Read James 5:13–20
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
New International Version (NIV)
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“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise” (Jas. 5:13). Thank God for the passionate power of the message the author of James has shared.
Good sermons often end with an application: what we are to do with what we’ve heard. James is no exception. He gives a list of instructions and actions that are the natural result of his teaching. They all concern prayer. He emphasizes that prayer applies to all occasions: prayer for help (13), prayer of praise in song (13), prayer for healing (15,16) and prayer of confession (16). He’s not saying, “When all else fails, pray.” Instead, he encourages us to pray when we’re up, pray when we’re down, pray about ourselves, and pray for others. In short, God’s people should not be allergic to prayer.
He says these things because he knows it works. I will recommend a brand of waterproof walking clothing to a friend because it has worked for me. It
has kept me dry and sweat-free in torrential rain. James feels similarly about prayer. “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well” (15) and “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (16). By way of further confirmation, he refers to Elijah, stressing that he was a human being like the rest of us; it was the earnestness of Elijah’s prayer that made the difference. Like the skilled preacher, James has returned in the final section of his letter to his first concern: our faith and doubt (1:6–8).
Sometimes prayer is individual, whether issued in trouble or in celebration. Sometimes prayer is corporate, involving the church leaders (not placing the responsibility solely on one person). Sometimes prayer is mutual, admitting our mistakes and opening the way to true personal honesty. James’s final words emphasize this. We bear responsibility to one another to maintain the relationships we have, relationships that are rooted in faith.
Throughout today, practice earnestness in prayer. Focus on one request and repeat that prayer, maybe hourly. Include a sustained longer period of prayer within this.