Thursday, May 5, 2011

J is for Prayer

Well, really it is, "J is for James". But, considering the day that it is, and the verse that is spinning in my mind, I decided to change the titile. So, in honor of James, the brother of Jesus, 
J is for Prayer
"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." James 5:16
Being that today is the National Day of Prayer, which was established in 1952, when  A bill proclaiming an annual National Day of Prayer was unanimously passed by both houses of congress. President Truman signed it into law. It required the President to select a day for national prayer each year. I cannot help but ponder this verse, and wonder about its author. 
I fell in love with the book of James this summer, when I challenged myself to read it through in its entirety every day for one month. For 30 days, I read the book and I wrote nothing down. I wanted to be saturated with what the scriptures were telling me, and not my own thoughts. This is one of the verses that has penetrated my mind since then.  The verse has a courageous willfulness to proclaim the power of prayer, which I love, but it also can leave many people feeling frustrated as they look at their own lives and question the lack of healing they are experiencing. 
Just yesterday, I had someone share with me that she has been "attempting to forgive" someone (who is now dead) for so many years, but the lack of forgiveness she experiences holds onto her heart. This "sin" of not forgiving is confusing to her, as she feels it distance her from the person she desires to be. She wants to be healed from, what she feels is a sin of  bitterness.  She has confessed it, but she doesn't feel she is experiencing the change in her heart. 
And, what of the healing. Is it merely a feeling? Is there healing that comes that isn't attached to our feelings? It's alarming to me how much of my faith, and the faith of others is built on feelings; such an untrustworthy source of discrimination. 
J is for James.
The author, himself, was the brother of the one they called Christ. What was that like? To grow up with someone, and then as an adult, have them proclaimed, "God". No one who has ever had a brother can blame him for doubting. I remember hearing an interview, in 2003, of another James, Jim Carey, when he was proclaimed, "The Funniest Man Alive". He was asked what his siblings thought of his career. He said, "It's really sad. They don't think I am funny at all." This has stuck with me, because I think of my own brother, also named James. When my brother, who I still call, Jimmy, tries to be funny, I just want to smack him. I want to say, "You are not funny, you're my brother". I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up with someone for my whole life and share many meals and chores, and then one day watch him die on a cross for my sins. Would I be wise enough to buy into it? Or, would I be like Jim Carey's siblings and still remember all the stupid faces he made growing up?
James, the brother of Christ, had a reputation of being "an unusually good man". {Hailey's Bible Handbook}  He wrote the book of James late in his life, after he had been the pastor of a Judean Church for 30 years. (Side Note:  It is amazing to me that he had been the pastor of a church, without the book of James to refer to! How did he encourage people to serve? ;) He believed in the teachings of his brother, and after Jesus had ascended to heaven, James became a man known for prayer. I read that James, "spent so much time on his knees in prayer that they became hard and callous like a camel's knees", which is another amazing thought to imagine. The longing for his God. The longing for his Saviour. The longing for his brother. All attainable through the fullfillment of the Holy Spirit. 
James was martyred sometime about the year 62 A.D. or 66 A.D., when he was brought before the assembled Sanhedrin, and commanded that the "brother of Jesus who was called Christ" proclaim from one of the galleries of the Temple, that Jesus Was Not the Messiah. Praise God for the hours spent in prayer, because as James stood in that temple, he cried out that Jesus Was the Son of God and the Judge of the World. 
The testimony of the brother of the one we call Christ. So, this is my "J" on this day of Prayer.