Affliction, Confession and Prayer

Affliction, Confession and Prayer

James 3:13-15

Introduction: Prayer as an answer for difficulties (afflictions) continues to be the greatest opportunity and solution. 

The Book of James: 

1. The profligate rich are in danger of God’s judgments, because of their pride, fraudulent dealings, riotous living, and cruelty, v. 1-6.

2. The oppressed followers of God should be patient, for the Lord’s coming is nigh; and should not grudge against each other, v. 7-9.

3. They should take encouragement from the example of the prophets, and of Job, v. 10-11.

4. Swearing is forbidden, v. 12.

5. Directions to the afflicted, v. 13-15.

6. People should confess their faults to each other, v. 16.

7. The tremendous power of prayer evidenced in Elijah, v. 17-18.

8. The blessedness of converting a sinner from the error of his way, v. 19-20.


I. Problem of Affliction – vv. 13-15


{kak-op-ath-eh’-o} Meaning: 1) to suffer (endure) evils (hardships, troubles) 2) to be afflicted 

Usage: AV – endure hardness 1, s

Application: Afflictions come in all sizes, at different seasons, for different reasons, with different options and solutions. 

Affections can be:

• Physical

• Emotional / mental

• Spiritual

Afflictions can be:

• Temporary

• Permanent

Afflictions create / come accompanied by:

• Worry

• Frustration

• Sorrow

• Restlessness

• Possibly even anger

Question: So the question begs to be answered; how do we deal with our afflictions.

I believe the Apostle Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ was an affliction.

He asked God to remove it; God response that his (Paul’s solution would be an abundance of grace, that ‘in his weakness, God would be made strong.’

Within the Church / body context:

• Call for the elders

• Anoint with oil

Anointing with Oil

 It is not intimated that even this unction is to save the sick man, but the prayer of faith, James 5:15.

What is here recommended was to be done as a natural means of restoring health, which, while they used prayer and supplication to God, they were not to neglect.

 Oil in Judea was celebrated for its sanative qualities; so that they scarcely ever took a journey without carrying oil with them, (see in the case of the Samaritan), with which they anointed their bodies, healed their wounds, bruises, etc.

 Oil was and is frequently used in the east as a means of cure in very dangerous diseases; and in Egypt it is often used in the cure of the plague. Even in Europe it has been tried with great success in the cure of dropsy. And pure olive oil is excellent for recent wounds and bruises: and I have seen it tried in this way with the best effects.

* In more recent times, within especially Pentecostal / Charismatic traditions, the anointing oil is used also symbolically of the Holy Spirit and therefore believed and exercised as part of divine healing rituals. 

Prayer of Faith

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

• That is, God will often make these the means of a sick man’s recovery; but there often are cases where faith and prayer are both ineffectual, because God sees it will be prejudicial to the patient’s salvation to be restored; and therefore all faith and prayer on such occasions should be exerted on this ground: “If it be most for thy glory, and the eternal good of this man’s soul, let him be restored; if otherwise, Lord, pardon, purify him, and take him to thy glory.”

• The Lord shall raise him up – Not the elders, how faithfully and fervently soever they have prayed.

• And if he have committed sins – So as to have occasioned his present malady, they shall be forgiven him; for being the cause of the affliction it is natural to conclude that, if the effect be to cease, the cause must be removed. 

‘Go and sin no more type of thing.’ Find the miracle; recognize the miracle worker (Jesus the one who will forgive) and go your way….sins forgiven, changed and committed.

We find that in the miraculous restoration to health, under the powerful hand of Christ, the sin of the party is generally said to be forgiven, and this also before the miracle was performed on the body: hence, there was a maxim among the Jews, and it seems to be founded in common sense and reason, that God never restores a man miraculously to health until he has pardoned his sins; because it would be incongruous for God to exert his miraculous power in saving a body, the soul of which was in a state of condemnation to eternal death, because of the crimes it had committed against its Maker and Judge. Here then it is God that remits the sin, not in reference to the unction, but in reference to the cure of the body, which he is miraculously to effect. 

Transition: Along with this and sandwiched between the prayer pieces is an interesting and important admonition.

II. Place of Confession – 5:16

Confess your faults one to another – This is a good general direction to Christians who endeavor to maintain among themselves the communion of saints.

• This social confession tends much to humble the soul, and to make it watchful. We naturally wish that our friends in general, and our religious friends in particular, should think well of us; and when we confess to them offences which, without this confession, they could never have known, we feel humbled are kept from self-applause, and induced to watch unto prayer, that we may not increase our offences before God, or be obliged anymore to undergo the painful humiliation of acknowledging our weakness, fickleness, or infidelity to our religious brethren.

It is not said, Confess your faults to the ELDERS that they may forgive them, or prescribe penance in order to forgive them. 

No; the members of the Church were to confess their faults to each other; therefore auricular confession to a priest, such as is prescribed by the Romish church, has no foundation in this passage. Indeed, had it any foundation here it would prove more than they wish, for it would require the priest to confess his sins to the people, as well as the people to confess theirs to the priest.

Transition: The presence of affliction, the place of confession and now, the power of prayer.

III. Power of Prayer

And pray one for another –  There is no instance in auricular confession where the penitent and the priest pray together for pardon; but here the people are commanded to pray for each other that they may be healed.

5:16, ‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’.

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availed much – The words

deeesis …energoumenee

signify energetic supplication, or such a prayer as is suggested to the soul and wrought in it by a divine energy. 

When such a power of prayer is granted, faith should be immediately called into exercise, that the blessing may be given: the spirit of prayer is the proof that the power of God is present to heal.

• Long prayers give no particular evidence of divine inspiration: the following was a maxim among the ancient Jews, “the prayers of the righteous are short.” This is exemplified in almost every instance in the Old Testament. 

Conclusion: Afflictions, confession and the power of faith, prayer and fellowship!

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