“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Imagine with me for a minute: Something awful has happened. Who’s the first person you tell? You’ve just had the best day you’ve had in a long time. Who do you tell first? You’ve finally solved that huge mystery you’ve been wondering about for weeks. Who is it you can’t wait to see so you can give them all the details? My guess is the person who’s name kept coming up is either your best friend in the world, your spouse, or both. That’s just about as it should be. James, however, has another suggestion for that list.
When you first read these two verses, it sounds a bit like James is giving some kind of a formal set of commands. In some situations we should pray. In some situations we should praise. In some we should call for others to pray.
But when you think about, he’s just talking about prayer here. Whether it’s prayers of praise or lament or for help, it’s all prayer. And whether we’re doing it by ourselves or having somebody else do it over us, it’s still all prayer.
And if you think about it just a little bit more, James isn’t just talking about these three situations. These are merely illustrations. Certainly we should turn to prayer in these situations, but it’s not like James is limiting us to these situations. His bigger point is that we should be praying in every single situation we are in. Whether things are good or hard, it’s prayer that should be our first response.
Remember that person you turn to first with whatever kind of news you happen to have? James here is arguing that God should be on that list. In fact, He should be at the top of that list. Whatever happens to be going on in your life, if you are a follower of Jesus, your first instinct should be to tell your heavenly Father about it.
And before you go thinking that here I am, another preacher telling you to pray more just like every other preacher you’ve ever listened to (if we’re all saying it, do you think maybe you ought to listen…just saying), stop for a minute and think about the bigger concept here. It may not be one you consider all that much.
God created the world and everything in it. The whole thing. Every detail and nuance. Every creature and flower. Every single strand of DNA for everything that has DNA, God wrote. That’s power, right? I mean, that kind of power and intelligence is amazing. Really, “amazing” isn’t a strong enough word. We really don’t even have a word that can capture that kind of greatness except perhaps glory and we understand that so imprecisely it doesn’t help us all that much.
Here’s what I’m getting at: That’s the same God James is telling us to treat like a best friend to whom we can’t wait to pour out our hearts over the day we just had. I get an image in my mind of a preteen girl who can’t wait to get home and get on the phone with her bestie because she simply will not believe who did or said what to whom. We can treat the God who is powerful beyond our imagination like that. In fact, we are encouraged to do so.
There isn’t another God like that. Period. There are rivals and imitators, but no one else achieves that mark of power and intimacy.
But He wants it. He may have made the world, but He wants to be your chief confidante. He wants to hear all about your day and what you thought about it. And because He’s God, He doesn’t have to wait until the end of the day unless you make Him wait. You can tell Him about it right in the moment when the emotions are still fresh. You can treat Him just like you would a best friend. Because that’s what He wants to be. Don’t forget that He is unrivaled in glorious holiness and approachable only on those terms (which we can meet only in Christ Jesus), but open your heart like He’s concerned with no one in the world so much as you. Because He isn’t.