(Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 26)
Does anyone suffer hardship among you? Let him pray. Is anyone of you cheerful? Let him sing melodies of praise. Is anyone infirmed among you? Let him call for the z’qeniym of the Called-Forth, and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil, in the Name of the Master. And the prayer of the faith will save the distressed one from his affliction, and the Master will raise him up… (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 5:13-15a, mjlt)
For all our connectivity through the wondrous advancements of technology, we are more separated now than we have ever been. Though we can travel half-way around the world in less than a day, or instantly see and speak to one another screen-to-screen from opposite sides of the planet, in the ways that really count, we too often find ourselves alone. These modern conveniences ironically keep us quarantined—unmotivated to even drive across town for anything mildly inconvenient. We also use technology to keep us segregated in our politics and religion, and to shelter us from the prying eyes of judgment and accountability. And the loneliness this creates, though generally not the intended result, is often deliberate and self-imposed. We grow accustomed to thinking and being by ourselves, and the distance carries over into the way we relate to God.
It is no wonder, then, that we need to be reminded to pray whenever we suffer hardship. It is too easy to retreat into ourselves in the vain hopes of escape, rather than reach out for comfort and help. The flesh does not understand that the act of making ourselves even more vulnerable by opening up to God in prayer not only holds the promise that He hears us, but also has the potential to ease our pain. When we see ourselves as being contained by the limits of our own abilities and happenstances, we cut ourselves off from the uncontainable, limitless God who awaits our drawing near to Him. In prayer, the first hardship we alleviate is loneliness.
So also does our aloneness affect our praise to God—or, rather, our lack of it. When we are “cheerful,” we tend to treat that feeling more as a respite from our struggles than as a reason to praise God. Life takes a toll, while praise takes effort—though true praise is closer to effortlessness. But when the struggles seem to just keep stacking up, a cheerful situation can feel like nothing more than a break in the storm, making that momentary victory merely about ourselves. Rather than sharing that joyful moment with the Maker—by opening our mouths in songs of praise—we keep it to ourselves, and forget to connect the meeting of our needs with His desire to provide.
But there is perhaps no greater separator—both between people, and between us and God—than when we are sickly and infirmed. While there may be some ailments that are sufficiently mild, requiring no significant treatment or attention, we were not created by God to convalesce alone. Especially when it comes to sudden, severe sickness or debilitating chronic illness, our chronic loneliness tells us to isolate and withdraw. But in denial of that instinct, we must instead reach out in our weakness and invite not only the healing power of Messiah, but also the prayers and anointing from His Called-Forth-community. Faceless pharmaceuticals and physicians who barely know our names are not necessarily the most effective remedy we should seek. The spiritual and physical presence of those who love Yeshua and trust Him as our healer is one of the most precious healing balms of all.
“The prayer of the faith will save the distressed one from his affliction” because it brings us closer to God and keeps us from suffering alone. Apart from God, life’s troubles leave us distressed and defined by the incidents that afflict us. But when we pray (or praise) in faith—not doubting, or figuring the odds, or preparing our hearts for nothing to happen—it saves us from the lie that we are on our own.
God is there for us—as we should be for others—so there is never a need to suffer alone. We must get out of our heads, get over ourselves, and call for help whenever we need it. In times of distress, affliction and even cheerfulness, don’t forget to reach out and reconnect to God. In faith, lift up your prayers and praises to Him, believing “the Master will raise [you] up.” For you are not alone.
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