…praying together even when we are apart…
If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. James 5:13-16 CEB
I have had numerous “soul groaning” (see Exodus 2:23-25) experiences in recent months (heck, I confess – years is more like it). I bet you have as well. I don’t think we live in these human bodies on planet earth without suffering. I used to think that I shouldn’t talk about suffering, seeing as how I wasn’t having slave masters force me to make bricks out of straw and spit like the Israelites. I thought – what is my suffering compared to the suffering of my friends who are homeless? Or who am I to complain when my bondage to peanut butter seems like small potatoes compared to bondage to a harsh taskmaster like heroin? I live in the land of opportunity, for goodness’ sake! I have “first world problems” – who am I to complain, moan, mourn? I’ve learned that God doesn’t ask me to compare my suffering to that of others and only groan when I can objectively measure my suffering as making the top ten list of worldwide suffering. Today, I can tell you that I allow myself permission to groan without the need to compare. I get sick; I am happy; I sin; I need restoration and forgiveness. These are “soul groaning” experiences.
Recently, my soul has been groaning and I’ve shared my suffering with others – in particular, I shared with people who I know can relate to my specific brand of suffering. The awesome thing that has happened in all this sharing and suffering is that my friends who have “gone before me” on this road of sadness are also uniquely qualified to pray, sing, anoint, and teach me how to live in healthy ways – even though my soul groans. I think this is what these passages in James are getting at when the writer tells us to confess and pray for each other.
Practice: Because of all this sharing, I have regularly received encouraging texts, emails, phone calls and check-ins from my friends. This has been very restorative. Maybe today you could take a few minutes, consider the suffering of self and/or others, and either reach out and groan, or reach out and comfort another whose suffering you “get”. This is prayer in action. Let me know how it works!