Text: James 5:13-18

A friend recently asked me, “Harry, now that you are in a new chapter in your life, do you have any new routines?” It was a good question, one that I had to think about before answering. When I did respond, I noted that my wife and I start our day with the normal routines (getting dressed for the day, eating breakfast and reading the Bible together). Then I noted that I spend time most mornings studying and preparing for some classes that I am currently assigned to teach. But the more I pondered the question, I realized that most of my days are “interrupted”—interrupted by things I never anticipated or planned to undertake. I am convinced this is part of the human condition, and your days are “interrupted” as well.

So what do we do when those unplanned, unexpected things come our way? Let’s be clear. Some of the interruptions are absolutely delightful. But many are unsettling and cause us to worry and fret. In these situations we often resort to doing things as we have done them in the past. We rely on our own skill and expertise. But God has a better way. In fact, He has a resource that we often overlook or resort to only when we are at our most desperate point. Yet our text informs us that it should be our default way of living in…EVERY…circumstance.

You will want to notice that the passage begins with a series of three questions, followed by three answers—all of which make reference to some form of prayer. In fact, James refers to prayer eight different times in the text! Whether it is prayer in the form of supplication, confession to God and one another, or prayer in the form of a musical expression of praise. But it is not just prayer to start and end the day. Neither is it some obligatory prayer before a meal. What James is describing is similar to what the Apostle Paul refers to as “unceasing prayer” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. You see, according to our text:


However, someone will ask, “Why should we pray? It seems so passive, so powerless, and so outside of the normal way of doing things. Why pray?” There are hundreds of reasons the Bible gives in answer to this question, but our text provides us with two very important considerations.
  1. God commands us to pray! In verses 13, 14, and 16 James uses an imperative form of the verb to instruct the reader to pray, whether we are facing suffering, joyful circumstances or human weakness. 
  2. We should pray because our text tells us that it is “effective.” The phrase at the end of verse 16 can be translated in a variety of ways, but the writer seems to be saying that “urgent praying” uttered by people of faith is extremely powerful. 
God commands us to pray, and the act of praying gets results because God has ordained it to be so!

We are also faced with a very pragmatic question. How should we pray? There are a lot of formulas and strategies available to people of faith to help them in this important ministry of prayer. You will want to employ whatever strategy for prayer that is helpful for you in your daily communication with God. At the same time, James seems to imply that prayer is both individual communion with God (vv. 13-14a) and corporate intercession on behalf of one another (vv. 14b-16).

No set prayer strategy is described.

We are simply encouraged to pray…IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE. It is our first response to the situations we face.

Someone will surely ask, “Well, does this mean that God will answer every prayer we present to Him? Will He rescue us from every bad circumstance we face?” You may have noticed that in a previous paragraph I used the phrase “human weakness” to describe one of the situations in which we frequently find ourselves. I am of the persuasion that the “sick person” in verse 15 is referring—not so much to someone dealing with a disease-borne illness—but more to human weakness brought on by the ravages of sin and disobedience in our lives. That is why James calls his readers to “confess their sins.”

In addition, the word translated “sick” in verse 15 is the same word rendered “weakness” in other passages (cf. ROM 4:19; 1 COR 8:11-12; 2 COR 11:29; 1 THESS 5:14). The term seems to refer to spiritual-emotional weariness that weighs a person down after repeated acts of sin and rebellion against the revealed will of God.

So will God answer every prayer we present to Him? Will He heal every person who is physically afflicted?

My response is this:

Jesus is our King and we are citizens of His Kingdom (cf. COL 1:13-14). Our King will do whatever is good and right for His redemptive plan and the people He loves. 

What we do know is that He always responds to us with wisdom and love. In addition, we also know that when we confess our sin and rebellion, He will raise us up from our spiritual weariness to serve Him once again (v 15).

So what about your day? Has it already been interrupted by things you never expected? Yes, that’s the way life works—all the time!

Begin to implement some new strategies and start them as soon as you awaken!
  1. Tell the Heavenly Father that He can do with your schedule whatever He wants. 
  2. Before your feet touch the floor, ask King Jesus to give you wisdom to glorify Him no matter what you face. 
  3. And like Elijah of old, make prayer your consistent, default resource for every circumstance you face.

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