Powerful Prayer

[Note: to hear the sermon podcast to accompany this Bible study postCLICK HERE]

Prayer changes things. Prayer changes you.

In James 5, we read some amazing words about calling on the Lord in prayer together with other believers. It’s this authentic, humble, seeking the Lord together that is the heart of this passage. You can do this. God will change you. God will change those around you.

So what do you do? Let’s read the passage first.

James 5:13-18 (HCSB)
13 Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.

Here are some quick things to apply to your life:

  • When you are suffering, don’t complain to one another (James 5:9) and don’t make an oath to God (James 5:12). Instead… PRAY. (James 5:13)
    • How would things be different if believers all put this truth into practice? 
  • When you are cheerful, do not brag. Rather… SING PRAISES TO GOD. (James 5:13)
    • How is a church worship service different when people are authentically praising God, rather than strutting around declaring their own wonderfulness?
  • These two things bring the church together rather than tearing it apart.


In James 5:14-15, we see a simple process when someone is very sick.

  • Call for the elders of the church.
  • The elders anoint the person with oil.
  • The elders pray for the sick person to be well.
    • Does your church practice this type of praying for one another? 
The process described above does a couple of things. First, it shows that the church family has not turned its back on a sick person, even if they are very, very sick. Second, it shows that the individual and the church family are looking to God for ultimate healing. The oil is not a magic potion, and the elders do not have in themselves magical powers. The oil represents the fact that God is the healer, a tangible reminder of God’s presence. When the elders pray, they believe in God!

Once, a young couple asked me to pray for their young son whose tear ducts were not opening up. If his body didn’t begin to work properly, he would require surgery. This was frightening to this young couple, to think that their only child might need delicate surgery around his eyes. We prayed together, declaring that God is the ultimate healer. Sometimes the Lord works through miracles, sometimes He works through medicine, and sometimes He brings different types of healing (emotional, spiritual) even when there is no physical healing. A few days later, the boy’s tear ducts opened up. And the family gave God all the glory!


In the Gospels, when healing occurs, Jesus becomes famous. (See Mark 6:12-14.) That should be the result today when someone is healed (through medicine, through miracles… however). The person who is praying is not the one to receive glory. Neither is the one who was sick. The right person to receive glory for healing is Jesus.

It’s OK to thank the doctor, but remember to give the glory to God.

The prayer of faith will heal the sick (James 5:15), not the prayer with wrong motives (James 4:3). In the ministry of Jesus, you see a connection between faith and healing (see Matthew 9:22 and Mark 5:41). And some sickness is a result of sin. For example, an alcoholic should realize that his sinfulness of drunkenness is contributing A LOT to his health issues. He should confess his sin to the Lord, repent, and receive healing and help from the Lord (and from a treatment program, perhaps!). But not all sickness is a result of sin (see John 9:1-3). A key word in James 5:15 is “if.” If there is sin, he will be forgiven. And he will be forgiven by the Lord. Only God forgives! (Read Mark 2:8-10.)

But what if healing does not come immediately when you pray? Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, keep believing, keep praying. And the Lord bring healing eventually. Or, He may speak to you the way He did to the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (read these verses), saying, “My grace is sufficient for you….”

  • Have you ever seen God answer prayers for healing? Describe the experience, and what happened next. Did God receive the glory? 
  • Have you ever seen God bring healing in other ways (emotional, mental, spiritual, etc) even when He didn’t bring physical healing to a person’s life? What lessons do you learn from that? 

In a local church, there should be an atmosphere of authenticity. This leads to people asking each other questions like, “Will you pray for me?” and “Could we pray together? I’m in need of prayer.” In James 5:16, we see a humble honesty of the believers coming to one another, confessing that they are sinners (in the spirit of Psalm 51), and asking for prayer. And then they pray for one another! The prayers of God’s people are powerful and effective.

  • When is the last time someone asked you to pray with them? 
  • When is the last time you asked someone to pray with you? 

The prophet Elijah was a human just like us. And yet when God spoke to him about the sinfulness in the land of Israel, and Elijah declared to King Ahab that it would not rain until he prayed for it to rain, he believed God would answer that prayer. And God did! There was a drought for 3 1/2 years. Then, Elijah prayed for it to rain, and it did. (See 1 Kings 17:1 and 1 Kings 18:1.)

Let’s have the kind of faith in God that Elijah had. Let’s believe God when we pray!

  • Have you ever prayed and seen God do something amazing? If so, what was it?
  • What are you believing God for in prayer right now? Pray and believe!

One thought on “Powerful Prayer

  1. I recently prayed with a Walmart cashier. I told her she didn’t have to tell me what was on her heart because the Lord knows. I also reviewed the scripture that when two or more are gathered in His name He’s there. I asked if she knew where she was going when she died. She said yes because of Jesus. I thought that was the end of our encounter. Another woman approached and she said to her,” This woman prayed for me and I feel better.”
    I definitely could witness that God deserves the praise and glory and I was blessed.

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