In closing, James reminds us of the power of prayer. This truth could not have come at a better time for first century believers, or for the twenty-first century believers. There is power in payer. Power to bring relief to those who suffer, power to heal the sick, power to forgive sin, and power to turn the heart of the wayward back to the Lord. James tells us that we don’t have to be a priest, a prophet, or an apostle to pray powerful prayers; we just have to live right and know who to call upon. The words “pray” or “prayer” occur seven times in eight verses, so prayer is clearly the theme of James at the end the letter.
If you could ask God for one, and only one thing, in your life, what would you ask for—more money, health, a long life? What would you ask? In fact, there’s an account in the Old Testament where God actually gave a man the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted, and this man asked for wisdom. You probably know the story from 2 Chronicles chapter 1—Solomon became king of Israel following his father David, and he became a great king because the Lord was him. One day Solomon went up to the tabernacle his father David set up for the ark of the covenant, and he offered a sacrifice on the bronze altar. That night, God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”
Like Israel, the history of the church shows that when things go from bad to worse in society, if a remnant will humble themselves, pray, repent, and seek God’s face, God can turn it around. Some of the greatest revivals in church history were sparked by some of the most unlikely people who simply fell on their faces before God. For example, in the late 1940s Christianity in the New Hebrides Islands (located off the coast of Scotland), was complacent and declining, with the young people turned off by a spirit of legalism and empty ritualistic religion. Alcoholism and despondency were serious problems plaguing the local communities. However, two sisters, Peggy Smith and Christine Smith, were not ready to surrender their island to Satan, so they began to pray fervently for revival. Who were these two women? Peggy was 84-years-old and blind, and her 82-year-old sister, Christine, suffered from severe arthritis, but they were committed prayer warriors and together their prayers and petitions sparked a revival.
The Barna Research Group reports that 84% of Americans claim to pray, yet we still see suffering, social disparities, racial hatred and hostility. The population of the United States is around 330 million people and if 84% are praying that means in the U.S. alone there almost 280 million people calling out to a god of some sort … yet, here we are. Why are we in the mess we are in if that many people are praying? How many people have to pray before God answers? According to the research, a lot of people are praying, but according to the Bible all prayers are not created equal. Anyone can pray, but does that mean God is listening to or answering every prayer the people are flinging toward heaven.
It is to the faithful flock who remained that John is writing to encourage and assure them that the gospel he preached, and the message by which they were saved, was the truth. He wanted them to know that they could be assured of their salvation through faith in Jesus, which manifested in their love for one another. As you can imagine, some in the church were conflicted. They were struggling to know with certainty that they were right to stay with John and the church, rather than going along with the deception of these persuasive teachers. To the faithful John says, “First of all, you can tell that they are wrong, because they do not live in the light according to the commandments of God, and second, because they are lacking in love.”