Thursday, December 23, 2021

Effective Prayer (James 5:13-18)

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." (James 5:13).

James warns us repeatedly about the dangerous uses of the tongue. Here he tells us the most important proper use of it: talking with God. First of all, he says that if we are in trouble, we should turn our troubles over to God through prayer. That would seem almost an unnecessary exhortation, since most of us do turn to God when things go wrong. Yet, when things go wrong over a long period of time, we tend to stop praying and become stoic about the matter. James reminds us to persevere, being faithful to keep praying.

Second, James says that if we are happy, we should sing songs of praise to God. We are likely to forget the Lord when things go well for us, and we need to be reminded to enjoy the good things of life in His presence.

The third thing James says about prayer is in verse 16: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” There is a kind of praying that is superficial, and there is prayer that emanates from the very depth of the soul—prayer characterized by a fervent and devoted attitude and spirit. Now this does not mean unbridled emotion but prayer where the person is serious, not half-hearted. Jacob wrestled with God into the night. This kind of prayer brings forth dramatic results.

The spirit of God helps us to pray as we ought. People have asked me, “R.C., do you believe prayer changes God’s mind?” I usually look at such people like they are out of their mind for asking such a question. I respond, “Of course not,” at which they look shocked. They usually then quote this verse. I then say, “You didn’t ask me if prayer changes things. Prayer makes all kinds of things happen.”

Our heavenly Father is delighted to give us things if we would only ask. But the question was, Does prayer change God’s mind? When God plans to do something, He does so with absolute knowledge of every possible relating factor—including our prayer. But this verse tells us that prayer makes a difference because in God’s sovereignty, one of the means He uses to bring about His purposes is human prayer.

Prayer is vital to our relationship with God. But though we talk a lot about prayer, we are generally not a praying people. Consider your life today. How faithful are you to speak to your heavenly Father? Is your prayer fervent and serious? If not, ask God for grace to begin again today.