James 5 devotional

Prayer is something that we as Christians all know we should do regularly. And for some, it comes naturally–it’s one of the easiest aspects of the Christian life. But for others, it’s one of the hardest. And one of the reasons it can be difficult is because we don’t always know what to pray for. Maybe you’ve heard people who are sick praying to be healed, for example. But you’re not sick. Things are actually going really well. What are you supposed to pray for? In James 5, James discusses or alludes to four different types of prayer that we are to pray in different situations.
Relief from suffering:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.
Of the four types of prayer I’ll be discussing here, this is probably the one we pray most often. Even non-religious people may pray this type of prayer when they’re desperate. But let’s really think about this: The God of the universe, who created 100 billion galaxies, wants to hear about your problems. He wants to hear when you’re in pain. He desires that you ask him for help. And God does not just want to hear about big things, like a cancer diagnosis–he wants to hear about even the smallest problems you have.
And he wants to hear when you’re just worried about something. While Christians are not to worry, one of the ways we can overcome our worrying is by entrusting our worries to Jesus. When we’re suffering, no matter what we’re going through, we don’t have to go through it alone. We can always call out to God for help.
Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
This does not explicitly mention prayer, but it is in the context of a detailed section on prayer, and so I think it is appropriate to view prayers of praise as at least an application of this verse. How often do we pray to ask God for something, and then the moment we get what we prayed for we move on to the next thing without even taking a second to thank God for answering our prayer? It may even have been something we thought about every day, but the moment that it was over we forgot about it.
Imagine your parents buy you a car. Maybe you’ve been asking them for a car for months. Or maybe you never would’ve even thought to ask them to buy you one. Either way, one day you show up to the house and they surprise you with a car waiting for you. And you immediately grab the keys, jump in and drive off without even a thank you. How do you think your parents would feel? Would they feel appreciated? Would they feel you are grateful? In the same way, never thanking God for his blessings sends the message that you think you’re owed whatever he gives you, and don’t value him, only his gifts.
Forgiveness of sin:
And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
This one may seem the weirdest. Aren’t we already forgiven? Why do we need to pray for something we already have?
In an ultimate sense, yes, we are completely forgiven. All our sins have been fully paid for in the work of Christ, we are righteous in God’s sight, we are at peace with him, and nothing will ever change that.
But sin can still hinder our relationship with God. We cannot be in complete intimacy with someone when we rebel against them. And sin can still lead to earthly consequences, including illness. It is important to emphasize that sickness is not always the result of sin, as the example of Job given by James shows. But that does not mean sickness is never the result of sin. This section clearly shows it can be.
When we sin, we are telling God that we don’t love him as much as we love that sin. When we ask God for forgiveness, we are telling him that we were wrong, that we want to commit to our relationship with him, and that we love him above all else.
Prayer for others:
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
If we were to keep a record of everything that we pray for, I think a lot of us would find that most of our prayers are for ourselves. And, again, God wants us to come to him with all our needs and concerns. But if we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we should be just as eager to pray for others as well.
When we’re stressed, when we’re going through a difficult time, we all find it encouraging to hear someone is praying for us. In the same way, we should provide that encouragement for others. But more importantly, even if the person does not know we’re praying for them, God does. And God desires to glorify himself by answering many prayers (2 Corinthians 1:11).
Which of these types of prayer do you pray most often? Which do you find yourself most often neglecting? Whatever one that is for you, I encourage you to spend time today in that type of prayer, and to make it a regular part of your devotional life.

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