Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pray for One Another

James 5:13  Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14  Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15  The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17  Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18  Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. 19  My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20  you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

This letter is thought to have been written by James the Just, the brother of Jesus. It was written between AD40-50, at the time of the stoning of Stephen and persecution of Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 8). This is encouragement to new followers of Jesus, who fond themselves excluded from their community and chased away from Jerusalem. James encourages them to pray, to confess sin, and not to give up hope.

There is a lesson in this: ours is a world that thrives on popularity and acceptance. We hesitate to do anything that is outside of the norm, and as a consequence it is difficult to stand firm for our beliefs when such a belief is unpopular. This requires courage, and prayer is the means to access courage. If you are experiencing hardship because of your faith – stand in the tradition of the early Jesus followers and be prayerful and cheerful.    

An afterthought: According to James - if we see someone we love who “wanders from the truth”, then they should “be brought back”. Such action is only permitted after an acknowledgement of personal sinfulness (James 5;16), and a willingness to go the journey to find the person where they are. All too often followers of Jesus confront sin from a platform of their own self-righteousness, without being willing to stand alongside the sinner as a fellow pilgrim.  D. T. Niles, adapting the words of Martin Luther, challenges  Jesus followers to become like “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  [1]

Let this beggar tell another where I found bread,
I went asking for crumbs but found a banquet instead;
Seeking only for morsels I left this table well fed,
Follow me to the Master that's where you'll find bread.
by The Rochesters

First Sunday after Trinity
31 Mercy, Justice and Love
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 197.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

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