Prayer That Can Change Weather
by Aaron Nicholson
No one enjoys suffering, but suffering is an inevitable part of our lives. We meet it on all levels. From illnesses, to financial hardships, to mourning the death of our loved ones—experiences in suffering are inescapable no matter how valiant our attempts to avoid them.
So what can we do? How should we handle suffering? Are we simply to bear it in our own strength or work it out in our own wisdom? As believers in Jesus Christ, there is something we can do. It is something we must do.
The Apostle James, our Lord’s half-brother, prescribes the antidote to suffering in James 5:13. He writes, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray.” While praying at all times is a command for believers (see 1 Thessalonians 5:13), James gives a present tense command to pray specifically in response to suffering.
Why? Because prayer is powerful. Prayer is the act of communicating with the omnipotent holy God. How can we even begin to grasp such a privilege?
James goes on to demonstrate this power of prayer by giving two examples. One looks at the present and the other looks at the past.
First, he says that prayer will heal the one who is sick because of sin. “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”
From the context, we see that this is a unique situation. An unrepentant believer is sick because of sin. We see this can be a very serious sickness because verse 20 mentions death as a possible outcome.
Notice the solution; it is the prayer offered in faith. It alone will restore. This fits right in line with James’s charge in chapter 1.
When asking God for wisdom, one must “… ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6).
God wants our prayers to be offered in complete faith. We must approach Him humbly but yet confidently, believing that He will answer us as we pray according to His will.
Second, James gives the example of Elijah. Elijah was a man just like us. There was nothing special about him. He had no power over the weather. Yet he approached the God of the Universe with a petition for a drought on the land. God answered him and lifted the drought when he prayed again. 1 Kings 18:41-45 gives the account of this answer. How amazing it must have been for Elijah to see God’s answer in such a visible and tangible way!
This is the power available to us to handle every episode of suffering and every season of weakness. The same power that can heal the sick and change the weather!
“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16b). We must remember this power, not so we can use it for our own will but for God’s will (see 1 John 1:14). If we are suffering, we must call out to Him earnestly in faith knowing that He hears our prayers and has the power to deliver.
As we pray, we must trust His will. If we do not receive the answer we are hoping for we must remember that we are receiving the answer that is best.
Joseph M. Scriven, a man who had seen plenty of illness, poverty, and death in his lifetime, wrote these words in 1855:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!