Praying with courage and wisdom
The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
- James 5:15-16
James certainly pitches a curveball at us here. On the surface, it looks like he’s making a big promise and setting a high bar. The big promise: pray with enough faith and the sick person will get well every time. The high bar: you have to be “righteous” for your prayer to be effective. Believe either of these things and your prayer life will collapse … the very thing James doesn’t want to happen!
Here’s the truth: sick people don’t always get well. Pray long enough and you will experience this sad reality. Prayer is not a cheap magic trick that places God and the universe under our control. Prayer alone can’t remove the damage done to our world and our lives by sin. Only the death of our Savior and the resurrection can do that.
None of us possesses the righteousness to guarantee that our prayers get answered every time. In fact, the prayer of the righteous always contains a clause nodding to God’s will (We will submit to your will, Lord, whatever it is). James taught us to do this in chapter 4 and Jesus modeled it for us in the Garden of Gethsemane.
So, why does James talk about prayer in this way? Was he wrong? Not at all. We just need to listen to what he actually says (instead of what we secretly hope he’s saying).
We pray and the Lord raises people up. Prayer and healing can be connected. God will make all of our brothers and sisters well, in this life or the next. James encourages us to pray with faith that God would heal. And so we take that risk. As we follow Jesus and he transforms us, infusing us with his righteousness, our prayer will become more and more powerful and effective. We will have the courage to pray and the wisdom to know how.
Where do you need God’s help to give you courage to pray and the wisdom to know how?