Summary: James is encouraging his readers to pray. In fact, James’ concluding remarks consistently take the reader back to the need to pray. The first thing we should do is frequently the last thing done.
JAMES 5:13, 14
“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.”
James is drawing his brief, pointed missive to a conclusion. Throughout the letter, James has confronted the ubiquitous tendency among Christians to seek accommodation with the world. James is writing to people who have experienced life in all its rawness. They have suffered, and they have experienced joy. They have been deprived, and they have found the richness of the Lord. Through all their trials, the Lord is still their God. They have proved the veracity of Paul’s declaration, “if we are faithless, He remains faithful” [2 TIMOTHY 2:13].
Nevertheless, James is encouraging his readers to pray. In fact, James’ concluding remarks consistently take the reader back to the need to pray. When suffering, pray. When cheerful, pray. When sick, pray. The first thing we should do is frequently the last thing we do. James’ concern is that life happens, and when life happens, the brother of our Lord wants to ensure that we respond by turning to the Master, drawing close to Him.
The message today introduces the subject of prayer—a topic that will occupy our attention during several messages planned for the weeks to follow. In this particular study, I am seeking to lay the groundwork for prayer as a lifestyle among the people of God. I understand that I cannot persuade anyone to pray, but I do trust that the Spirit of God, working through the Word of God and working powerfully in each life, will encourage us to become men and women of prayer.
CULTIVATING A LIFE OF PRAYER — “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” Whatever circumstances the believer may find himself or herself in, they are to live with a prayerful attitude. James gives two extremes—whether one is suffering, or whether one is cheerful. After this, he names a special situation—illness. We shall focus on the special situation of illness in a moment, but first we need to think about what James is actually saying in this thirteenth verse.
In keeping with other letters of the New Testament, James’ final remarks urge his readers to adopt a life marked by prayer. Listen to some of the instances found throughout other letters. Drawing his letter to Roman Christians to a conclusion, the Apostle Paul pleaded for them to join him in prayer. “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company” [ROMANS 15:30-32].
Paul knew that he walked by faith and not by sight, and he further knew that he faced many powerful enemies. Hostile religious zealots in Jerusalem were intent on ridding their world of the Apostle, and he sought to complete the work God had assigned him, especially serving saints suffering in that particular city. Accordingly, he asked the Christians in Rome to become partners through prayer as he travelled to Jerusalem and then to Rome.