A Word For Today | James 5:14-15
In the summer of 1793, the city of Philadelphia was beset by a terrible plague of the yellow fever. During that summer, 5,000 people –10% of the city’s population – died. Not unlike our current governments, Pennsylvania’s governor, Thomas Mifflin, labored to organize a medical response. But he also called on the people of Pennsylvania to fast and pray for the afflicted city. When the autumn frost came and the yellow fever subsided (due to the removal of mosquitos), Mifflin proclaimed that it was the peoples’ duty “to express penitence, submission, and gratitude for divine mercy,” naming December 12 as a day of fasting and prayer – a call that was widely observed throughout the nation.
There are similarities between our present COVID-19 pandemic and Philadelphia’s yellow fever, including the frantic effort to find a cure. Philadelphia, like us today, was especially grateful for the heroic efforts of medical professionals. The primary difference between then and now was the government call for fervent prayer to the Lord. Does this mean that America no longer believes in prayer? The answer is that, officially, we do not. So, while the President and our governors suggest prayer, the nation has not responded to the coronavirus by seeking the God of heaven and earth for mercy. This means it must be Christians who still believe in prayer and lead others in appeals to God for his saving intervention.
The apostle James writes: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (Ja. 5:14-15). Is there any reason why Christians would think this claim is no longer true? Has God lost His power or His loving concern for the needy? Therefore, let us pray, especially for those we know who may be infected with the coronavirus, or who have other dire needs during this emergency. Let me urge you, then, not only to pray privately, but to join our on-line prayer gatherings, and especially to participate as possible in our presbytery’s day of fasting and prayer on April 13. On that day, elders of our churches will be gathered in our sanctuary (practicing social distancing!) to exercise their office in prayer. Please join us in heart and spirit as we make use of our chief resource in gaining God’s help for our needs.
The Bible is filled with examples of believers who prayed for God to show mercy so that the Lord’s anger was abated. Let us then appeal to God from stricken hearts, believing that He answers prayer. Not only will he heal many who are sick, but He will save many from their sins when they believe. James added this blessing as the chief thing for which we should pray: “And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Ja. 5:15).
In Christ’s Love,