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Does Prayer + Oil = Healing?

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 16, 2023 12:00 am

Does Prayer + Oil = Healing?

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 16, 2023 12:00 am

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What does the Apostle James mean when he says, "The Prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up?" Does this verse support the existence of faith healers? Is it a promise that strong Christians will never need hospitals and health clinics? Stephen gives us some much-needed insight.



Every time someone comes clean, every time a prodigal comes home, without exception, every time the Lord will restore them. Guaranteed, in fact, the word translated restored in verse 15 is a word that could be rendered, revived, awakened, invigorated. Repentance always, leads to revival every time.

God, without fail, responds to the repentant sinner. But here's a question to think about. Is there a corresponding reality with our physical health? Is there something we can do that guarantees healing for our bodies?

Well, that's what we're exploring today. This is wisdom for the heart. Today, Stephen Davey is back in the book of James. He's looking at what James says about the sick being anointed with oil. Stephen called this message, Does Prayer Plus Oil Equal Healing? Okay, get out your pencil and your highlighter and turn to James, chapter five, beginning of verse 13.

Here it is. Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? Then he is to sing praises.

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders, bless you, of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith, note this, will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

Now stop. Immediately, you're struck with a number of questions, aren't you? I just jotted a few of mine down as I went through just the initial reading of this paragraph. What do elders of the church have to do with sickness and healing? Is there a third missing element in the life and role of an elder spiritual leader, pastor? Is it to include the ministry of the word and prayer and healing?

Why is oil a part of this process? Does this prayer of faith really always restore the one who is diseased or sick? What does confessing sin have to do with this setting? What kind of sicknesses are healed here?

Those are some good questions. I want to start at the beginning and untangle this from what we might like it to mean, and let's start by taking note of the primary issue here in this paragraph. It is the issue of prayer. In fact, you may not have noticed because we're typically focused on the healing guarantee that the word pray or prayer appears in every verse I just read. You ought to underline those words. That's the issue.

We'll see why in a moment. What's also missed is the context. James is not writing to Christians to tell them how to get out of trouble, but how to live through them, how to endure. The heart of endurance he is going to teach them is praying. You might think of endurance as an automobile and prayer as the engine that makes it work. So at the beginning of his closing comments, beginning of verse seven, he talks about being patient.

Do everything you can do, plant the seed, weed, hoe, and then leave to God what only God can do, send rain. He talks about enduring for the Lord is near. Verse 11, we count those as blessed who endure.

Remember Job and his endurance. And now here, beginning of verse 13, he adds to this list of imperatives. And one of them is he commands the believer to pray about everything.

So let's start at verse 13 and work our way through this often misused text. As we work our way through this for today, I want to give you five commands. I don't think we're going to get to all of them, but five commands from James that will help guide our study. The first command, an imperative, you know how James uses these.

These are exclamation points. The first command is this, to pray when you are overwhelmed with emotion. Look at verse 13 again. Is anyone among you suffering? Here's the imperative. He must pray.

Now let me just stop for a moment. You know the truth is, and this is true for all of us, we love to talk about prayer. We love to talk about answered prayer. We love to hear people talk about their answers to prayer. We thrill to the stories of Christians who've had some wonderful things happen in their prayer life. We love everything about prayer except the discipline of praying, right? One author did a survey when he was dealing with this text and found that the average Christian among those he surveyed prays anywhere from three to five minutes a day.

Compare that to three to five hours of television or radio or texting a day. He went on to write, compare the time you spend complaining to the time you spend praying. Compare the time you spend talking to people about other people to the time you spend talking to God about people and you'll have an idea how prepared you are to endure the troubles of life. James is effectively writing here at the outset of this paragraph, are you having trouble in life?

Well then who are you talking to about it? Have you talked to God? Talk to God!

Exclamation point. And by the way, James is not giving trite advice. He doesn't say, oh, you know, go pray about it.

Yeah, that sounds terrible. Pray about it. I'll pray about it with you. Now he knows he's writing to Jewish believers who are suffering terribly. Many of them have lost everything they had as they were exiled by the Roman emperor from Rome.

Their lives are turned upside down. Now they're in church, the assembly involved, listening to the letter written by the apostle James. No doubt they had a prayer list going around the fellowship. But the question would be, are you personally talking to God about your situation? You see, during times like these when you are overwhelmed with emotion, the emotion of misfortune, James writes, don't just talk about prayer. Don't just go to a meeting with people who pray. Don't just hang around people who pray. You pray. The tense of the verb means to pray continually. You're literally continually conversing with God about your struggle. When in pain, pray, he says. Well, then James flips over the coin emotionally and writes next in verse 13, is anyone cheerful? How about you?

Are you cheerful? Well, then sing, another exclamation point, which is exactly what Paul and Silas did when they were overwhelmed, right, in their captivity. They're in stocks and they are singing. Jesus Christ will do the same with his disciples as they leave the upper room. He's about to enter the most difficult spiritual arena of his life in the garden and the crucifixion. And before leaving, he leads them in singing together, Matthew 26, 30. Today, the bride of Christ, the church, is marked, isn't it, by composing and singing praise to God. You go all the way back, 1900 years ago, to Pliny, a Roman governor, who's writing to the Roman emperor, Trajan. And he describes Christians with these words, and I quote, these Christians are in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day when they sing hymns to Christ as God. And we've been doing it ever since.

We didn't do it because we came up with the idea. We do it because we are compelled to do it. There's something about Christ in us that leads us to want to sing to him.

And the precedent now continues. Listen, friends, we're enduring life together, aren't we? We are, as one author said, limping our way to heaven.

Clay pots, we all. So we need and find fellowship with one another. And the encouragement of our faith by praying together in this assembly and singing to Christ, who is our true and living God. Now, what we do collectively, James is saying, do individually. Whether you're in the car, in the kitchen, in the cubicle, it might be a little quieter in there, interrupt the emotion, whether it is good spirits or troubled spirits, interrupt them by connecting it back to Christ, your Lord.

This is constant communication. Secondly, James will further command us to pray when you are overcome with weakness. Look at verse 14.

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. Now, you noticed as I read that, perhaps in your translation, that we read the word twice translated sick, once in verse 14 and once in verse 15. Now, the word translated sick in verse 14 is the word asthaneo, which primarily refers to weakness or feebleness.

In fact, in all but three of its appearances in the New Testament, it never, ever refers to physical sickness, but to spiritual weakness. Paul, in fact, uses this word to refer to the immature believer who is weak in his faith. Romans chapter 14, verse 1, same word used in James 5, 14. He uses it again in 1 Corinthians chapter 8 and verse 9 to refer to the young and immature believer who might stumble into sin because of some liberty exercised by a more mature believer. So Paul encourages the more mature believer to be careful for the sake of the weak believer.

Same word. The primary meaning of asthaneo is spiritual weakness, spiritual inability, and this is the word used by James here. I recommend that you clear up a tremendous amount of confusion by simply writing into the margin of your translation next to the word sick, the word weak, or if you have room for the words, spiritually weak. That's why you're, by the way, to call for the elders, spiritually weak. Call for them. Call for those who are spiritually mature.

You don't call the elders when you're physically sick to come heal you, at least I hope not. I can't do much for you. I can take your temperature. I can give you some aspirin.

If you throw up in front of me, I can throw up back. I'll do that. That's exactly what I'll do.

I'll join you in your suffering. And James is saying to call the elders when you're spiritually weak. Now I want you to look down at verse 15 and notice the word translated sick again. That's a different word.

In fact, it's even more instructive. This word never ever refers to physical sickness. It refers to fatigue or weariness, which may very well lead to sickness. You could write into the margin next to that word translated sick in verse 15 the word weary.

We use that idea ourselves in the English language. I'm sick of this job. That means you're weary of it.

You're not physically sick. You're emotionally weary of what you have to do. This word, by the way, in verse 15 translated sick only appears one other time in the New Testament. In Hebrews chapter 12, where the writer of Hebrews is challenging the reader to endure. Same context as in James. And he says this, for consider him, that is Christ, think of Christ who endured such hostility from sinners against himself so that you will not grow weary.

Same word. Not so that you won't get sick. If you keep your eyes on Christ, you'll never grow sick.

I got news for you. We're all going to get sick and die of it eventually unless we have an accident and die. We're all headed toward more and more illnesses, aren't we?

I'm sorry to remind you that, but that's the truth. He isn't saying, but keep your eyes on Jesus and you'll never get sick. There are people who believe that and preach that. He's saying keep your eyes on Jesus so that you not lose heart.

You don't grow weary. The same word used by James in the text we're studying today, which by the way informs us immediately that this doesn't fit the culture of the modern healing movement or faith healers who would use this text to support their crusades. This is not, if you've noticed, a public healing service. This isn't even a healing service at church at the end of the sermon. This is a private prayer meeting in the home of the spiritually weary one. Now I want you to notice again verse 14 for maybe another surprise or two. Notice what he says.

Is anyone among you weak? Which I think is how it ought to be translated. Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him having anointed, is the tense, having anointed him with oil.

Now what in the world is going on? Well the Jews would have immediately understood what James was talking about. Very foreign to our ears. The soothing massage of olive oil would encourage a weary one or a fatigued one. In fact to this day we spend a lot of money on it. Maybe you love getting that little gift card to the spa. James is not referring to a little dab of oil on the forehead. The participle James uses here means that the person's body is to be rubbed with oil.

This is the best of their medicinal processes. We have historical accounts of this occurring where family members would do the rub down or women would accompany the elders to do this for the weak and weary women in the assembly. The word in fact translated anointing again is unfortunate and confusing. It makes this sound like some kind of sacred process. Some kind of special unique anointing.

The spiro zodiac is a wonderful Greek scholars now with the Lord was raised himself on the island of Crete and I went to his commentary on his word studies for this particular word to see and sure enough he had background in this personally. He said as he grew up you know it was in the early 1900s mid-1900s. It was used for both physically and emotionally weary people. In fact he said we were never sick of anything without having a rub down with olive oil.

That was just part of it. Kind of like maybe some of you grew up you're old enough to remember castor oil. Whatever you had here take a spoonful of this. Herod the great bathed in a vessel full of olive oil which would have cost a fortune to give himself strength. Strength Celsius an ancient doctor recommended oil in the case of fevers. Even today we go to the spa perhaps.

James reference to a full body rub down with olive oil was only part of the setting. Little doubt the best of medicine applied in this primitive setting. In fact where there were no doctors the elders would come. But that wasn't the primary issue. If all they needed was a rub down then then why why not just send a group of women from the church?

Why not just send men? Why call for the elders to oversee this process? Because the primary issue is an issue of sin.

I'll show you in a moment but let me say at the outset this person who is spiritually weak and fatigued is in this physical state because of unrepentant sin. And notice what happens again in verse 14. Look again the elders are to pray over him having anointed him with oil. Now notice they're praying in the name of the Lord.

And I got to stop long enough to deal with this quickly because this has also turned into some kind of superstition. The name of Jesus is used as some kind of incantation. And oh if you didn't mention his name you're not going to be healed. If you simply go through the book of Acts when the apostles had this apostolic power of healing you'll find that often they didn't even pray. In fact the case can be made that everyone healed in the book of Acts was an unbeliever.

Go through and study it yourself. Jesus healed often and they were unbelievers. To pray in the name of Jesus is simply meaning that you are praying in alignment to everything that represents Jesus Christ. To simply say Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus over and over again is not some kind of special incantation. His name represents his attributes, his character, who he is. To invoke his name means you're simply acknowledging everything he was and is. You are also surrendering to the totality of the revelation regarding who he is. He is priest high priest he's mediator he's redeemer he's savior he's God in the flesh he's king and on and on. Furthermore to pray in the name of Jesus means that you bind yourself as it were to that which he would pray. You're praying according to his will and since we do not know what his will is when we end it by saying in Jesus name we're submitting that prayer to him and we're saying whatever it is about this prayer that you won't sign your name to we're satisfied with you not accomplishing because we don't know the will of Christ.

This isn't a special formula. There are no special incantations. There isn't holy water, holy oil, some power in the hand of a priest or pastor. The power is with Christ and him alone.

So how do you do it? Well there are debates throughout church history about even the posture of prayer. A lot of ink is spilled on how you should pray to really get God to answer you, which if you just read the Bible you'll find there are all kinds of postures right. And Peter's about to drown and that was an effective prayer.

Jonah in the belly of a whale that was an effective prayer. You pray when you're overflowing with emotion. You pray when you are overcome with weakness.

Now thirdly let me focus in this laser light of interpretation by giving you a third point. Pray when you are overpowered by sin. Pray when you are overpowered by sin.

Notice verse 15 again. And the prayer offered by faith will restore the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven him. Now there isn't any doubt that this weak and weary believer is praying along with the elders. But would you notice by the way that the prayer of faith is not prayed by the person who's weak and weary. It's prayed by whom?

The elder. In other words it isn't the strength of the faith of the weary believer it is the strength of the faith of those in spiritual leadership. You translate that into the modern healing movement if he was talking about sickness which he isn't but if you just took it and what they use as a justification for their movement. If a person doesn't get healed in a crusader healing service well their faith is immediately called into question isn't it? It's supposed to be the faith of the healer. I mean if somebody isn't healed well you just have enough faith.

That's a wonderful default by the way. I'm going to pray for your healing and if you don't get healing I'm off the hook. It's your tough luck. It's your faith that needs to be bolstered. Pastor Brad who led our music earlier has a brother who is a quadriplegic and in his wheelchair one time Brad said a man came up to him and he said you know what if you just had more faith God would heal you. Johnny Erickson Tada now in her early 60s by the way serving Christ faithfully from her wheelchair boldly I would say confronted the health and wealth world on a radio talk show led by Hank Hanegraaff some time ago when she said and I quote her and she above anybody else could probably say this and get away with it she said Kenneth Copeland Kenneth Hagen or Benny Hinn have never called me and asked me to come on their program. I can only wonder why she went on to describe that when she was younger believing God still wanted her to be healed that she had her sister driver to the Washington D.C. arena where Kathryn Kuhlman was holding a healing service maybe you're old enough to remember her and her long white flowing gown she always wore white the arena was packed and Johnny said there were 35 or so of us in our wheelchairs waiting for the stadium elevator to take us down into the arena and during the service she said we sat there with bated breath waiting believing but nothing happened she said she could remember all of them being ushered out early by the ushers and sitting there lined up waiting for the stadium elevator to take them back up to the parking lot every one of them many of them no doubt wondering if the problem had been their own lack of faith James would say to the healers of our day not only are you misinterpreting my letter even if I was talking about sickness in general the question of having enough faith is not in them it is in you and I want you to notice the guarantee of promised restoration when you understand this passage correctly it's a wonderful guarantee look at verse 15 again and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick or weary and the Lord will raise him up not might raise him up not maybe raise him up he will raise him up guaranteed so now if the passage is talking about physical healing every time a believer gets sick all you got to do is invite the elders over with their little vial of oil and you can expect healing but the truth is even the Apostle Paul at the end of the apostolic era was leaving people behind sick one of his co-workers near to death if all it took was a prayer and a little dab of oil why withhold that from them that is in the context here the key phrase by the way is in verse 15 if he has committed sins they will be forgiven him that little word if if we use the word if in the English language we can mean a number of different things we could mean possibly we could mean probably if my girls come and ask me for my credit card and I say well if they know I mean yes just go ahead and say it you just have to watch the body language of the person you may know them well enough to know that they mean yes in the Greek language it's stated in its construction one of four possible classes or conditions behind that little word I won't bore you with all the conditions but James uses the third class condition which translated means more than likely James is saying if he has committed sins and more than likely he has they will be forgiven in other words weariness and weakness may not always be the result of sin but James writes in this case where he's called the elders to him more than likely it is in fact the verb translated here he has sinned if he has sinned actually refers to a condition where the sinning believer is now abiding under the consequences of sin that he has failed to repent of in other words his sin has finally caught up with him and it's literally worn him out either he has been unrepentant and as many commentators believe discipline from the assembly therefore calling the elders to him or he has kept his sins a secret and they finally worn him down and now he wants to call them to help him as he clears his conscience with them and ultimately the Lord and guess what guess what every time then they pray with this repenting believer every time that happens every time someone does it every time someone repents of sin which is over powered them every time someone comes clean every time a prodigal comes home without exception every time the Lord will restore them there will be forgiveness without exception guaranteed in fact the word translated restored in verse 15 is a word that could be rendered revived awakened invigorated repentance always always leads to revival every time guaranteed that is quite literally the most important guarantee you've ever received what you need more than anything is the forgiveness of sins you need to know that your sins are forgiven the promise of God's Word is that when the repentant sinner calls out to God he or she always finds God's forgiveness this is wisdom for the heart the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey Stephen is the president of our ministry wisdom international the website you can use to learn more about us or access the archive of Stephen's teaching is wisdom visit there today and then join us again for more wisdom for the hearts. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-16 00:56:07 / 2023-11-16 01:05:51 / 10

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