Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:13-20)
The word pray and its cognates occur seven times in this last section of the epistle of James. Prayer is mentioned in every verse from 13 through 18. James has come full circle, he began his letter dealing with trials and tribulations and now ends with suffering. Suffering has been a key theme throughout and now James is telling his hearers how to respond.
Painting with broad brushstrokes most of us will fall into two categories when it comes to trials and sufferings: some of us will be people of action while others of us will be more passive. As we saw in our previous devotion James’ audience were experiencing intense persecution to the point that some had even been murdered. No doubt there were some Zealot like individuals who wanted to fight fire with fire. They would have argued for justice and fighting for what is right. While there would have been others who would have argued that one should stoically endure and let God sort things out.
James says, pray. Whatever the situation, pray. Whoever you are, pray. Prayer is not something left to the pastors, certainly they must pray (v14), everyone is to pray (v16). Perhaps you think your prayers are just a drop in the ocean, they aren’t very eloquent or grandiose, you are a young Christian or a Christian who should be more mature by now so surely God won’t be interested in your prayers. God only listens to the big shots doesn’t He, the celebrity pastors. In case you thought that, James again draws from the Old Testament storehouse of examples. This time he tells us about Elijah and he introduces him as someone who had the same nature as ours, he had the same limitations, he had the same temptations. He had the same highs and lows, within a few days he went from routing the enemies of God to wishing he was dead. Sound familiar? Elijah wasn’t some super human, he wasn’t part of some elite prayer warrior team, he was like you and me but he prayed fervently and God heard him and He will hear you too!
Sometimes the suffering seems too great or has gone on for too long that you begin to think what’s the point of praying. Or the situation is so complex that you don’t even know what to pray. Well the Lord knows that we will have times like that and do you know what He does? He prays for us! The Holy Spirit enters in to your grief and prays with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26). And if that isn’t mind blowing enough then take of your shoes and come quietly with me as we listen to Jesus praying for us:
“I do not ask for these only [the Apostles], but also for those who will believe in me through their word [you and me], that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)
So as we enter this strange new world with all its suffering and new trials and temptations heed James’ teaching to pray. Bring all your concerns to the Lord, He has big shoulders and remember He is praying for you!