. 1:6; Mark 6:13; Luke 10:34).
- Power of faith refers to trusting in God and then being faithful towards our intercessory duty to others. It does not mean a "special power" as some have proclaimed; rather, it is a call to action to show our Christian community and faith displayed in our care toward one another. Yes, God does heal today, but healing is not guaranteed or even normative. However, His empowerment to help you overcome dependency is. How we respond and learn is what matters to God over all else, even an actual healing. If your body is healed and your mind and heart are not centered on him, what good is it; it is merely temporary and of no eternal use.
- Committed sins. James is not saying all sickness is from sin, as some Jewish Rabbis thought; harboring resentment and unforgiveness actually deteriorate the body and mind. Seeking forgiveness is very restorative to the soul and body! Sometimes, though, God can cause us to be sick to get us out of sin, as it is far better to be stooped by sickness than to create a much worse environment for others and ourselves. Sin is the biggest barrier between God and us, and prevents God's work being received by us. Confession breaks these barriers (1 Cor. 11:30; Phil. 2:25-30).
What is prayer? It is receiving the amazing, redemptive work of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, so His power and purpose flow through us and into others. Prayer is spending time and talking with God, expressing our heart to Him, and interceding on behalf of others. It is meant to be exciting, powerful, and fulfilling. Just like a phone conversation, prayer is not a one-way communication. God will speak to us, not from a burning bush, but in quiet ways; so, we must also listen. And, of course, always compare to Scripture what you think He said, as He will never contradict Himself. Then, you will be able to distinguish between your desires and His precepts. There is no need we can ever face that prayer cannot meet; there is never a problem we go through that prayer cannot answer!
Real prayer is not found in formulas, but encouragement that will lead us to pursue God! When we seek Him, we are ready, along with others, to engage in recovery, enabling the actions of forgiveness from our appeal and request to God to the people we have hurt, who need closure and/or understanding and/or reconciliation. We can pray for forgiveness, for our nation, show our gratitude-even pray for our healing. Thus, in all things, we are to be both in personal prayer and collective prayer with other believers. Prayer is not just a means to get what we request; it is the means to line us up with God, His precepts, and His presence. Prayer can meet all things and needs; prayer can and must be a significant part of anything we will ever face in life, from the trivial to things of utmost importance! We can have confidence that our prayers are heard and answered. No matter what we need or face, we have Christ! Thus, we must preface, surround, and empower all that we do with prayer. It is never to be an afterthought; rather, it must be our first thought, our principle action, and our primary plan.
- What are we to do first in all situations? What causes you to go first to the art of complaining or stress or arguing or to your addiction?
- What do you do when you are facing hardships? How does that get you in trouble?
- How is prayer a part of these experiences? How can it be more so in your recovery?
- Are you willing to admit your wrongs to God, self, and others? If not, why not?
- What is prayer to you? How many of your prayers involve listening to God? How can you do this in a better way?
- How does harboring resentment and unforgiveness actually deteriorate your body and mind?
- Why is seeking forgiveness very restorative to our soul and body?
- How have you seen and experienced sin and unforgiveness as a barrier between you and God?
- How does your continual habit prevent God's work being received by you?
- How does trusting in God and being faithful help you in being effective towards your intercessory duty to others and their recovery from your actions?
- From whom do you need to ask forgiveness? Start making a list, which we will explore more in Step 8.
- Make a commitment to admit your wrongs to God first. When and how will you do this?
- What have you done about admitting your wrongs to God, self, and others?
Mediate on these passages for the next week or more: Luke 11:2-4; Acts 1:14; 4:24