“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
(James 5:16-18 NIV)
As James winds down his letter to the churches, he wraps up with a call to prayer in chapter 5, verses 13 through 18. We looked at the first half of this section; today, we’ll look at the second half.
In the first half, James reminds the churches to pray. The test of our faith, when facing both hard circumstances and harsh treatment by our critics, is how we respond and where we go for help. Do we start by getting a lawyer to plead our case, do we retaliate on our own, do we go to the court of public opinion, or do we bow our knee and pray to God?
James knows that the folks in the churches are emotionally worn out, and spiritually week, feeble, and exhausted. Some folks have not handled the pressure well, and have not responded in a Christ-like manner (and thus, have sinned). The answer for both the spiritually weary and for the ones who have sinned, James says, is to pray.
James continues today with the test of prayer. James understands how God has made us – that we are made to have a vertical relationship with our Creator first and foremost. And we are also made to live in horizontal relationship with other people, to encourage others and be encouraged.
In verse 16, James calls us to pray for one another, to share our struggles, our disappointments, our downfalls, our weaknesses. James knows the supernatural power of God that comes from righteous men and women coming alongside us and praying for us, and us for them.
When James says to confess our sins to one another, what did he mean? James is teaching us to share areas of struggle with other believers – not the sordid details of our sin, but more about the area of our lives where we struggle spiritually. Examples might include being short-tempered, having a critical boss, neighbor, or work associate, Whether our own sin got us to this point, or if we find ourselves worn out in the spiritual battle, James knows it’s hard to pray, and the prayers of others are vital source of strength and encouragement.
James closes out this section with the example of Elijah. James reminds us that Elijah was just a regular person like you and I, but because of Elijah’s prayer, a whole nation was affected.
James says that Elijah “prayed earnestly”. In the Greek, the literal translation is that Elijah “prayed with prayer”. This means that Elijah really, really prayed. God listened and honored Elijah’s request, and it stopped raining for three and a half years. And Elijah really, really prayed again, and the Lord honored Elijah’s request again, and it rained.
Let’s apply what we’ve learned:
– What would happen to us if we prayed for one another?
– What would happen to our families if we prayed for each other?
– What would happen in our churches if we prayed for one another?
– What would happen if we really, really prayed for our community, our state, our nation, and our world?
Let’s try it and find out. God promises to show up.. big time.
The question is… are we willing to really, really pray?