The Inquirer’s Responsibility

God is sovereign and He will faithfully keep His Word, and do all He said he would do. We must assume responsibility for all our beliefs, attitudes and actions. In ministry we also have to differentiate the role relationship between the inquirer and the encourager. If I want to be effective in ministry I cannot believe for the inquirer, or repent for them. I can share the truth in love, and show others how to repent, but I cannot believe or repent for them. So let’s consider first the role and responsibility of the inquirer.

There is one definitive passage in Scripture that instructs the suffering what to do and that is James 5:13-16. In preparation for a Doctor of Ministry class that I have taught, I required the students to exegete that passage and write a five – paper on the subject before our first meeting. The students were all serving in ministry and had already completed a Masters of Divinity Degree. Most of the papers had the same predictable tone. They looked at the passage from their pastoral perspective, and it is not hard to understand why. If people in your church asked the elders to anoint them with oil and pray for them and you were one of the elders, what would you do?

You would probably seek to understand what it means to anoint with oil (vs. 14), and wonder what kind of oil should you use. You may also wonder if your credibility is at stake since the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (vs. 16). You would like to assume that you are a righteous person, but is that assumption being tested if your prayer isn’t working? What often gets overlooked is the responsibility of the inquirer and if that person doesn’t assume their responsibility, your prayer will not be very effective no matter how righteous you are.

Notice how the passage begins: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (vs. 13). Why is the responsibility to pray first put upon the inquirer? Because we cannot do another person’s praying for them. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I believe in intercessory prayer, but that was never intended by God to replace an individual’s responsibility to pray. Learning how to help the inquirer petition God themselves was my biggest paradigm shift in methodology. My ministry was transformed almost overnight.

Dr. Neil

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