Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James begins this chapter by addressing those who are “suffering”. He uses a general Greek word that describes suffering of any kind, but the emphasis is on the anguish that is created in the mind as a result of the circumstances the person is experiencing. So, he is dealing there with people who are hurting emotionally as a result of some trouble in their lives.
We experience all kinds of problems that result in emotional hurt in our lives – problems in our family, financial problems, problems at work, etc. Those problems often lead to stress and anxiety. I don’t know about you, but my first response in those situations is usually to try and fix the problem on my own, but most often what happens is that my efforts just create more stress.
James teaches us that there is a better way. When I am hurting, prayer should not be my last resort, it needs to be my first.
When James writes that Elijah prayed fervently, he employed a Hebraic expression that could literally be translated “Elijah prayed a prayer.” In the chapter in Kings, God reveals to Elijah that He is going to bring rain upon the land after three and half years of drought, and God commands Elijah to pray. After Elijah prayed, God commanded him to go look toward the sea. Elijah didn’t see anything. He was commanded to do that seven more times and finally a small cloud appeared in the sky and a short time later the clouds blackened and the rain came. God wanted Elijah to be involved with what God was going to do through his prayer life, persistently and fervently.
The writer says that Elijah wasn’t that much different from us. Elijah believed and trusted and so should we.
Loving God, forgive us for the times that we have doubted you and tried to sort things out in our own lives on our own. Give us humble hearts and increase our trust in you. As we go throughout our day, let us praise you in our joys and in our sorrows knowing that you are the same God who will see us both the good and the difficult. So let us hold onto you tightly and ask for your guidance in our decisions today. Amen
The Rev’d Sue Henderson retired minister member at United Church Bradford on Avon