12/13/09 On prayer: In all the suffering and oppression that people face, rather than “swearing” (v. 12) or “dealing with it” yourself (v. 13) James says that we should pray. That should be our knee jerk reaction in all situations both positive and negative. These were volatile times and James was intent on diffusing the situation. However, his counsel was not to the extreme of violence or the other extreme of silently bearing suffering. God’s people must participate in warlike fashion by prayer.
Prayer is not passive! Indeed it’s as violent as you can get in the spiritual realm, which is the cause of all the trouble in the first place. Prayer is an act of war, and some warriors are more effective than others, yet all are needed, and all increase their skill with combat experience.
But James starts out by pointing out and that in joy (euphorii) we should pray songs of praise (psalms). Glorying in the might and power and goodness of our our commander is good battle strategy because it draws us into trust in difficult situations where we must simply obey orders.
He then goes on to speak of sickness, presumably serious illness since elders had to be called to come to him. For James, and the Jewish mindset in general, sickness was tied to sin–which is true at a root level, though Jesus himself made an important distinction that sin isn’t to be seen as God’s vindictiveness. (Who sinned, this man or his parents?) So someone seriously ill who believes in the power and desire of God to heal, should call for anointing. “And the prayer offered in faith (by the elders, but also by the sick one?) and he will be restored. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
Presumably, this isn’t a baptism where every unconfessed sin is forgiven. Most likely these would be sins that may have led to the sickness in the first place, like unhealthful living, for instance. Such sins are to be confessed, acknowledged, turned away from, and prayer offered in such a situation by faithful people will move heaven in a way that it could not otherwise move. It’s not magic, it is responding to a change in people that allows new conditions for action in heaven.
Over all, James concludes his letter, we must be intent on helping people live in “orthopraxi.” That is the belief that is not simply acknowledged as fact (orthodoxy), but truth that is believed to the point of life transformation. Belief that leads to correct practice. This is an intriguing verse that our efforts to rescue others will somehow count toward or own salvation and covering sins.
This brings to a close this devotional study. Find devotional commentaries on other books of the Bible at www.scoggins.biz. Also find information about my book on Revelation.