"Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing." (James 5:13)
These 9 simple words are strung beautifully together in The Message translation of James 5:13. James has taken the sometimes overcomplicated-by-our-human-selves act of prayer and made it so easy. Are you hurting? Then pray about it. Are you having a great day? Sing about it. There are so many emotions and events that can happen between hurt and greatness. We are called to pray through them all. What an amazing feeling to know that the God of the universe, He who made everything we see and touch and interact with and love every day also wants to talk to us day in and day out, whether our days are good or bad. That information all by itself sparks a feeling of joy in my heart that no one can take away.
"Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out." (James 5:14-15)
I would love to say that these verses mean that praying hard enough equals complete healing for the person here on earth. But I think we all know that's not true. God is not your personal genie. He isn't going to grant your each and every wish. Sometimes, because we live in an imperfect and fallen world, bad things are allowed to happen. And beyond that, God knows what he's doing. He can see the bigger picture. He will use every single thing for his greater purpose. So even when something bad happens now, you can expect a greater purpose in the future whether you get to see it or not.
The way God heals a person of their illness sometimes includes their going home to heaven. What is going on in their lives is solved by Jesus simply calling them home. In heaven, they are whole and healed and perfect again. Other times, the healing they receive means they are healed temporarily here on earth. This is not our permanent residence, remember. The Bible tells us in Philippians 3:20 that our permanent address is heaven. It's not here. This is a short stop in our eternity.
Look at Paul who wrote half of the New Testament (almost). He was afflicted with what he described as "a thorn in the side." He never comes out and says exactly what this is, but it's possible it was some simple but uncomfortable chronic illness like headaches or migraines. He prayed and prayed for healing and it didn't come. God said his power is made greater in Paul's weakness and so he continued to have that thorn in his side for the rest of his days as far as anyone knows.
A couple of years ago, two of my friends each had a son dealing with cancer. Both are great women who love Jesus, go to church every week, and do their best to live their lives like Jesus. They pray constantly and asked their communities to surround their babies in prayer. We absolutely did that. One son was declared "in remission" and is seemingly healed today. The other is in heaven with Jesus. Two women. Two sons. Two outcomes. Two different ways of healing. The same Jesus.
Does this mean Jesus loves one more than the other? That he answered one prayer and not the other? Absolutely not. He loves each and every one of us the same, with a fierce and unending love. Both of these guys are loved by God himself. One has more life to live here on earth, the other had the privilege of hearing "well done, my good and faithful servant" as his short time here on earth came to an end. Yes, we miss him, but we will be reunited one day in heaven. Those words don't feel like enough and they aren't. Nothing can take away the absolutely heartbreaking feeling of losing a child, not even the "time" that everyone claims.
"Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again." (James 5:16-18)
From sickness and healing, James takes a turn at confessing our sins and praying for one another. I love that James challenges us all as believers to pray for one another. There is nothing more powerful that you can do for another person than to talk to Jesus on their behalf. And this isn't because your prayers are better than anyone else's. It's because you are building a relationship with Jesus one prayer at a time. You are giving complete trust to God that he will take care of those you love. And at the same time, you are living in fellowship with other believers which is one of the ways that God made us to live our lives.
I have loved the challenges that God is giving me lately and I have another for you for today. My challenge for you today is to start a prayer journal. It could be written out on paper, in an actual journal, or even on your phone. Write out the names of the people in your life. You can make this longer or shorter, but write it. Add notes about things that are going on in their lives. Then start praying for them. Every single day, open that journal and pray. When you hear about an answered prayer, make a note. It'll be amazingly uplifting and encouraging for you a few weeks from now to look back on it and see all of the answered prayers.
I used to do this, actually. I'm going to go now and update my own prayer journal. I pray that you start your own as well. Have a blessed day.