Sunday School Material 1-25-15: Powerful Prayer

(John 17:6-21; 1/25/15)

Introduction:A key idea in today’s Sunday School material is that believers should know when to pray, praise, and call for the prayers of others. Prayerfully, we will be challenged to work on our praying and praising.

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Read James 5:13-15

I. Call for Prayer. In our Sunday School material James instructs his readers to pray or sing, in response to their being troubled or happy. The sick are to call for the elders of the church for special prayer. There is the promise that the sick will be made well and sins forgiven. 

Applications –

- Praying through troubled times. Notice in vs. 13 that the troubled are urged to pray. First, believers are subject to experience trouble. It can be trouble with our health, relationships, attitudes, or money.

Second, we are called to pray, instead of simply be a passive sufferer. Even when prayer doesn’t change things the way we want them to be changed, it can change us.

Third, notice that every believer should know how to pray for themselves, instead of being dependent on getting a special prayer from a church leader or someone else. Let’s work on praying especially when troubled. 

- Praising God. Notice in vs. 13 in our Sunday School material that the happy are urged to sing songs of praise. First, believers ought to experience some happiness. It is something wrong with a believer who never has anything to be happy about.

Being alive, having some loved ones, and having the hope of Heaven are some things we can be happy about, even when our health is not great, family members have been disappointing, and finances are out of whack.

Second, believers should sing songs of praise. God is the source of all things that we are urged to be happy about; thus, praise is in order. We may not sing as well as others, but we should practice singing.

It is a great way to praise and focus on God’s goodness towards us. Let’s work on praising God, especially when we are happy.

- Calling for additional prayer support. Notice in vss. 14-15 that the sick are urged to call the elders of the church to pray for them.

First, believers can still get sick. Hypertension, diabetes, and cancer can be found among believers and unbelievers. It seems that that text is concerned with serious sickness, not a common cold or an in and out procedure.

Second, the sick are to call, instead of assume that elders will simply show up or complain about them not showing up. It seems that the call is for additional prayer besides praying for one’s self, when troubled with sickness.

Third, the elders includes the Pastor, and in our local church, they may include Deacons, Deaconesses, Sunday School teachers, and ministry managers. Let’s work on calling for additional prayer support especially when seriously sick. 

- When prayer doesn’t produce magical results. Notice in vss. 14-15 of our Sunday School material that the elders are urged to pray with the anointing of oil with the promise that the sick person will be made well, by the Lord’s raising them up.

First, oil in this context is a symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit is more important than the oil. The Holy Spirit is already present, even when oil is not. Thus, oil is optional today.

Second, when the person who is prayed for rises up and is made well, we rejoice. However, what do we do when we pray with oil and the person is not made well and they are not raised from their sick bed?

The Pastor urges us to trust God’s timing. Even though this text seems to imply immediate and guaranteed healing, most of those who are reading these notes have had experiences to the contrary.

When prayer doesn’t seem to work the way we want it to work, we should trust that God is still working things out for the good of His own, and we can trust Him to do what is best for us - when it is best for us.

Let’s work on trust God to work things out for the good of His people, even when prayer doesn’t work as magically as we would like. 

Read James 1:16-18

II. Sharing in Prayer. In our Sunday School material James talks about confessing sins to one another, so healing can take place. He talks about the example of Elijah. He prayed for no rain and then for the rain to come back and it was so.

Applications –

- Our sins. Notice in vs. 16 that sin can be a cause of sickness, in which case confession should accompany prayer. First, even though all sickness is not the result of sin, some sickness is.

Second, when we believe that sin has a part to play in our sicknesses, it is good to confess our sins to someone we can trust to keep our confession in confidence and who will help us claim the promise of forgiveness.

The Pastor urges extreme caution in making public confessions of sin and prayerful decisions about who to make personal confessions to. Third, a good thing about confession is that it allows us to externalize the issues, instead of keeping it bottled up inside of us.

Confession also allows us to call on the promised forgiveness of confessed sin. Let’s work on dealing with our sins, which may be a cause of our sicknesses. 

- Being a righteous pray-er. Notice in vss. 16-18 of our Sunday School material that the prayers of a righteous person like Elijah is powerful and effective.

First, we should strive to be righteous. This calls for making sure that we have accepted Jesus as our savior and giving our best to live by His word, which is focused on loving God and others, as we love ourselves.

Second, we should live so that people can see how God has done great things through our lives, as was the case with Elijah. Third, at the end of the day, God does what is best and when it is best.

We should not read this text and assume that if you get a really righteous person like your Pastor or some TV personality to anoint you with oil and pray for you with an emotionalized and faith-filled voice that God is going to move quicker than if you would have prayed with faith in God to do what is best for you.

In other words, if it is God’s will, God will do it. If it is not God’s will, God will not do it. Let’s work on being righteous and trusting the wisdom of God. 

Conclusion: Let’s work on our praying and praising.  God has much for those who obey His will.

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