Not long ago a dear friend of mine was weary from the work of ministry. A few years prior, he uprooted his family to move to another state where he would serve as a church planter. He left his home, his friends, his church, his work, and so much more. However, he moved with great joy and anticipation for what God was going to do in this new ministry.
Church planting is difficult. The persistent plowing of new ground can take its toll. Laboring each week with setting up, tearing down, and ministering in between is physically and emotionally draining. To add to that, the spiritual attacks of Satan are multiplied. Core leaders fail to stand firm, fall to deception, and abandon the ministry altogether. Betrayal weighs heavy. Exhaustion sets in. And, the wounded warrior is limping through the battlefield.
My wife and I spent some time with him, hoping to hear about the great work that God was doing. To our delight, he was full of joy and hope. He smiled as he unfolded story after story of others being saved and even more renewing their commitment to the Lord and His church. Still, there were stories of pain and spiritual attack. We could tell he was wounded by the battle. We prayed until we felt the Lord stopping us. He lifted his head, restored in strength, and said, “Thank you, that was refreshing.”
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.James 5:13
The epistle of James is collection of trials meant to inform us of the condition of our faith by approving its validity and improving its maturity. “Count it all joy,” he wrote, “when you meet trials of various kinds” (Ja. 1:2). And, with all of these trials under the belt, he closes with a kind of benediction, a response time for us to take some action. His command is quite simple—pray. When you are wounded by life’s trials, don’t drown yourself in alcohol, don’t distract your mind with shopping, don’t turn to the world. Instead, turn to God and pray.
We might have expected him to provide something more elegant. This is only because we think of prayer so lightly. It is not our gut response. When times are challenging, we believer there to be bigger solutions, lengthier processes, or deeper truths. But, God has not made it difficult for us. He has given us a means that is simple, yet powerful. He calls us to pray.
This the first of three questions that James poses to his readers. “Is anyone suffering? Is anyone cheerful? Is anyone sick?” (Ja. 5:13-14). Each of the three questions is followed by a command to take initiative. “Let him pray, praise, and call on the elders to pray for him” (Ja. 5:13-14). All of which speak of the supernatural power of God who works through our prayers to meet the needs of those who turn to Him.
Are You Suffering?
James is speaking directly to those who identify as “suffering” (Ja. 5:13). In the Greek, it is in the present-tense, meaning currently suffering or continually suffering. In the secular usage of the word, it is generally employed to refer to the hardships that come with military service. Soldiers are called to a duty of suffering.
In the same way, Christian soldiers are called to a duty of suffering. “In this world, you will have trouble,” Jesus told the disciples (Jn. 16:33). The weight of the world, the pressure of sinners, the evils of sin, the temptations of the flesh afflict us as followers of Christ. So, James is calling out to those who are currently weak from the battle and sore from the battle’s war.
You Should Pray.
It’s worth saying again, James’ solution to our weariness and pain is to do one thing, pray. The word literally means to face God and speak. While there are many words in the Bible that we translate “pray,” this one uniquely encompasses all aspects of prayer: submission, confession, petition, supplication, praise, and thanksgiving. In fact, it even carries the notion of worship which is absent from many others.
The word implies directness and definitiveness. Turn to God. Look to God. Get one-on-one with God. Be face-to-face with God. And keep speaking. (It too is in the present-tense form.) It is the essence of what Peter said, “be casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Get alone with God and tell Him about your weariness and wounds. He can restore your strength.
Is prayer your first reaction when suffering comes your way? Are you eager to turn to God and speak in personal communion? Would you turn to Him now and not waive such a great gift? A well-known hymn reminds us:
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer