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The book of James: Active in using prayer

From Jesus comes an example of how to pray. On the mountaintops and in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed for strength to do his Father’s will.

From Jesus also comes the ability to pray. His crimson blood has opened the direct road to his Father that the believer can walk freely in prayer.

In his guidelines for Christian living James urges believers to be active in using prayer (James 5:13-16).

Times for prayer

James speaks first of “trouble” (5:13). When trouble hits the believer, prayer is the first recourse, not the last resort. We pray, asking God to remove the trouble or to give us strength to bear it. In “happy” times too, Christians pray. In sunshine and shadow, believers turn to their God and pray in Jesus’ name.

James next takes us to the sickroom. Concentrated prayer when pain ravages the body and racks the mind is not easy. Leaders of the church can help. In faith they hold the Great Physician to his gracious promises and await his wise answers. In this way the prayer of faith can be said to heal the sick (5:14-16).

Sometimes in pain, the mind is bothered by past sins. How necessary, then, becomes the prayer for forgiveness (5:15,16). Believers, recognizing the greater needs of their soul, begin their prayers with a plea for God’s pardon. Through that gospel comes the refreshing news of forgiveness and pardon that “by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

James tells us to pray, but how often in trouble do we seek and ask instead of first fretting and fearing? How often in happy times do we remember that praise is the fairest blossom of prayer? How often in sickness do we pray with the conviction that he who rules the world has his way within the sickroom’s walls? How often do we begin with that plea for pardon for sins? Must it be said of us too, “Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer” (Christian Worship 1993 411:1)?

The power of prayer

For encouragement to pray more, James shows us the power of prayer. He reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (5:16). He uses a word for prayer that means “begging”—a begging we do as “righteous” ones who are sinless because of what God has done for us in Christ. We are his beloved children to whom he listens and answers. Our prayers rise powerfully and effectively to God because they humbly appeal to his mercy and boldly trust in his promises.

There’s power in prayer when it taps God’s power. When we depend on ourselves or others, we get the little that man can do. When we depend on prayer, we get what God can do. That’s as unlimited as God himself.

Digging deeper

1. Oil was used as a soothing agent in those days. Read Isaiah 1:6 and Luke 10:34 to understand this usage.

The use of oil at the sick bed was not as a healing agent. Rather oil was a “first aid” commodity to soothe injuries. The healing came from the Great Physician to whom believers appeal and whose promises they trust.

2. Prayer is not a means of grace working faith, but it’s the fruit of faith. Read what Psalm 34:15 and John 16:23 say about this fact.

God hears only the prayers of believers. Unbelievers may use words and they may be heartfelt, but they have no access to the power of God. One great privilege of faith is the gift of prayer that is offered in Jesus’ name—that is—trusting God hears only because of what Jesus has done for us. Only through Jesus do sinners have access to God’s power through prayer.

3. “Thank God for ice cream and sour pickles.” How do Psalm 34:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 emphasize this truth?

We use prayer to thank God “at all times” and in “all circumstances,” knowing that in his love he sends only that which is good into our lives.

This is an article in a continuing series on the book of James.

Author: Richard Lauersdorf
Volume 108, Number 11
Issue: November 2021

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