Dear Church Family,
Last week we closed our study in James by examining the last two verses of the fifth chapter, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” We noted that to reclaim the wanderer required prayer, much prayer. The passage in James that immediately precedes these final two verses is an extended exhortation to pray. It also contains one of the most quoted statements in the whole Bible on prayer, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (NKJV) So how should we pursue the one in need of restoration or reclaiming? With much intercessory prayer, which avails much.
This week, I want to add one more definition to our discussion of prayer. It comes from Alexander Whyte, a Scottish pastor, who did most of his writing in the late 1800s. Here is his definition of prayer:
- It thus appears that prayer is a turning of the soul to God, in its distresses to implore help, in its enjoyments to express gratitude, and in all circumstances to rest upon him and converse with him as its only support and supreme good. From all this it is evident that true prayer and true religious feelings are so identified as to be inseparable; and whatever illustrates and recommends the one does, by necessary consequence, also illustrate and recommend the other.
Alexander Whyte, The Duty of Prayer, 16
His description of prayer identifies the close connection between “true prayer” and “true religious feelings.” When you pray, you bring your current emotional state to the Lord. You express gratitude, trust, joy, lament, frustration, love, grief, delight, sorrow, etc. The Psalms are filled with emotionally laden declarations presented, generally, within a framework of trust. Prayer is the pouring out of our souls to the Lord.
But is there an emotion that is more important in prayer than the rest? I am going to answer that question with a guarded “no.” However, the Norwegian theologian, Ole Hallesby, attempted to identify an emotional state that is key to prayer. He noted:
- Helplessness is the real secret and the impelling power of prayer. You should therefore rather try to thank God for the feeling of helplessness which He has given you. It is one of the greatest gifts which God can impart to us. For it is only when we are helpless that we open our hearts to Jesus and let Him help us in our distress, according to His grace and mercy.
Ole Hallesby, Prayer, 23.
If your ability to reclaim the wanderer in your life or some other situation has left you feeling helpless, then rejoice! Thank God for such a feeling and then open your heart to the Lord and ask for his help.
Love in Christ,