Do you feel down in the dumps? Do you struggle with yourself? Does life ever overwhelm you? Has your faith become a drudgery? Are the storms of life upsetting? Is your service for Christ costly? If you take advice from James you'll certainly get help.
The theme that runs through James is 'You need a faith that works!' He's given some spiritual litmus to see how faith is firing: like how you handle treasures, endure trials and control tongues. His closing comments focus on the need for fervent prayer. To have a faith that works you'll be often on your knees.
Chapter 5.13 is where I want to take your heart. "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise." Don't think prayer a chore! God gives it for your cheer. Prayer brings some cheer in your tears. Prayer adds more cheer by your songs.
Subjects of Cheering Prayer
James gives no exemptions. Anyone is all-inclusive. All believers are beneficiaries in the bending of their knees. Husbands, wives, elders, deacons, men, women, parents, children, young, old, princes, citizens may receive this cheering help. Did my list exclude you? Cheer up Christ includes you!
Examples of Cheering Prayer
The apostle stops with song. Psalms will be my starting blocks. The 61st should comfort the mind and instill a happy heart. David begins with cries. He wants led to His Rock. Now, hidden under feathers, fresh courage floods his soul. "So I will ever praise your name as I perform my vows day after day." Note the Psalter direction. Lament overflows in Praise.
Occasions for Cheering Prayer
I don't think James intends to restrict prayer to gloom. Not only is it true that all God's children ought to pray. But the two polar opposites of "suffering" and "cheerful" suggest to Jewish hearers the full range of circumstance in between. Gladness, grief, sunshine, showers, ups, downs, sickness, health, acceptance, rejection, are right times for cheering prayer.
Problems with Cheering Prayer
Few pray as they want. None pray as they should. A glimpse at A.W. Pink's article on "Seven Prayer Sins" will put you straight on that. The truth is prayer's a struggle. Good examples can discourage. Did Martin Luther say he was so busy he had to pray three hours daily. He also wrote in a letter to his good friend Philip Melanchthon: "I sit here like a fool, hardened in leisure ...8 days have passed ...I have not prayed ...partly because of temptations ...partly tortured by other burdens." Perhaps lost cheer, through lack of prayer, explains why Martin Luther launched an ink-pot at the Devil!
Encouragement to Cheering Prayer
I think we need to see the loss is wholly ours. Too often we approach the work of prayer as 'chores'. As if God our master treats us like the way the ugly sisters made life hard for Cinderella. That must be Satan's lie to steal our joy away! No doubt prayer is a struggle - we wage war on all fronts - world flesh and devil would hurry us off knees and back into our seats. Remember God Triune - the Father wants to give good gifts, His beloved Son's blood has cleared the way, and His blessed Spirit within us generates hungry groans, by which we seek more grace. If God's love is the carrot then our lack is the stick - don't snub the Father's grace, don't shun Christ's blood-paved route, don't stifle the Comforter's cries!
Questionnaire on Cheering Prayer
Why do you forfeit grace? Why do you lack strength to stand? Why have you diminished the comfort that you crave? Why is heaven-sent help delayed (from a human point of view before a sovereign God Most Wise)? Why is it, child of God, you try to wage war when disarmed, without ammunition of prayer? 'Mark-down', 'cut-price' and 'heavily discounted prayer' is what deprives us of so much blessing and does damage to our souls!
Response to Cheering Prayer
Confess your unwise, carnal, energy-sapping, relatively non-ideal or sub-optimal prayerless state! Cry out in prayer "Cover me in the robe, Lord Jesus, of your prayer-saturated life. I know you loved to pray in your most dark and busy hours - before you selected disciples and as your suffered dereliction. How prayer buoyed you up before the raging torrent of the Cross submerged Your Sacred Head. Make this my motivation to seek more cheering prayer. Give me prayer hunger! Give me kneeling knees! Help me see this Lordship issue! I need all Heaven's help!