Summary: With the ups and downs of life there is something we can do to make any situation better, to respond to any situation. Talk to God!
Pray and Praise: James 5:13-20
As I get older I notice that life, is really full of swings and roundabouts, those times that people describe as ups and downs or seasons. You could be having a great day one of those ones when people are generally cherry and greet one another with a smile and enjoy the warmth, the washing has dried within hours in a gentle breeze, a sky lark lets loose a tune in the heights invisible against the heat haze, you’re singing songs like ‘summertime and the living is easy’ in your head, enjoying the light, eating light meals and wearing light clothes and appreciating the outdoors. But the next day might bring with its cyclonic winds, that sky lark has been blown out to sea, rain by the bucket full, those towels have plied themselves up in a soggy mess from the clothes line to the neighbours vege garden, you need to seek out shelter, no time to stop and chat let alone smile for it’s miserable, you could be feeling down and really it’s just enough to keep focused on what you have to get done.
In James letter we've heard this bit of advice from him and he makes it fairly clear that through those great days and through the days that the world throws all of its rubbish at us we should stay in touch with God. We are to pray in some form or other.
For the next couple of weeks we will be focusing on prayer, given that this is the second week of lent, I know that while many are giving something up as Easter approaches. I wonder is setting time aside to talk with God to sing praises to God something that we could take-up. I know myself that it is something that is very easy to neglect.
An interesting thing about the early church was that they had some dominant characteristics. Those who have studied the early church say that they were a praying church and a singing church. The apostle Paul writes about praying and singing in his first letter to the Corinthians, when he is writing about things that build up the church and spiritual gifts, 14:15, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.”
James this brother of Jesus, yip his Mum was Mary also, gives instruction on prayer and I think that it is reasonably straight forward stuff and that it tells us a bit about how we should respond in some of the different circumstances of life.
‘Are you in trouble, are there dramas in your life, has it gone to pack? Then pray!
Are you happy, is it all going well, sing songs of praise to God about it, let rip with a few Hallelujahs!’ (Moffatt paraphrase).
So singing was a mainstay of meetings back in the day, as it is in our meetings. I find it interesting that James in his letter comes out with this line, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.”
It say’s something for those, like me, who grumble about things. If you are in trouble, you should pray. So what is prayer? Well, this might seem like a simple thing but within seven verses James uses five different Greek words that translate into the English words ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’ and a word for praise that in Greek means in English ‘sing songs of praise’, which if you think about a song of praise it is either individual or corporate prayer that follows a set format a written song, usually. However there are some churches where people will sing a song of praise in their meetings straight from the heart and out of their lips to God.
As you know prayer is talking and it can be singing to God. So let’s wanderer through verse 13 and look at what James is getting at.
1) If you are in trouble, if you are in deep dire strife. James tells his readers to pray. This is step one of prayer you are in trouble, pray! The word James uses translates to pray, make prayers and pray earnestly. Earnestly is one of those words that we don’t use much now days. It means seriously or intensely.
I think what James is saying here is that if you are in trouble; have a serious discussion with God about it. I know that it’s easy to go somewhere and pray but: for some reason we don’t always achieve this task, we set out on. There are times when I’m in strife so the comfort eating kicks in, those of us who went through the Christchurch quakes, know what quake weight is, it was due to comfort eating in stressful times, prayer is much better for the waste line. Things aren't going well so we pray, or do we buy ourselves something nice to make ourselves feel better, leap up and down, mope, sulk, worry, get angry, spak out, get even, discuss it all over the neighbourhood, start an argument about it, involve the media, or perhaps just stew on it for a month or two? James says we should pray about it and not just pray, but seriously pray about it. That’s it, when you are in trouble talk it over with God.