What do You Pray About?

Day 29 | Today’s passage: James 5:13-18 | Historical context of James

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

What do you usually pray for or talk to God about?

I guess our prayers could be likened to the conversations we have.
The depth of our conversations reflects the depth of our relationships—what we choose to share and how we do so sheds light on the closeness of each relationship.
For instance, a conversation with a colleague would probably differ greatly from a conversation with a close friend.

Likewise, what and how we pray reflects our inner spiritual condition and how we’re doing in our relationship with God.

James addresses this in this passage as he speaks firstly of how we, as Christians, ought to respond in the different situations of life (vv. 13-15). When we are overwhelmed by the troubles and sorrows of life, we are to pray for wisdom amid the trials (1:2-5)—that we may see trials as an opportunity for great joy and a means to cultivate perseverance as we remember God’s sovereignty through it all. God knows what He is doing, and we can take heart in knowing that He will work out His good purposes even in the most terrible of situations.

When we are happy or in good spirits, we are to sing and praise God as we count our blessings and acknowledge that all good things come from our good Father (v. 13).

When we are sick, we are to call upon the elders of the church to pray over us, trusting that the “prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well” (v. 15). We could also take the opportunity to examine our hearts for any hidden sins and confess them before God.

But what is a “prayer offered in faith”? How does one pray such a prayer of faith?

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. A prayer made in faith is thus one that is made based on God’s promises and with the conviction that God will keep His word and fulfill it in His good timing. When we approach God in this manner, it brings great joy to His heart.

In verses 15-16, James stresses the importance of the confession of sin in prayer. We are to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that healing would take place (v. 16). James goes on to speak of the “righteous man” whose prayer is powerful and effective (v. 17). He is not referring to the self-righteous person who places his confidence in his accomplishments and good deeds; rather, he is referring to the humble person who recognizes God’s saving grace and mercy in his life and places his trust in the work and words of Christ alone.

The prophet Elijah, James says, is one such example to follow (1 Kings 17-18). And before we can protest that Elijah was in a different league, James quickly reminds us that Elijah was “a man just like us” (v. 17). Just like us, he had fears, insecurities, doubts and worries—even till the point where he wearied of life and prayed that God would take his life (1 Kings 19:4).
Yet Elijah knew his God and the Word. He took God’s promises to heart and trusted that God would fulfill His promises in His own perfect timing—which led to his passionate, faith-filled prayers (vv. 17-18)

Where does this leave us?

As we relate with God here on this side of eternity, we can grow in knowing Him and His promises through the reading of His Word. As we get acquainted with God’s promises, this will radically transform the way we pray. We will start praying prayers of faith that are based on the promises He has made to us, and we will be able to do so boldly—asking God to fulfill His promises in His own good and perfect timing.

Let’s start praying prayers of faith!

—Lydia Tan, Singapore

Questions for reflection

1. Take a moment to reflect on the prayers you’ve made recently. Were they prayers of faith . . . or were they more like prayers of desperation?

2. What is one thing you can change about the way you pray?

3. Write down a promise of God that you will include in your prayers today.

Hand-lettering by Rachel Tu


Lydia is an eternal optimist. Nothing seems to ever get her down, except maybe the thought of vegetables or needles. She’s happiest when she’s with people, puppies or preschoolers and appreciates the deep life lessons she learns while observing or interacting with them. She has a weakness for dark chocolates and pretty little trinkets (especially if they’re handmade!) and believes that there is beauty in the ‘impractical’.
A dreamer at heart, she is excited to be a part of God’s dream for the nations and loves tagging along with Him on the many adventures across continents. While not in action, she relishes in the simple slow walks with God in nature too.

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