“Helpful” Prayers

Wednesday, Mar. 22                    

James 5:16.  “Confess your trespasses to one another, that you might be healed.  The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  New KJV.   I like this version because it puts the 1611 English into modern language.  It also replaces the word “faults” of the old KJV with “trespasses,” which fits the context better.  The context is how to strengthen our brothers in the Lord.  Our gamut of faults is not the issue in this passage; it’s our trespasses against one another.  The reason for confessing trespasses is “that you might be healed.”  Some people limit that to physical healing, probably because verse 14 speaks of that, but verse 13 presents a broader perspective—problems among believers.  I believe that the healing of verse 16 is in that broader context.  Our relationship with one another needs to be healed.  But I also want to comment on the last two words of this verse—“avails much”  This suggests that our prayers may not be fully answered,  that they will help, but may not solve all the problems.  I’m reminded of Jesus’ prayer in the garden.  After his plea about having “this cup” removed from him, he said “yet not my will, but yours be done.”  And that was Christ, the Son of God.  How, then, are we finite creatures capable of knowing the mind of God?  So God does not give us carte blanche.  He uses problems (including sicknesses) to come into our lives for a reason,  He is not obligated to reveal his reasons to us.  And his way of answering our prayers will certainly surpass ours.  The truth remains that our prayers—when we meet the conditions—will have positive results.  It seems better to leave the rest up to an omniscient God.  The main problem with this passage, though, is not how well we understand it, but to what degree we put it into practice.  ’Nough said.

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