“Prayer demonstrates both deep humility and great confidence, in the context of community, as a bold display of faith in God. “
As we have been reading through James, we have seen his heart to encourage his readers to be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Wrapping up instructions to Jewish Christians (and to us!), James reminds us what fuels our strength to be doers and not just hearers: prayer. Prayer demonstrates both deep humility and great confidence, in the context of community, as a bold display of faith in God. Let’s parse this definition of prayer, consider its implications, and look to Jesus as our perfect model of a praying life.
Prayer demonstrates deep humility. Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Prayer proves our weakness. It shows we are helpless on our own, desperate for God to act. No doctor, no counselor, no friend or spouse can provide what God can, through prayer. These aides may surely help, but in our suffering, prayer is the greatest admission that our lives are not our own. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Praying and singing praises when we are cheerful also demonstrate humility because in doing so we are giving credit to Another. Received good news? Purchased something big? Experienced a miracle? These are gifts from the Father of lights, and not of our own doing. We are humble in spirit when we acknowledge God as sovereign over our lives, in both good times and bad.
Prayer demonstrates great confidence. 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. What confidence in the leaders of the church to come and pray over those who are sick, that they may be healed! What responsibility on the part of the elders, to intercede and trust God on behalf of their flock. We must remember that healing does not occur every time we pray, but healing does occur because we pray. When was the last time you opted out of praying for something because you knew it just wasn’t possible? Didn’t even bother? Oh, for the confidence in God to do what we ask for in his name! There is power in that name!
Prayer is meant for a context of community … confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another… While prayer is a conversation between you and God, it is not meant to be done entirely alone. Here, James underscores the value of community: being able to pray for one another! Do you have a prayer partner? A prayer group? Are you quick to ask friends or family how you can pray for them? Do you ever pray for them on the spot? Do you consider areas of your life that need prayer? Could you text a friend and ask for it? This is a marvelous privilege granted to believers, that we get to share in God’s work in others’ lives as we pray with them and for them.
Prayer is a bold display of faith in God. 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 word “fervently” indicates intense passion and emotion. There are a few things in my life that I get especially spirited over, and I’m not sure that prayer is one of them. How convicting! Just imagine an animated Elijah, begging God over rain! This motivates me to go to God with great boldness when I need him. Yes, our God sits enthroned in the heavens and does as he pleases, and part of what he pleases is allowing us to come to him in prayer! I want to remember Elijah’s boldness when I pray.
From humility to confidence to community to fervency, prayer is an opportunity to demonstrate various aspects of our faith. I know of another Man who had a nature like ours and spent many a moment communing with his Father. In humility, he prayed, “Thy will be done.” In confidence, he prayed, “Father, forgive them.” In community, he taught them to pray, saying “Our Father, who art in heaven…” And in fervency, he intercedes on our behalf, even this very moment, as our great high and perfect Priest. Let’s continue to seek after Jesus in the way he models prayer for us. Amen!