“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).
“Is any among you afflicted?”
Are you currently in distress? Have you been extremely annoyed or highly embarrassed lately? Or are you experiencing pain or suffering? Now is the time for you to exercise your faith and hope in God. You may need physical healing, or your need may be spiritual healing. We frequently need both, since some physical suffering and distress comes on us because of a spiritual affliction.
We cannot always tell the difference between afflictions and sickness. James connects sickness with sin here in chapter five, and healing the sick follows forgiveness of sin. The sickness spoken of here seems to have been the result of doing wrong. And there are many sicknesses that can be related to sin in a very direct way. But trying to relate all sickness to sin is a very dangerous error. Doing this puts you in the position of judge, and we often judge wrongly. It is cruel and dangerous to say all sickness is the result of sin in someone’s life.
God seems to use afflictions for purposes of correction. When they come, pray and find out what He is trying to teach or tell you in your case. Too often, we are not sensitive to the things of the Spirit. In fact, a spiritual dullness seems quite widespread in the church today. Has God been forced to beat you over the head to get your attention? Then pray and find out what He is trying to tell you! He most likely wants your attention in some particular area of your life. Sometimes He has to use rather harsh or painful means to get it.
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee” (Psalm 32:8-9).
To lead a stubborn mule around, a bit has to be put in its mouth. The reins pull the bit up against his mouth so it hurts and he turns his head. Don’t be stubborn like the mule, forcing God to use pain to get you to turn. He does not want to use pain to guide you. But He has so much love for you that He will, since it is so important to be guided by His Spirit. You need this for your own good. If you stop paying attention and start to stray from Him, He will pull the bit to get you back into position. Be sensitive and attentive to God’s will and His plan—then He will gladly guide you with just His eye.
“let him pray.”
Come before God at times like this and beg Him to forgive you of your sin. But do not bother if cold and formal prayers are all you have to offer Him. Don’t look to man’s merit either to qualify for the answer you want from God. It all comes from His grace, which we do not deserve and cannot earn. The right kind of prayer is the prayer of faith. Nothing is more effective than praying in faith to get answers and blessings from God. But prayer itself has no power in its own right. Unbelievers would get all their prayers answered, without having faith in God or being obedient to Him, if it did. When you pray, don’t just say a prayer. Pour out your heart to God and believe that He hears you. Continue until you get your answer. Actually pray when you are in prayer to God!
“Is any merry?”
People naturally sing when they are cheerful and happy, but not those who enjoy wickedness. Most earthly songs have some degree of sadness; sacred things of God are never the subject of their songs. But heavenly songs are sung in joy and thankfulness to the God they praise. Praise in the form of song and prayer should be offered up by both congregations and individuals.
“Let him sing psalms.”
Singing songs that glorify God actually becomes a form of prayer. This keeps our hearts for the longest time on what we are saying. God is the One who made all that makes us merry. Therefore, the message of the songs from any who are merry should be praise to God.
“Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” (Ps. 119:54). Someone traveling a long way alone may sing to himself to keep merry. Believers in God—take note and do the same! Every true child of God will inherit heaven and is a “stranger in the earth” (Ps. 119:19). Therefore, you can stay cheerful in the midst of weariness and sorrows by thinking all the time of the words of our heavenly Father, and saying or singing them aloud. The ancient Greek states made their laws into songs so the people could remember them better. The words of God can be sung to help us remember them better too, and keep us cheerful when we are far from home, whether physically or mentally.
Singing on the outside encourages worship on the inside. It wakes us up and brings our hearts to life in praise to God. Therefore, sing in devotion to God whenever you can. How could you not be blessed if you do? Are you heavy-laden, suffering, or afflicted? Or are you joyful and merry? Whatever state you are in, sing your praise to God!
— Alana Pangburn