One of the reasons the early church grew was because of the healings and miracles happening through the apostles. One of these is described in Acts 3, Peter’s healing of a man in his 40’s who had been unable to walk since birth. Peter, however, refuses to take credit. He denies that it was his own power or godliness that made the man well, but simply “faith” (trusting) in the “name” (person) of Jesus. Then he uses the attention as an opportunity to share the gospel, and many come to faith. These kinds of demonstrations of God’s power are a clear way to grow the church, even today. So why don’t we see more miracles and healings in 21stcentury North America?
Habakkuk 3:2 -Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known.
Have you ever witnessed what seemed to you to be a miraculous answer to prayer? A healing, or another kind of supernatural sign? Describe what happened, and how it affected you and the others who witnessed it.
Looking at Scripture:
Read James 5:13-18.
What is your first reaction to this passage? What stands out to you? What questions do you have? Discuss your questions and thoughts with the group.
Oil was used in Judaism to signify that a person or object was being “set apart” or consecrated to God for a special reason. It was also used for medicinal purposes. Scholars are divided on what meaning (ritual or medicinal) James has in mind here. What do you think makes most sense?
Verse 15 says “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” It seems cut and dry, almost formulaic: prayer + faith = healing. However, actual experience does not seem to line up with this simple passage. Some people blame a lack of healing on a lack of faith. Do you agree or disagree?
The following passages shed further light on Jesus’ teaching on the relationship of faith and healing. Split them up among your group, having different people read a passage, summarize it, and report back what it has to say about the kind of faith that Jesus is looking for. (Note that the words faith, trust, and belief all represent the same Greek word).
Matthew 9:27-31; Matthew 13:54-58; Matthew 15:21-28; Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:17-29;
How do you think faith (trust/belief) is formed? If you don’t have “enough,” how can you get more?
Based on your discussion so far, complete the following statements. When it comes to healing:
We believe God can…
We trust God to…
We ask God for…
Bonus:Read the story of Elijah that James refers to in 1 Kings 17:1, 18:1-2, 41-46 (you can read all of chapters 17-18, but only those verses directly refer to the rain miracles). What can we learn about who initiates miracles and the role of prayer from this passage? Why do you think James uses this as an example of the “powerful and effective” nature of prayer?
Is there any area of your life where you are struggling with trusting (having faith in, believing) God? What would it look like for you to move forward in an attitude of trust?
Is there anyone you know that could use a miracle? How can you pray for them in a way that includes both trust in God, and a realistic perspective on the world?