Prayer is a solemn request for help, an expression of thanks, or simply the opportunity to spend time with God. Prayer, which is addressed to our heavenly Father through the mediation of Jesus, is a simple, yet profound act of faith.
James, the brother of Jesus, saw the difficult trials many Christians throughout the Mediterranean region were facing, so he wrote them a letter of encouragement. In this letter, which we now call the book of James, he called the believers to prayer. His call was grounded in the assurance that God was using those trials to accomplish his good work in their lives.
For James, prayer is not about earning something from God. Rather, it’s about turning to God with open, trusting hearts — in times of need and in times of praise. It is being open to receive what God has for us.
Some of James’ readers needed deliverance, so James said, “Is anyone among you in trouble?… Let them pray.” Others were in times of blessing; to them James said, “Is anyone happy? … Let them sing songs of praise.” Still others were sick and in need of healing, so James says this:
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And 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. (James 5:14b-15)
James’ overall point is clear: no matter what our need or where we are in life, share everything with God in prayer. He is always ready to respond. Even in those times of severe illness, when we might be too weak even to pray, he is there. It is during these times that we can rely on the church, here represented by its elders, to come to our aid to pray for us. Even if the illness is the result of our own sin, we can be confident knowing God has forgiven us. That reassurance gives us confidence to do what James says next: “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 5:16).
A healthy congregation — a congregation filled with believers who look up to God, who trust God, and who love each other — should be a safe place where people can share their needs. There they feel free to ask for help when it is needed, even confessing their sins to each another. Such a congregation is a place of healing, for God is present and at work in the lives of the members.
In a healthy congregation, sinners are not shunned — they are cared for and prayed for. The elders are quick to go to their aid, bringing prayer and anointing with oil, representing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. My prayer for the congregations of Grace Communion International, and for all the Body of Christ, is that they will be houses of prayer!
This is Greg Williams, speaking of life.