Pray in suffering
The next few posts, Lord willing will deal with prayer. James has a few things to say and I think it is worth taking some time to look at all of these verses together and spread it out.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 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. 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. 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 it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (Jas 5:13-18)
The first thing that is worth noting is that James recommends prayer when you are suffering. I am reminded of his opening verses where he advises us to meet our trials with an attitude of joy and if we lack wisdom (presumably, the wisdom of how to deal with our trials) we are to ask God who gives generously to all. The sufferer might need more assistance in how to deal with his sufferings in a wise way. Job, of course, seems to have already had that figured out. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) but not everyone does.
The assumption is that praying while you suffer will be of assistance to you. If you are praying for wisdom, James says God will give it. Perhaps though you just need encouragement to keep going. Luke 22:40-46 talk about Jesus and his disciples at a difficult time. Jesus is said to be in agony. (sounds like suffering to me) The disciples are sorrowful and wind up falling asleep because of it (which may be a result of suffering too as I am sure they were affected by the Savior’s mood). The action of Jesus and advice to the disciples supports the idea that prayer helps. “Pray that you don’t fall into temptation” he said.
Paul expresses confidence in the power of prayer when he asks for prayers from the Ephesians.
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:18-20)
I know that sometimes we have a tendency to ask for prayers and are not sure if anyone really will (or perhaps we don’t really expect someone to) and sometimes we say “I will pray for you” and then do not. But I don’t think Paul’s words were “just words”. He really wanted their prayers.
It might be worth it to note what he asked for: Prayers that he might preach the Gospel as he should! What?! Paul, the preacher to the Gentiles, traveler on 3 missionary journeys, author of many epistles, appointer of elders, trainer of preachers, establisher of congregations…..THAT Paul wants prayers to speak boldly?
If he needs prayers, it is a 100% certainty that I do.
Let the prayers go forth and let them go strong. Those who suffer, pray and pray for wisdom, patience and know that God will hear your prayer. We all should pray not just for those who suffer but for those who preach the word too.
More on prayer in another post.