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The far-reaching power of prayer

September 29, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 5:12-15

12 Most important, my brothers and sisters, never make a solemn pledge—neither by heaven nor earth, nor by anything else. Instead, speak with a simple “Yes” or “No,” or else you may fall under judgment.

13 If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. 14 If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

This section of James offers great hope, and yet poses questions hard to understand. That may be why James led with an echo of Jesus’ teaching. “James, once more following the teaching of his older brother (Matthew 5:34–37), insists that saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is quite enough. Anything more risks invoking not divine support, but divine judgment.” * James knew it is a privilege to pray for one another, yet also knew that God, not us, decides what the specific results of the prayers will be.

  • Phillip Yancey has long studied prayer. “I believe in prayer and its power to change both people and events…. I rejoice over reports of miraculous healings, but I also remember with a pang the file drawer in my office bulging with stories of those who have not been healed.” Later, “[Jesus] brought a young girl back to life, but how many others died in Israel that day?” ** In view of the full Biblical record and real-life reflection, what do you believe James 5:15 did and didn’t promise?
  • From his own prayerful thinking, Yancey offered a few important questions: “Am I expecting a miracle as an entitlement?… Do I wrongly blame God for causing the suffering?… Am I prepared for the possibility that physical healing may not take place?” ** James spoke of forgiveness and songs of joy along with physical illness and healing. Are you willing to look at the wide spectrum of ways God acts in our lives, rather than demanding just one outcome?

Lord God, you are the God of creation and of restoration, the God who desires inner and outer wellness and wholeness. I trust you to work for good in all those ways for me and those I love. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Human Resources Lead Director. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

I went back to my hometown of Garden City, KS over Labor Day Weekend. Garden City is nearly a 6-hour drive, and I was traveling by myself. About 5 hours into the drive, I was cruising along in the middle of nowhere when my engine light came on. I immediately lost control of the accelerator. I was able to coast to a stop at the intersection of Highway 56 and cornfield. There’s a whole story to it, but I spent 4.5 hours in 100-degree weather waiting for a tow truck to take me the rest of the way.

To make matters worse, this happened on Friday night of a holiday weekend. Every mechanic I contacted in Garden City was going to be closed until Tuesday. Thankfully, I had a very kind neighbor look at it, and he was able to get it started. The car kind of worked. I was able to briefly drive it around town, but in doing so, it made a knocking noise. I later had someone else look at it who told me there were metal flecks in my oil, which apparently is never a great sign. Once I finally was able to get it to a mechanic, I found out that it needed a new engine (thankfully under a manufacture recall). So, while the car would start and drive around, It was only kind of going. Meanwhile, things were falling apart under the hood.

I think many of us function like my car: kind of working. We’re kind of committed. It may appear that everything is great under the hood, but appearances can be deceiving. Today’s passage in James is urging us to not function in a “kind of” mode and to simply speak with either a “Yes” or “No.” In other words, don’t say “yes,” if you mean “kind of” or “maybe, but I doubt it” or “yes unless something better comes along.”

Being trustworthy is certainly a good practice in general, but it’s definitely important when it comes to faith. When we proclaim a “kind of” faith, we may think we’re fooling others, fooling ourselves, or even fooling God. But our “kind of” faith isn’t running as it is meant to. It’s particularly dangerous because we may not fix a “kind of” faith. After all, it does kind of run. But a kind of faith isn’t sustainable. It’s not life-giving. It’s certainly not what God has in mind for us. We should either be truly committed or willing to say that something isn’t working. The good news is that our God happens to specialize in fixing brokenness.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 39). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

** Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006, pp. 220, 258. (For in-depth study of the power and limits of prayer, chapter 16-19 of Yancey’s book are an excellent resource.)

*** Ibid., pp. 258-264.