James 5: 13-18
What are we to do first in all situations? Is it to complain? Argue with one another? Be stressed? NO! We are called to pray, as prayer not only sets the tone for our behaviors and insights, but it also brings Christ into the picture with us more powerfully and effectively. It is not about getting what we want, as we may get a yes, or a no, or maybe a call to wait for the right timing. This passage is a series of calls to prayer. We are all indeed called to prayer; it is not a talent, a special ability, or a spiritual gift. It is not for certain occasions or with certain postures. Rather, it is the communication through which we encounter our loving, living Lord! Prayer is a call, to not bend our knees, but to bend our heart, and for this call, we need to know the veracity and importance of it.
These are not necessarily formulas, but encouragement that will lead us to pursue God! When we seek Him, we are ready, along with others, to engage in the actions of appeal and request to God for people who are in need and sick. We can pray for forgiveness, for our nation, show our gratitude-even pray for the weather. Thus, in all things, we are to be both in personal prayer and collective prayer with other believers. Prayer is not just a means to get what we request; it is the means to line us up with God, His precepts, and His presence. Prayer can meet all things and needs; prayer can and must be a significant part of anything we will ever face in life, from the trivial to things of utmost importance! We can have confidence that our prayers are heard and answered. No matter what we need or face, we have Christ! Thus, we must preface, surround, and empower all that we do with prayer. It is never to be an afterthought; rather, it must be our first thought, our principle action, and our primary plan.
- Suffering here means "in distress," and includes physical sickness, being stressed out, or having emotional and/or personal problems. To the person in this situation, hope seems to be missing and relief is absent, but when we come to them, we bring the hope and relief!
- Sing songs means praising our Lord, in unity, with a willing, loving heart. This is an aspect of real worship and music, which is never a show; rather, it is a response of our love giving praise. We, as a congregation, are the performers, and Christ is the audience. Real, authentic worship is to be inspired by who Christ is and what He is doing in us. It is not about form or function or type; it is about our hearts showing our love to Him. Prayer and worship share the same heart and attitude (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:12-17).
- Sick. The call for us here is to engage them with love and care; it is not about the healing, although, whenever possible, we are to seek the best and continual medical attention. It is more about showing our love coming from His love. Also, the call for the sick person is to make sure others know they are sick so others can respond.
- Elders are the people selected to be in charge of the local church, whose call is to train, care for, and administer His love and precepts to the rest of the congregation. They must have the qualities of Christ working in them before they can help others. The connection is that the elders should be the primary ministers to the people of the church (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1 Tim. 3:2-7; 5:15; Titus 1:5-16; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
- Anointed with oil has two meanings: "the healing power of God," a call, and also to "seek medical attention." It is not a ceremonial procedure, although it can also infer actually applying oil to the person and praying over them. We are called both to pray and to seek medical attention (Isa. 1:6; Mark 6:13; Luke 10:34).
- Power of faith refers to trusting in God and then being faithful towards our intercessory duty to others. It does not mean a "special power" as some have proclaimed; rather, it is a call to action to show our Christian community and faith displayed in our care toward one another. Yes, God does heal today, but healing is not guaranteed or even normative. How we respond and learn is what matters to God over all else, even an actual healing. If your body is healed and your mind and heart are not centered on him, what good is it; it is merely temporary and of no eternal use.
- Committed sins. James is not saying all sickness is from sin, as some Jewish Rabbis thought; harboring resentment and unforgiveness actually deteriorate the body and mind. Seeking forgiveness is very restorative to the soul and body! Sometimes, though, God can cause us to be sick to get us out of sin, as it is far better to be stooped by sickness than to create a much worse environment for ourselves and others. Sin is the biggest barrier between us and God, and prevents God's work being received by us. Confession breaks these barriers (1 Cor. 11:30; Phil. 2:25-30).
What is prayer? It is receiving the amazing, redemptive work of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, so His power and purpose flow through us and into others. Prayer is spending time and talking with God, expressing our heart to Him, and interceding on behalf of others. It is meant to be exciting, powerful, and fulfilling. Just like a phone conversation, prayer is not a one way communication. God will speak to us, not as a burning bush, but in quiet ways; so, we must also listen. And, of course, always compare to Scripture what you think He said, as He will never contradict Himself. Then, you will be able to distinguish between your desires and His precepts. There is no need we can ever face that prayer cannot meet; there is never a problem we go through that prayer cannot answer!
- What do you do when you are facing hardships? How is prayer a part of these experiences?
- What is prayer to you?
- How much of your prayers involve listening to God?
- What are we to do first in all situations?
- What causes you to go first to the art of complaining or arguing, or be stressed?
- How does prayer set a tone for us in our behaviors and insights?
- How can prayer help your church or relationships?
- Why do some Christians feel that prayer is all about getting what we want? How do you feel about that?
- What can be done to show people the primary purpose of prayer?
- What can you do to make your prayer life more time invested, more exciting, more powerful, and more fulfilling?
© 2005, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org