James 5:13

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. James 5:13

James is now going to give a few verses of instruction for specific instances which may arise in the life of the believer. Although he states several of these almost as foregone conclusions concerning the results which can be expected, they are not necessarily to be taken in that light. This will be seen in the coming verses, such as praying for healing. James seems to indicate that taking certain actions will definitely result in receiving the desired healing. This, however, is certainly not the case.

For now, he begins with two questions, each of which is followed by an exhortation. His first question is, “Is anyone among you suffering?” The word translated as “suffering” is used twice by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:9 and then 2 Timothy 4:5. It signifies the experiencing of painful hardships.

The purpose of prayer in such an instance is to find relief or strength. It is certain that if one believes in the Lord and His ever-present nature with His people, then finding comfort and strength is going to happen. One cannot logically pray to God for comfort in his affliction and then not feel peace that the request has been heard. However, if relief from the suffering is what is desired, that may not come about.

Paul’s uses of the word imply that the suffering is ongoing. In fact, using the same word, Paul tells Timothy to “endure afflictions.” Therefore, it is expected that they will continue and not be taken away. James’ exhortation is one which is surely general in nature, and must be directed more to finding comfort in the affliction rather than it is for the affliction to be removed.

He then asks, “Is anyone cheerful?” The word here is opposite to the state of suffering which has just been stated, and so the exhortation is suited to the state. This is the last of three uses of the word in Scripture and it gives the sense of being in good spirits. James says that if one is in good spirits, he should sing psalms.

It is a single word, psalló. It signifies playing on a stringed instrument, plucking on it such as on a harp. It can also signify making music in general, or even the simple act of singing. It is where our word “psalm” comes from. The word comes from a root meaning “to rub.” Thus, one gets the sense of vibrations which turn into sound. Paul uses the word four times, all in relation to singing. This is its last use in Scripture.

James would have the person who is in good spirits make an external display of his state before God and man, returning music to the One who brought him to such a state.

Life application: The words of this verse ought to be the norm and not the exception, but as is too often the case among us, we fail to put the admonitions of the Bible into practice. Instead of praying when we have trouble we tend to fret, worry, lose sleep, get angry, etc. James tells us that when we face trouble we should pray. This should be the first and not the last thing we do when troubles come.

When times of joy and happiness come, we should sing songs of praise. Too often we skip this step and go on to celebrating with friends, reveling in our prosperity, and being excited about how well things are going. But the first thing we should do, and the thing we should constantly do, is to sing songs of praise. How often do you stop and really thank the Lord when something good comes your way? How often do you simply break out in a song of gratitude for the wonders that keep showing up on the doorstep of your life?

This isn’t something that only James thought of. Paul tells us to express our joy in this way in his writings. One example is found in Colossians –

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16

If you are facing troubles, get on your knees and pray. Ask friends to join you down there if the problem is big enough. God listens and He responds to the prayers of His children according to His wisdom. And when things get corrected and life hands you blessings and happiness, don’t forget to respond to the Lord with songs of joy and psalms of thanksgiving. He is worthy of the praise you send His way!

Heavenly Father, how often we fret, worry, and have stress when we ought to be sending our prayers to you. And likewise, how unfaithful we are to take time to acknowledge Your goodness to us with simple words of thanks or even songs of praise. Forgive us for our thoughtlessness, and turn our thoughts to correct priorities in the future. To Your honor we pray. Amen.

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