23 November 2013James 5:13-19
“The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (v. 16)
This passage is one that shows the author's absolute faith. He is convinced that God gives us ways of solving the things that afflict us. This passage can be read as a definite belief that with the correct prayer and the right amount of intensity, a solution will be given to the person who prays. Now, experience tells us that this isn't necessarily the case. The world has been praying for an end to war for hundreds and hundreds of years, yet war is more prevalent than ever. Surely, given the amount of people who pray about this, God would have heard. Did we then pray the wrong prayer, at the wrong time? Or perhaps God heard and wanted to help, but wasn't able to? These of course are the kinds of conclusions that people have wrestled with as long as they have been praying. But how does this Scripture fit with these questions?
We might propose that when James says that "the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up" (v. 15), he is not talking about those who suffer being made well, but that this salvation has different connotations. After all, our bodies fail and break and fall apart; this much is inevitable. It is not part of the created universe to allow us to live in perpetuity, and so at some point we will move on. Could the raising up refer to our permanent salvation; that even after sickness and death, we acknowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God? And in this acknowledgement, our prayers can gain a new level of power too; we no longer expect answers, and instead use prayer as an opportunity to see more of God's mysteries.
- If we don't expect answers to prayer, what can be the benefits of praying?
- How can we view God as both the one who can do everything, and the one who stays silent?