Concrete Practices

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have the pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:13-14 NRSV)

The author of James closes his letter with a strong ending. Whether you’re suffering, happy, ill or feeling the effects of a sinful life, you can reach out. I find it interesting that James describes a two-way street. If you’re suffering, pray. But, he also tells us to call in the “prayer squad.” Let others know that you’re suffering and in need help.

This is another one of those counter-cultural issues I’ve mentioned in the past few posts. We live in a society that demands independence and individualism. Suffering? Suck it up and get through it. Everyone has problems so quit whining. Besides, you’re supposed to be happy. Suffering and long faces aren’t acceptable.

But, that’s not reality. Next time you’re with a group of friends, look around. Some are in a happy place. Many, if not most, are dealing with very difficult issues. And there may be a few who need to be called back from a life of poor choices. We can’t simply ignore this and move on.  Nor can we give them the quick fixes for their problems.  We need to be in prayer for all of these folk, regardless of our feelings for them.

Sing with rejoicing for those who are rejoicing. Share in the their joy. Give thanks. This is a time to celebrate, even if the joy appears to be small in your view.

Are you suffering or ill? Get help! Don’t simply suck it up and suffer in silence; reach out. Let those close to you hear what you’re going through. Let them know how they can pray for you. Seek courage from them through God to move forward in whatever direction you need to go.

Lone Rangers are good for TV. Not for life. We need each other. If you don’t have a place of worship, I encourage you to find one. Find a place where you can be a part of joy-filled, Spirit-filled worship, heart-felt prayer and fellowship that includes you. Find a place where you can be held up in authentic prayer when you need it and be in prayer for others.

Christians have spent the past 2,000 years trying to figure out what community is all about. James is only one of many who have tried to explain it. The problem is, we’re sinners living and worshiping beside sinners. Sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we hurt others they end up leaving the church and God forever.

Thanks be to God that we keep trying. We keep looking for a better way. We keep reading the Bible and studying with others and praying. And once in awhile we get it right and miracles happen.

Prayer is powerful. God is always with us. When we give thanks in prayer and singing, we can understand what we’ve learned through our suffering or illness or sinful condition to carry with us.

When we seek healing in suffering or illness, we can learn in prayer that God speaks to us and acts in our lives. I rejoice when my prayers for healing are answered with healing of body and soul. But, I also understand that some healing that I pray for doesn’t occur. What I learn, though, is that healing can come in other forms: healing of the spirit that gives courage to move forward with what Paul called, “the thorn in the side.” There’s a healing of the soul that understands that God is with me as I journey through this disease. There’s a healing that you come to understand that I must journey through this suffering and I need you to walk with me, even if it means that you’re carrying a sacrificial cross to do so.

There’s healing of all kinds. I can pray, but I can’t tell God how to do it. I can seek forgiveness, and know that I’m already forgiven. I seek relief from the hurt I see in those closest to me. In the end, though, I can’t do it alone.

I need God. And I need my faith family.

But, it’s up to me to tell my faith family what I need.

Perhaps this is the day that you step up and say, “Hey! I need help.  I need your presence to help me make it through today.”

Perhaps this is the day that you step up and say, “How can I help you?  I can be a presence to help you make it through this day?”

James is right.  It’s a two-way street.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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