Paul's Passing Thoughts

James 2:14-17: Prayer Without Works; That Was Easy!

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 21, 2010

A typical Christian prayer meeting is scary these days: “Pray for Molly, she’s afraid to leave her house.” “Pray for Bob and Darcy, they are going through a divorce.” “Pray for Joe, a guy I work with, the doctor just told him he has 2 weeks to live.” And my all-time favorite, the “unspoken” prayer request. A revealed list of those would be interesting.

James said the following in 2:14-17;

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Whenever I read this verse, I am reminded of a married couple who went to their pastor for counseling because their marriage was on the rocks. The pastor told them the following: “We are going to pray about this, and after one week if you still think you need counseling, I will counsel you.” And shazaam! God answered their prayer! The marriage was healed! Not really, the spouse who didn’t want counseling became a super-spouse to avert the counseling. Eventually, they divorced.

In regard to Molly, if we only pray for her and do not also meet her needs with the word of God, is that like pronouncing a blessing on someone who needs food and warm clothing without meeting their physical needs? Absolutely. James used this as an example to illustrate faith that is worthless. By the same token, to only pray for a person to whom something can be done is also worthless.

Undoubtedly, this mentality comes from inept leadership, ignorance in regard to the sufficiency of Scripture, and spiritual laziness; getting involved in people’s lives can be hard work and very messy. Therefore, in many cases, prayer has become the sanctified Staples’ easy button. Just pray for ’em; “that was easy!” (and plus, it makes us feel like we really care). It is also indicative of the huge disconnect between what we claim to believe in Scripture and our willingness to apply it to life. Matthew 4:4 says that man only finds true life in every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Ephesians 1:19,20 says we have the same power from God that raised Christ from the grave, but yet, we think the only thing we can do is pray for Molly.

But leadership is probably the primary problem. I have been to pastor’s conferences and listened to leaders brag about “not being distracted from the ‘gospel’ by counseling.” Gag me, gag me, gag me, as if the world is going to be interested in a god that doesn’t have anymore answers for living life than Opera Winfrey. 1Peter 3:15 says to always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about the hope we have as Christians. The implication by Peter is that they see something in our lives that provoke them to ask. Whatever it is that they see, it doesn’t come from pushing our way through life with a spiritual easy-button.


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