Read James 5:13-18 MSG
Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. 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. – James 5:13-15a
I had my first mammogram on my daughter’s 16th birthday. By the afternoon, I had heard from the doctor that I needed to have a follow-up diagnostic to investigate suspicious looking spots. They were able to schedule the diagnostic mammogram just a couple of days later, and after that procedure was done, the doctor ordered a biopsy. That procedure couldn’t be scheduled for another three weeks.
I think our human instinct is to keep these frightening moments to ourselves. Social media is full of just the good and beautiful moments of our lives, which is fine—social media is not an accurate representation of anyone’s full life. But to admit we’re afraid, even to our closest friends and family, feels too vulnerable and weak. We’re supposed to be brave and strong, right?
James instructed believers to call together church leaders to pray in the midst of sickness. He said that believing-prayer will heal you, that Jesus will put you on your feet. Different variations of the word “pray” appear 490 times in the Message version of the Bible, more or less depending on the translation you use, but the point remains: there is something mystical and powerful about prayer.
When we join our voices together to pray over someone, healing comes, Jesus restores the hurting. But before anyone can pray, the body of believers that surround you have to know what’s going on in your life. When we let down our guard and reveal our true humanity to others, it builds trust and relationships. It creates and strengthens our bond together. It allows others to love us well, and part of loving us well is praying over us.
In the weeks between diagnostic and biopsy, I could have had many sleepless nights and worried days. There were plenty of moments of fear and dread, tears and hugs, but there was also a strong sense of peace, the peace that passes all understanding. Buoyed by the prayers of friends and family, whatever was to come I knew in my spirit and my bones that all shall be well.
Healing doesn’t always look like physical health. Sometimes healing is spiritual, emotional, mental. The Holy Spirit is a mysterious force of love that connects us to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit steadied the sea of emotions for me during the month of May, and he used the prayers, encouragement, and love of believers, friends, and family to help me stand, to “put me on my feet.”
This is the power believers have, through the gift of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to change people’s lives.
P.S. I’m okay—the biopsy came back clear. Hallelujah!
Points of Reflection
- When you are afraid or worried about what will happen next, do you have people you can trust to pray for you?
- Think about a time when you kept your fears secret, and then think about when you’ve shared your fears with someone else. How does the act of telling someone else what’s happening change the weight of the thing?
For the Kids
- Do you think praying for other people is important? Why?
- Who are the people in your life with whom you feel safe confessing your fears and worries?
Intercessory prayer is the practice of praying on behalf of other people. Keep a journal this week (or ongoing) for individuals who God brings to your mind or who cross your path, and pray for them. In Romans, Paul wrote that if you don’t know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit will pray on your behalf, “through wordless groans.” Listen for the nudging of the Holy Spirit; if someone crosses your mind this week, reach out and see how they are doing. Sometimes, that was the exact moment a person desperately needed to hear from a friend.
There have been seasons of my walk with Jesus that I have questioned the purpose of prayer. How do we do it? Why? At just the right time, I picked up Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis. Letters to Malcolm is, according to the subtitle, “chiefly on prayer, reflections on the intimate dialogue between man and God.” Each chapter is a letter written in response to a close friend, Malcolm, meditating on the nature of prayer, practical applications regarding when and how, and more. If you’ve wrestled with the purpose and power of prayer as an activity, this is a lovely and moving little book.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.