Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise (James 5:13, esv).
Ever had one of those situations in life where you didn’t know what to do? Should you call somebody and ask for help? Should you wait it out, give it another day? Should you go plead your case and demand to be heard? Should you take your gloves off, or put them on? Should you see if somebody else will make the first move? You’re not sure. You don’t know.
Yet even when your next step is anything but clear, there’s always a can’t-miss option.
No matter what you’re walking through today, connect it directly to God in prayer.
You can pray.
If you wish to maintain a sense of emotional health and steadiness throughout life, think of prayer as the right response to any situation, from one extreme to the other—whether “suffering,” “cheerful,” or anywhere in between.
The Jews to whom James wrote his New Testament letter knew what it meant to suffer—a word which, in this case, refers less to physical suffering than to enduring evil treatment from other people. These “twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (James 1:1) had been driven from Jerusalem because of their belief in Jesus, scattered from country to country across the whole region of Asia Minor. They were far away from family, home, and anything familiar. They were suffering.
And James counseled them to respond to it with prayer. To talk with God about it. Pour out your heart before Him, telling Him the depths of your agony and distress. Instead of holding it in, instead of grieving in silence, instead of complaining to others, instead of striving for reactive solutions to your problems, start by just leaning hard on Jesus. “Pray.”
But even your best days should also be seen as prayerful days—opportunities to “praise,” which is simply another form of prayer. This type of praising doesn’t mean lighthearted or boisterous elation, the kind that erupts in a moment, then might fade away as quickly as it came. Rather, it means living with a positive, hopeful outlook, based on the great riches you’ve been given in Christ, returning thanks where the credit truly belongs for anything good you’re experiencing in life. So on days when you’re especially feeling the joys of victory, obedience, and amazement at God’s goodness, think of all the ways you might respond to it, and decide to turn it into worship.
If you’ve ever met an older person who’s become mostly angry, critical, and negative—or perhaps one who’s smug, overly opinionated, and concerned only about themselves—you’re seeing the results of not taking the various experiences of their life to God in prayer. Even some physical ailments are emotional ailments in disguise, bodily reactions to stress and indulgences that a more consistent prayer life might have prevented.
Either you’re kneeling to give your day to God in prayer, or you’re allowing it to gnaw away at your insides. Either you’re judging Him harshly for not preventing and caring more about what’s happened to you, or you’re opening up your prayer journal to keep track of how His faithfulness has held you, even through the hardest stretches of life.
No matter what condition you find yourself walking through today—whether rugged, rejoicing, or blandly routine—connect it directly and automatically to God in prayer, in praise, in ongoing conversation. And expect to experience His peace, His joy, His relief—all His reasons for staying confident.
Father, thank You for giving me an immediate response option to every situation I’ll ever face in life. Thank You for caring about my emotional health and well-being so much that You’ve provided a ready-made avenue I can take toward peace and relief from all my concerns. Hear my prayer today. Hear my praise. I offer all of it to You in the abiding name of Jesus, amen.