Saturday, October 20, 2007
James 5:7-20: God's Purposes
"Elijah was a man like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land." ~ James 5:17
"You have heard of the perseverance of Job," writes James, and "you have seen the purpose of the Lord, for He is compassionate and merciful" (v. 11). What an awesome sight! Every Christ-follower has seen, in creation, in the testimony of the prophets, and in the refining of his or her character, the compassion and the mercy of God. These are His purposes. This is what divides Christianity from all other creeds. We believe, not only in one mighty God, but also in He who suffered and invited us into His suffering (the com-passion).
When the springs of our belief run dry - when we enter into a spiritual drought - how do we respond? James gives different variations on one answer: Pray, pray, and pray ever more! Suffering believers should pray, thankful believers should sing praise, and sick people should ask their church's elders to pray over them (vv. 12-13). When we go astray and feel the separation of our sins, we are to confess and to pray (v. 16) for forgiveness and for accountability going forward.
Inquiring minds may ask, "Why pray?" James' reply is typically succinct: It works wonders. He suggests that prayer will heal and forgive the sins of the sick (v. 14) and the repentant sinner (v. 16). Then, he gives a lesson from the Old Testament. In one of my favorite Scripture teachings, the fervent prayers of Elijah subverted the natural order to render judgment on wicked king Ahab.
Jesus, we ask for too little and we want too much. Let us boldly approach you with our needs. May you fill us with your Holy Spirit.