“Anyone who is having troubles should pray. Anyone who is happy should sing praises” (James 5:13).
That’s it, then. Pray — there is no situation where you can’t. While “having troubles” and being “happy” don’t cover every circumstance, in the context, they get pretty close.
Think about it for a moment. Which one would you say is easier: To pray when in trouble or to pray when happy? I imagine you could make a case for either.
In theory, when you are happy, the praises should flow automatically. But, of course, when we are doing well, whatever form that may take, it is often easier to forget about God or Jesus: To take the credit ourselves, enjoy the moment and live life to the full (our version of full anyway). So, the praises may go missing or stop altogether — until there is a reminder of the Good Giver.
In theory, when you are in trouble, prayer should be the first thing to happen. But again, we can look to other solutions, our own devices and the help of experts. God is forgotten. Until we decide to blame God for our situation! Or recognise that perhaps God may help — often through everyday people, events that we just haven’t noticed, the anointing of oil or the prayers of mature Christians (verse 14).
So James reminds us to pray in every situation. Why? Because it brings us closer to God.
How better to appreciate what we are given: A beautiful sunset, a new child, a restored relationship, a house to live in, food on the table (at home or in a restaurant!), clothes on our back — how better to appreciate these gifts than to praise the Giver, the Creator of all, the one who provides every blessing. And when we sing praises, there is an added blessing: Awareness of the Presence of Life.
What comfort there is in offering our troubled situation, whatever it is — job loss, relationship breakdown, study struggles, no home to go to, grief — then bringing it to the Lord in prayer. What a friend we have in Jesus, indeed!
Lord, we thank you for the gifts you give of life, home and happiness. We also ask your help when times are not so good. Help us to pray to you in both good times and bad, as both will bring us closer to you. In Jesus Name’, Amen.