“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.”
James gives us a multiple choice test in today’s verses. “Life happens. Should you: a) pray b) pray c) pray d) all of the above?” Prayer is his answer to all of life’s situations, and instead of just quickly agreeing and moving on, we should stop and ask, “Why?” What is prayer? What does it accomplish (if anything)? James says here that a prayer of healing offered in faith will heal the sick. Is that true? Plenty of people have been prayed over and have not become well. How do we reconcile those things?
These questions point us to an important principle that we need as we read the Bible. On one hand, we have what the Bible says. We have its claims about the divinity of Jesus and about itself being the inspired word of God. On the other hand, we have our personal life experiences. When we read the Bible, what should we consider? The Bible cannot be taken halfway. Because of its significant claims, we cannot take some and not all. It is either God’s inspired word as it says or it isn’t. If you have never investigated the Bible or asked if it is actually true, you should explore that. But if you have come to the decision in faith based on thorough investigation that it is true, then you have to hold it up much higher than your personal experience. God’s claims are accurate to reality, our experiences are not so trustworthy.
Here’s your freedom for today: God says what he means and he means what he says. Prayer is an effective tool that God has given us to participate in bringing about his kingdom. It changes things. Through prayer, people are healed. Through prayer, God receives glory. Through prayer, Satan is pushed back and spiritual battles are won. Prayer is so important that James reminds us to turn to it in every life circumstance. If your experience of prayer is that it does not “work,” then consider that your experience is heavily influenced by spiritual battles that can be lost. God will win the war, but there are battles the enemy does win. God’s will is not fully done on earth as it is in heaven, which is why Jesus taught us to pray for that reality to come in full. In these verses God is telling us to pray, so no matter what your experience, just keep praying believing that there is a reason God gave us prayer as a weapon.