“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.” James 5:15
This verse spoke clearly to me last Lord’s Day. How strangely things are brought to our attention when we need them most.
We may be afflicted in many ways. There is bodily affliction and spiritual affliction. I am not bodily afflicted often, but at present I feel afflicted in another sense. I am afflicted by sin and my own self.
“Let him pray.” How important is prayer. And though during times, of both affliction and pleasure, prayer can be far from my mind, it should not be the case. What can be a more important time for prayer than during times of affliction, be it bodily or spiritual?
Yet how come it is that when I am spiritually weak, the last thing I think of is prayer? One is daily afflicted by sin and the snares of the devil and thoughts infiltrated into one’s mind by the same, and then come to pray and find no joy or life in their prayers. So they stop. Yet “let him pray.”
In a day of affliction nothing is more seasonable than prayer…. To this end God sends afflictions, that we may be engaged to seek him early; and that those who at other times have neglected him may be brought to enquire after him.
– Matthew Henry
I also found a verse in Job that interested me. Job had been my companion of late and I had found this book comforting. If any suffered, Job did. And then in the last chapter, in the 10th verse, I read this, “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.”
Note: it was when Job prayed for his friends, that his captivity was turned. I mused on this verse, thinking that I was almost certain to be misinterpreting it.
However, turning to Matthew Henry (methinks I need some variation here) I read this:
God turned his captivity, that is, he redressed his grievances and took away all the causes of his complaints; he loosed him from the bond with which Satan had now, for a great while, bound him, and delivered him out of those cruel hands into which he had delivered him. …what was more, he felt a very great alteration in his mind; it was calm and easy, and the tumult was all over, his disquieting thoughts had all vanished, his fears were silenced, and the consolations of God were now as much the delight of his soul as his terrors had been its burden. The tide thus turned, his troubles began to ebb as fast as they had flowed, just then when he was praying for his friends, praying over his sacrifice which he offered for them. Mercy did not return when he was disputing with his friends, no, not though he had right on his side, but when he was praying for them; for God is better served and pleased with our warm devotions than with our warm disputations. When Job completed his repentance by this instance of his forgiving men their trespasses, then God completed his remission by turning his captivity.
— Matthew Henry
And lastly, a quote from The Diary of David Brainerd (emphasis mine):
It is good, I find, to persevere in attempts to pray if I cannot pray with perseverance, that is continue long in my addresses to the Divine Being. I have generally found that the more I do in secret prayer, the more I have delighted to do, and have enjoyed more of a spirit of prayer.
– David Brainerd
That is correct. It is better to continue in attempts to pray, even though one is unable to pray for any length of time. Though prayer may not seem sweet, I should persevere, for:
“Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw,
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.”
– William Cowper
from his beautiful hymn “What Various Hindrances We Meet”
Oh, Lord, teach us, teach me, how to pray!
When compiling this post, my thoughts on the matter seemed poorly expressed, so I apologize for any lack of coherency in it.