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small discouraged boyEncouraging the Weak, James 5:13-20

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A pastor, teacher or counselor asks, "are any of you discouraged because you have had trouble in your life recently? How can we help you?" If you are like most Christians you will answer, “Just pray for me.” Prayer is encouraging, isn't it? We know our spirits will be healed and encouraged if someone will pray for us when we are feeling weak.

The early Christian church was suffering persecutions. They needed help on how to handle it. Some were weaker in faith and were falling by the wayside. Should they be judged and disowned for their occasional unfaithfulness? Should we? No. We have already been warned in previous lessons not to judge our brothers. Instead, we should pray for them.

What does James 5:14-16 mean? Does this mean physical healing? How can we know? What is the anointing oil? Is it magical or medicinal?

Answer 1


How powerful is prayer? What kind of prayer? James 5:17-18

Answer 2


You may say, “I'm not experiencing any trouble. My life is great.” Fine, then James says, rejoice in the Lord! But others are experiencing trouble and we need to offer them encouragement. In addition to prayer, what should we do with a fellow believer who is weak and turns from following Christ, the way of truth? James 5:19-20, Luke 15:1-7

Answer 3


Lessons to Live by: (ask for members' input first)


Today's Bible memory verse:

1Thessalonians 5:14 " And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone." (NIV)

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A1: Many think that James 5:14-16 is a promise to those who are physically sick, but the Greek words for sickness used in this context seem to refer to spiritual weakness, not necessarily physical illness. And, the word for anoint as in anoint with oil is a general term for rubbing oil on the head to refresh a person, not necessarily a ceremonial anointing ( The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T. by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p834). Now let's read James 5:14-16 with this new understanding.

Is any one of you weak? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and [rub his head] with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the [weary] person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV)

A2: Prayer can be very powerful. "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." (James 5:17,18, NIV). Notice that his prayer was earnest prayer. When we earnestly pray for something or someone God wants, he is often pleased to answer it.

A3: Be compassionate toward others who are turning from the truth and go after them, like Jesus (Luke 15:1-7). Try to save them from destroying their life because of sin.

Lessons to Live by:

  • The most encouraging things we can do for brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering is to pray for them. Other things we can do is to touch them in encouraging ways to refresh their spirits, express our support for them, and help them materially.
  • Encourage the weak and in compassion go after the weak to turn them from destructive paths. Pray earnestly for them. Then they may find forgiveness and, with you, might rejoice in the Lord again.

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