James ends his letter by emphasizing prayer and loving one another well. Let’s look at four promises related to prayer.
God hears us when we pray.
The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.Proverbs 15:29 NIV
I love the story in Luke 18 of the wicked judge and the woman who insisted on being heard. The parable is often called the parable of the importunate or persistent woman. I blogged about that passage some time ago. The parable teaches us that God wants us to be persistent – not because we must convince him but because the more we pray, the more our hearts are aligned with His will and purposes. God hears us when we pray.
We are invited to pray for healing.
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.James 5:14 ESV
God is all-powerful. He still heals from sin and sickness. Indeed, we don’t experience the same miraculous healing that the Bible describes – or at least it looks that way from our human perspective. Scholars suggest varying reasons why this might be. But that does not mean that God is not healing today. Each of us has a story or two of how God intervened when doctors were puzzled, limited in understanding, and unsure of outcomes.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.Psalm 103:2-4 ESV
When we confess and repent, God forgives us.
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.James 5:15-16
Forgiveness may be one of God’s sweetest gifts. There is freedom in confessing our sins and allowing His Spirit to wash us clean. It’s funny how we often want to hide our sins, hide from God, thinking the punishment will be somehow more significant than His mercy and grace. He may discipline us, and no one enjoys discipline. But He also restores us and renews our souls. Forgiveness is like the rain that refreshes the earth!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 ESV
Prayer strengthens and establishes us.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.James 5:16b ESV
Prayer is a means of grace, accepting God’s invitation to His throne, and participating in the universe’s great conversations. Through prayer, we are renewed, strengthened, and encouraged!
Several years ago, in a sermon on prayer, my husband, my pastor at that time, encouraged us to pray on the spot when others requested prayer. He challenged us to think about how often we casually say we will pray for others but walk away, forgetting to do that very thing. I had watched him model this point in his sermon. When a friend asked him to pray, he would often take my hand, draw close to that friend, and say, “Can we do that right now?”
Praying for others or intercessory prayer is not a spiritual gift given to just some Christians but a command for all of us to support one another in prayer. We see many examples of intercession in scripture. Moses often talked to God on behalf of the Israelites. Daniel interceded for Jerusalem. Stephen prayed for his murderers. And, of course, Paul prayed for churches.
James invites us to pray for one another. There is no better way to love a friend well. Imagine your favorite king, president, or CEO, introducing your friend to her, sharing a specific need crippling your friend, and asking if they might help! It is much better to take our friends to the King of Kings!
Prayer is an essential part of the doing. They can’t be separated. We can’t do what God wants us to do without continually coming to him in prayer, and if we’re truly communing with the holy God, our prayer life will fuel us for doing the work he’s called us to in the rest of our lives. Being doers of the word requires that we also be people of prayer.Sarah J. Hauser