December 13, 2004

Prayers of the Righteous

We're coming into the homestretch: based upon the paragraph structures in the NRSV this will be the second to last passage under consideration. James seems to be ending off with prayer:

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

-- James 5:13-18

Some potential queries for thought (don't feel obligated to answer each one here unless you feel so moved):

1. What is the author's main point in this passage? (MAIN POINT)
2. What new light do I find in this particular reading of this passage of the text? (NEW LIGHT)
3. Is this passage true to my experience? (TRUTH)
4. What are the implications of this passage for my life? (IMPLICATIONS)
5. What problems do I have with this passage? (PROBLEMS)

From Friendly Bible Study


At 3:41 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

"They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them,"

Is this true to my experience? Absolutely! I can tell you this works. It happened to me. On the face of it, it may seem 'anti-intellectual', but I don't think so. A scientist would look at this is a perfectly objective way: not deny it or affirm it, unless or until he observed it as I did.

Our intellects are really puny. If what there is to know is a mountain, we know a grain of sand.

In the middle of the 19th century some supposed) scientist mourned because everything that could be invented had already been invited.

At 3:41 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

OK, here goes ...

1. main point - The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.2. new light - No new insights for me.

3. true to my experience - The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; ... sometimes this has been my experience, but other times not. there are some loopholes here, though ...the prayer of faith ... maybe my prayers were not faith-filled enough to save my mom? Or, maybe being "saved" doesn't mean being made well?

4. implications - the line that struck me the most was ... "anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven". Is it just because I'm catholic that I feel always so guilty? :-). I hope that the content of this line is truly so and maybe I won't end up in the bad place after all.
Also, I like the implication that prayers are answered.

5. problems - I don't know much about the old testament, but I'm not so happy with this example of Elijah's prayers. He doesn't seem very compassionate,God either, in this example where he called down a 3.5 year drought (and had Baal's priests slaughtered).

At 3:59 p.m., Blogger david said...

(MAIN POINT) Prayer is meaningful and effective for those of faith.
(NEW LIGHT) Since Elijah is presented as an example/model for us to live by, can we then expect the signs and wonders of a prophetic ministry to follow us as we learn to be more faithful?
(TRUTH) My experiences of answered prayer are few, though one or two are dramatic. I tend not think of prayer as effective.
(IMPLICATIONS) Maybe I need to take prayer -- petitionary prayer -- more seriously.
(PROBLEMS) What if prayers of faith truly were effective? What if the signs and wonders that followed the prophets really were "normal"? What does that say about the poverty of my faith, one who cannot bear witness to such?

At 7:29 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

Crystal, you said:
"4. Is it just because I'm catholic that I feel always so guilty? :-). I hope that the content of this line is truly so and maybe I won't end up in the bad place after all.
Also, I like the implication that prayers are answered."

My dear, Perfect love casts out fear. You (and all of us) have one vital thing to do: believe that God loves you.

Sick religion, Protestant as well as Catholic, has taught innumerable people that God is an angry ogre waiting for you to mess up so he can zap you.

But that's not what Jesus said. He said God loves you. That's all you have to do: believe that he (or she if you prefer) loves you.

That one simple thing changed my life from doubt and defeat to love, joy, peace, and all the rest of it.

BELIEVE, dear, believe-- that God loves you, I love you, and David loves you. Lots of people love you because you are lovable. God is not interested in revenge. You're his child!!!

I pray continually that you may put that in your heart and live on it.

At 8:41 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

Thanks, Larry ... I hope to get that one thing right (beieving God loves me) before I buy the ranch :-)

At 9:05 p.m., Blogger Meredith said...

Main Point: To me, this passage is encouraging us to pray, to be inwardly conscious of God, in good times and in bad. This passage also reminds us that we are not alone, and support is found in other people.
New Light:
Truth: Prayers are effective powerful - but often not in the way we might anticipate.
Implications: When I read this passage metaphorically, I see that it contains an encouraging message to continue communion with God and with others in times of trouble and in joy. This openness acknowledges that in this life we will have sorrow, sickness, wrongdoing, as well as good times and joy, and all of these experiences can be shared.
Problems: Taken literally, this passage is difficult because it does not match my experience. Obviously, sick people are not always healed with prayer, nor does prayer get us out of predicaments routinely. I have never given much attention to sin, but it is not my experience that prayer absolves us of wrongdoing. I also bristle with the subjective word ‘righteous’; I believe all beings have that of God within, and are valuable, just as they are.

At 3:12 p.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

whoops -- I broke my own rule, I read others' comments before fully forming and posting mine. Oh well. I probably did that because I don't have much to say on this. While I was glad to be given queries, I quickly discarded them (sorry). About all I got out of this passage was to note that the first directives have to do with praying to God and others direct us to our relationships with one another and then there seems to be a merging of our relationship with God and with one another. This impresses upon me the interplay of our relationship with God and our relationships with each other.
I am curious as to why the example of answered pray is Elijah and the drought, why not the raising of the dead son of the widow?


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