embracing a life of prayer
Biblestudy, Growing your faith, The book of James

Embracing a Life of Prayer: Lessons from James 5:13-18

Why should prayer be an important part of a believer’s life? As James brings his letter to an end, he encourages believers to pray in all circumstances. Not only does he encourage us as individuals to pray, he calls on elders and those in authority to pray for those who are weak and weary. He also calls on members of the church to pray for one another and then goes on to highlight how powerful the prayer of a righteous man is. Today let’s take a quick look at “Embracing a life of Prayer: Lessons from James 5:13-18”.

 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.  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. 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 5:13-16

What is The Essence of James 5:13-18?

James begins by addressing different emotional states and circumstances. He encourages those who are suffering to pray and those who are cheerful to sing praises. The word “prayer” occurs seven times in James 5:13-18 used in its noun or verb form. And bible commentaries describe his encouragement to believers to pray as an imperative (a command).

James’s writing here was centered on the theme of prayer. He showed us these three things in those few verses – when we should pray, why we should pray and the effects of our prayers.

It is interesting to see how he introduced this section to us with this question. ‘Is anyone among you suffering? Let them pray.’- James 5:13. How do you pray in the midst of suffering, trouble and affliction? How do you turn your face to God in prayer in trying and difficult times? Yet, James says – let them pray. There is definitely something that prayer does or can do in times of crisis, affliction and trouble.

This takes us back to James 1:2 where he says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. Here, he encouraged believers to embrace trials with joy. For it is in the place of prayer that we can find strength and hope in times of adversity. Prayer does not only change things, it also changes us and puts us in a place of surrender before God.

The book of James in its first chapter highlights the importance of living out our faith by being doers of the word. A living faith is one that will turn to God in the midst of trials, adversity and crisis. Your response as a believer in times of trials and trouble is a key part of your faith journey.

The apostle James in his closing chapter reminds us today as believers of our need to constantly turn to God in prayer in all circumstances of life. There is often the temptation to wallow in self-pity, rejection or simply turn to things and people for answers in times of crisis. But through these verses, James shows us where and who to run to in those moments, and also the place and power of prayer in the life of a believer.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ – James 5:16

And it is no surprise that such counsel will come from a man who believed in the power of prayer. According to BibleGateway ‘Lockyer’s all the men of the bible’, James the apostle is described this way:

He was the writer of the epistle bearing his name, which has always been attributed to “James the Just.” But such was his character that he styled himself not as the brother, but only the servant or “slave” of the Lord Jesus Christ. His epistle gives us an admirable summary of practical duties incumbent upon all believers.

“He was a man who believed in the power of prayer, as evidenced by the space he devotes to it in his epistle. Because of his habit of always kneeling in intercession for the saints, his knees became calloused like a camel’s; thus, he became known as “The Man with Camel’s Knees.”

The Power of Prayer

Prayer is powerful and brings us into an awareness of the goodness, faithfulness and glory of God. It reminds us of our need for God and his presence and power in our lives. In the place of prayer, we connect and communicate our hearts and minds to a great God who is able to do much more than we can ever ask of him, think or even imagine in our hearts.

Prayer is talking to God and opening our hearts to hear him speak back to us. Prayer is an act of worship and often reminds us of the sovereignty of God and his kingdom here on earth. Prayer is your opportunity to pour out your heart like water before God concerning anything or situation in your life.

Sometimes, in the place of prayer– words may fail you and it becomes a cry from the depth of your soul pressing into a depth of God you have never known.

For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. -Romans 8:26

Prayer helps us keep our gaze on God when nothing seems to make sense and when our hope is fast failing. Prayer is that last unwritten piece of the armor of God which we can put on to fight and win life’s battles.

“For tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer.” – James 5:16 TPT

The AMPC bible translation says that the earnest (heartfelt and continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available and is dynamic in its working. In verse 16b, James encourages us as believers to move into practical righteousness in their daily lives to enhance the efficacy of their prayers. That is why the bible tells us to walk in this new life we have in Christ. Your knowledge of God and embracing your identity in Christ will help you to stand boldly and with authority in the place of prayer. When believers pray, power is released.

Priscilla Shirer says “Prayer is the portal that brings the power of heaven down to earth. It is kryptonite to the enemy and to all his ploys against you.

When you pray as a believer, you bring the power of heaven down here on earth. The power of prayer is the power of God working on your behalf.

3 Heartfelt and Powerful Prayers in the Bible

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. – James 5:17-18

James used the prophet Elijah as an example of a righteous person whose prayers had significant effects. He was human just like you and I today, yet his prayers led to a three-and-a-half-year drought and then rain, demonstrating the profound impact of faithful and fervent prayer. Let us take a look at some heartfelt and powerful prayers in the bible.

1. The Prayer of Jabez

The name Jabez is mentioned in some few verses of the bible. But he is most remembered for his heartfelt prayer to God. This prayer has gone on to encourage and build the faith of many around the world even up till this day. His name meant ‘sorrow’, but in a quick moment of prayer, power was released from heaven and his life was changed forever.

1 Chronicles 4:9 -10

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, 
‘Because I bore him in pain.’ 
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 
‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, 
and enlarge my territory, 
that Your hand would be with me, 
and that You would keep me from evil, 
that I may not cause pain!’ 
So God granted him what he requested.

2. Hannah’s Prayer

Hannah was barren and went to the worship God with her family at Shiloh. She had become overwhelmed with the burden and pain of her childlessness. So, she went before God and poured out her heart to him in prayer. The bible says that her lips moved and her voice was not heard. Eli the priest thought she was drunk. But it was a call to God from the deepest part of her heart.

And as she prayed, she “wept bitterly” O LORD of hosts,  if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head. – 1 Samuel 1:11 (NASB)

God heard Hannah’s prayer and gave her a son. “So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” – 1 Samuel 1:20

3. Jesus Prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus called out to God in this classic final moment before his arrest. The bible says that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. As he prayed, sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” Luke 22:44.

Jesus said to his father in a heartfelt moment of prayer – “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”- Matthew 26:42

He knew the suffering that lay ahead of him. He knew his mission here on earth was to die and save us from the penalty of sin. He was overwhelmed and at the end of his tunnel. Yet, in the place of prayer, he surrendered to God’s will for his life. How often do we submit and yield to God’s purpose and plans for our lives? Do you willingly surrender to God’s will in the place of prayer? And when last did you say a heartfelt and passionate prayer to God?

James reminds us here once again in James 5:16 AMP“The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) is able to accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God–it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. 

One translation of the bible says that God does powerful things when a godly believer prays. Your prayers are powerful, effective, produces wonderful results, avails much and is dynamic in its working.

It is important for us as believers to take James’s call to turn to prayer at all times to heart. “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.  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.” – James 5:13

Are you experiencing ‘suffering’ (pain, despair, sickness and loss) right now in your life? Go to God in prayer. Are you joyful, happy and thankful in your life? Remember to give glory to God and praise him for his faithfulness. Are you experiencing sickness in your mind, soul and body (weakness, brokenness, helplessness, depression in your life)? Turn to God and pour out your heart in prayer.  Reach out to your leaders, brothers and sisters in Christ and together you can call out to God and agree in prayer. God’s grace, mercy, healing and favor is released in the place of prayer.

In summary, James 5:13-18 provides us with a good guide on the importance of personal and communal prayer in our lives. These verses also highlight the power of faith in addressing life’s challenges. As we turn to prayer in times of trouble and joy, pray for healing, seek support from a Christian community, practice confession and embrace practical righteousness in our lives, we can as believers experience the transformative power of prayer.

James in the bible

Challenge to Apply James 5:13-18: Reflective Questions

1. When faced with difficulties, how often do you turn to prayer as your first response?

2. How can you incorporate songs of praise or expressions of gratitude into your daily routine?

3. Do you believe in the power of prayer for physical healing? Why or why not?

4. Have you experienced spiritual or emotional healing through confession and prayer? What was it like?

5. What steps can you take to live a more righteous life, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of your prayers?

6. How does Elijah’s example of persistent prayer inspire you?

5 Powerful Prayers from the Bible

Prayer:

Lord, may calling on your name and prayer always be my first response in difficult times and seasons in my life. May your goodness in my life never become common place. Help me to always remember your faithfulness in my life.  I will sing your praises at all times and your praises will never leave my mouth. Father, I ask that you surround me with a great support system. Help me to embrace a life of prayer and help me to stay persistent in prayer at all times that I may experience the powerful and dynamic effects of prayer in my life. Amen!

You can read also:

Living out your Faith in Today’s World

The Book of James in the Bible

Living Wisely in the World Today

Image by Arnie Bragg from Pixabay

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3 Comments

  1. I love the reminder that prayer changes our hearts! Thanks for this encouragement, dear friend!

    1. Ufuoma Fijabi says:

      You are welcome friend.

  2. “James shows us where and who to run to in those moments, and also the place and power of prayer in the life of a believer.” Amen!!! Our prayers are powerful … 🩷

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