Truthful and praying: Devotional Commentary for August 23-29
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
5:12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
This is a continuing admonition. Having just admonished us to persevere in patience as we wait for our Lord's imminent coming, James exhorts us to hold the Name of God in utmost reverence and highest exaltation. He gives us additional insights as to how our life as Christians should continue. He starts out by telling us to be trustworthy and reliable. As children of a trustworthy God, our words must always convey the truth without having to invoke the Name of God to affirm our honesty.
An oath is declared to convince an audience that the speaker meant what he or she said. Oaths are often viewed stronger or more reliable when something grand is sworn by or even more so when the Name of God is invoked. James says, such practices are wrong, presumptuous, and contemptuous. They are blasphemous and irreverent to the Name of God and His Glory.
We should not swear by heaven, or earth, or man, or any other portion of creation grand or otherwise. They all declare the Glory of God. Heaven is God's throne and the earth His footstool. God created Adam and Eve in His own Image. Creation and creatures showcase God's majesty as the Creator. Therefore, swearing by God or His Work is tantamount to relegating His Glory to the vanity of our hollow imaginations.
James urges us to be truthful in all things. If we mean yes, then we say yes. If we mean no, then we say no. Plain and simple. Let the words of our mouth be truthful and pleasing to God. Let them be inherently valid and reliable. Let no idle words come out of our mouths.
But if we invoke the Name of God and enter into an oath, we shall be judged by the terms of the vow we made. We shall be held accountable to the Name of God by which we made a solemn pledge to declare our true intentions regarding the matter at hand. Our words will be judged by the Holy Standards of the Name of God we invoked.
13Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.
14Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
18Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
Besides being trustworthy and reliable, James also exhorts us to be godly in the expression of our needs and our emotional sentiments. He says to be always in prayer when we are in trouble and sing praises to God when we are cheerful. James recognizes that our pilgrimage is characterized by seasons of trouble and by times of joy. therefore, our reactions must be seasoned by godly responses. That is, joyful perseverance in a prayerful communion with God.
Christian or otherwise, one of the troubles that continues to plague men and women is the affliction of sickness or suffering. Being aware of this all-too-common reality, James urges us to petition for God's merciful deliverance and healing through prayer. This is a bit different from private prayers which carry our wishes to be well to our Father Who knows and gives what we need.
James does not diminish the significance of private and personal communion with God. He says to pray when we suffer. In this passage however, he emphatically signifies the unquestionable importance of corporate supplication anchored in faith. Prayer and healing are God's Gift to the corporate body of the faithful, the church. The faithful would call the elders of the church to entreat God for His healing through corporate prayer and the anointing of consecrated oil when one is in the grips of sickness.
The call by the sick is not just an invitation to render service. It is the expression of faith both by the sick and the elders. The individual calling for help must first believe that God is the Healer, that He has appointed the elders to administer His healing through prayer, and that God Himself would grant or withhold the healing according to His Will and Providence. In the end, both the sick individual and the elders glorify God in their faith and obedience as prayer for healing is offered and the oil of healing is applied in the Name of the Lord.
This is a magnificent moment of sacred communion between God and His children during which faith is expressed through fervent prayer and Grace is dispensed by God. Our gracious and merciful God heals the sick and forgives the sinner. When the prayer of the faithful is offered by faith and obedience, when sins are confessed seeking forgiveness, the Power of God's Will prevails in the prayers and in the confessions making the supplication effective. Consequently, the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. The Lord's Name becomes the Power of God's Will in the oil and conveys God's healing.
James cites Elijah as the perfect example of a righteous man who offered a fervent prayer. Elijah was as natural as we are. He is a man created in the image of God. He is a prophet, howbeit a man, a sinner like us. Yet Elijah prayed and God answered. Elijah believed in God and offered a specific prayer. Elijah fervently prayed that God would honor His Name and prove His Lordship by stopping the rains for three and a half years. The rains stopped.
Elijah prayed again and God honored the earnest prayer of His faithful servant. The fervent prayer of a righteous Prophet availed much. God glorified Himself by causing the skies to give rain. And God blessed the earth.
So like Elijah and those before us, we persevere in truth, faith, joy, prayer, and fellowship with one another as we joyfully wait in patience for the appearing of our Lord. We pray as we wait. We fellowship as we wait. We serve as we wait. We commune with God as we wait.
James writes a powerful admonition on Christian living. He provides unswerving advice on how faith is expressed and prayer is practiced. Faith can be genuinely practiced only by the faithful. So is prayer by the righteous. The reality in faithfulness is the same reality that is expressed in faith itself.
He counsels us to refrain from doing ungodly things. He exhorts us in so many words, to be true disciples of Christ in our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. He reminds us to always keep in mind that our personal fellowship with God is of utmost significance above all things we consider important. In short, he impels us to live true to our faith in God.
Having admonished us always to be trustworthy, truthful, and reliable, he continues to earnestly entreat us always to consider God's holiness and sovereignty when we entertain thoughts, make decisions, and take actions. We must honor God in what we say and do. We must be trustworthy even as God Himself is trustworthy. We need to be reliably truthful. We must say what we mean and mean what we say.
A life that is anchored in truth is also characterized by prayer. Reciting Elijah's experience as a man of fervent prayer, James encourages us to pray and carry each other's burdens before our Lord. Elijah was as much a natural man as we are. But he had faith to pray to the same God Whom we believe. Elijah prayed. So can we. God answered Elijah. The same God would also honor the supplications of His children. Elijah persevered to the end because he believed in God to Whom he prayed. So must we endure in a life of joyful prayer to the same God in Whom we believe and to Whom we pray.
James has given us a dynamic message on the precepts of daily Christian living. He reminds us that the Lord Who has saved us by His matchless Grace also sustains us in the same way. Being the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus is our strength.
Jesus says we are lights to the dark world and savory salt to the tasteless life of this depraved world. Those characteristics can be revealed only in a life of genuine faith, fervent prayer, caring relationships, righteous character, and godly perspective all of which glorify God and uphold His Name. The faithful would not take the Name of God in vain, swearing or otherwise. The righteous live in a life of fervent prayer, knowing that the life we now live in the flesh is not us but Jesus Christ Who lives in us.