For the last three months, our church has been studying the book of James. These words have been hard-hitting. James has talked to us about doubt, anger, appearances, fear, ambition, selfishness, and wealth. This quote reflects the theme well:
“This letter (James) to the leaders of the early church is incredibly significant because it pounds away at one consistent message: faith that is not wholly integrated and consistently lived out is a charade.” George Barna, Growing True Disciples.
James chooses to end the letter by talking about prayer. Whether we find ourselves in trouble or bursting with joy, we should pray. If we are dealing with sickness, we call upon those leaders that God has put in our lives to pray over us, and the Lord will raise us up. When burdened with sin, we offer prayers for forgiveness. In all parts of our lives, James is saying, we are invited to pray, and have others pray for us.
He reminds us of the prophet Elijah, whose life and ministry can be found in I Kings 17-2 Kings 2. Elijah was such a powerful figure in the history of God’s people that when Jesus was carrying out his ministry, many believed he was Elijah raised from the dead (Matthew 16:14). James reminds us of Elijah because his life was marked by one amazing work of God after another. It is as if James is saying, “God has worked this way, and God does work this way. So whether you are in trouble, happy, sick, or need to confess, ask God in prayer.”
Going back to the quote from George Barna; “faith that is not wholly integrated and consistently lived out is a charade.” Combine that with all the situations that James mentions here. All of life: joy and sorrow, sickness and health, confession and forgiveness—live it all before God, asking Him for help.
Is this our first instinct? That when things go wrong, or things are going very right, that we go to God? Do we believe that God hears? More than that, can we believe that God will answer our prayers? I’m reminded of the words of the hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus”:
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Questions for reflection: Where is it you need to go to God? What aspects of your life have you been resistant to take to God in prayer?