“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.”
The spiritual tribes of the Lord, to whom this epistle was written, have the assurance that in the world they shall have tribulation, and be subject to afflictions, for God’s people have always been characterized as a poor and an afflicted people, who trust in the Lord. Yet there are seasons when they are enabled to mount up with wings as eagles, and to rise above their pressing sorrows, when they are permitted to drink of the streams of that river which makes glad the city of our God - when they drink, and, for a season at least, do forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. The tide of their sufferings and of their rejoicings ebbs or flows as they endure the absence of sensible manifestations of the divine presence of their Lord, or are permitted to sit under his shadow with great delight, as his smiles create their purest joys, and when his smiles are withdrawn nothing can supply to them the lack. That this is, and always has been the case with the children of God in all ages past, the Scriptures fully testify; and that the same must be our lot while here below we have no reason to doubt; nor have we any just cause to desire that it should be otherwise, for although no affliction for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous, yet afterwards it works the peaceable fruits of righteousness in them who are exercised thereby. And we are assured by divine revelation that our light afflictions, which are for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not on the things that are seen, but on the things that are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. We are, therefore, gainers ultimately, and even at the present they afford us reliable evidence that God dealeth with us as with children. But still, such is our weakness, we soon would faint under the weight and pressure of our afflictions if we were not sustained by the strong hand of our covenant God. Our impatient nature is prone to seek for sympathy in our afflictions from those around us who are subject to like passions, and it is soothing to our feelings to know that we have kind friends who can feel for our woes, and offer words of consolation and comfort; but still we are not to rely on human, or even on christian sympathy, alone. Our great dependence is, and should be, on Him who is able to bear us up, and to sanctify all our tribulation to our good and his glory; therefore we have the direction embraced in the text, at the head of this article: “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.” This is the peculiar privilege of the saints, of all who mourn in Zion, of any among you; and what a cheering consideration it is that we may come boldly to the throne of grace with our supplications, our prayers, our groanings, our tears, our burdens and complaints, with this warrant or order from the Lord, bidding us to bring them there, and leave them there, for we are instructed to cast all our cares on him, for he careth for us. As a good Shepherd careth for his flock, and as a father pitieth his own son that serveth him, so the Lord careth for his own elect who cry unto him day and night.
A feeling sense of our extreme poverty should not deter us, for although we have nothing in our hand to bring to our God as an offering, it is his throne of grace that we approach, and the poorer we feel the greater is the necessity of calling on him. If we were not poor, why should we ask for favors? The throne of grace is not accessible to the rich. The rich our God sends empty away, but he filleth the poor with good things. Nor should our darkness and doubtings deter us from approaching the mercy-seat, for our God assures us that they who fear him, though they walk in darkness and have no light, still it is said, “Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” The mercy-seat is open and accessible to the saints, as well when involved in clouds and darkness, as when their skies are bright and clear; for God to them is a Refuge in distress and a very present help in trouble. He is not God afar off, but always at hand. He may be out of our sight, but his saints can never be obscured from his view. His ear is never heavy or dull that he cannot hear their crying. Hence the instruction, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.”
But what is prayer? It must be something more than a form of words, for when the saints pray they are forbidden to use vain repetitions, as the hypocrites do. Nor are we to indulge the thought that we are to be heard for our much speaking. Prayer does not consist in the position of the body, nor any form of words, though they be ever so sound or orthodox. God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and none but the spiritual, those who are born of the Spirit, possess that faith which is so indispensable to please God, for Paul says it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; it is a fruit of the Spirit, and it is the faith of the Son of God. Jesus Christ is himself both the Author and Finisher of it. Every one that is born of the Spirit does possess this principle of faith at all times, but it is not at all times sensibly felt by them, it being a purely spiritual principle in them; it is opposed by the flesh, and when the flesh predominates, when we walk after the flesh, that faith in us is obscured by clouds of doubt and unbelief which rise from the flesh, which is always at war with the Spirit. Then we grope along in the dark until we are delivered from the captivity of sin, which is in our members. Still that faith of the Son of God in us cannot die, for it is of God, and overcomes the world.
That faith which is born of God, according to I John 5:4, subsists on heavenly food, and will not rest long in us without its food from heaven. The saints cannot, therefore, remain long in darkness, or in captivity to the law of sin which is in our members, before there is a secret breathing desire for deliverance, a sighing after the liberty of the gospel, a groaning, being burdened, a crying out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” This struggling after light and spiritual enjoyment is the action of faith which must finally triumph over the flesh, and overcome the world. It is the prayer of faith that is fervent and effectual.
Christians, therefore, often pray fervently and effectually when there is no outward form or ceremony discoverable, and perhaps pray most when they feel as though they cannot and do not pray at all. The Spirit of Christ, which is in them, maketh intercession according to the will of God, but it is often with groanings which we cannot clothe with words, for it cannot be uttered; but it is nevertheless prayer, and it is the prayer of faith, and it will assuredly be heard, and in due time answered. We may sometimes be sadly cheated by the deceitfulness of the flesh, and think we are praying fervently for certain things, when our desires are only those of the flesh, and not the groanings or breathings of the Spirit. Hence we ask and we receive not, because we ask amiss. It is a great mercy to us that our fleshly desires are not gratified, that the things which we ask for and which our carnal passions desire, are not granted, to be consumed on our fleshly lusts, which war against the Spirit, for they would only tend to strengthen the flesh, the more vigorously to maintain the warfare against the law of the Spirit of life. But the Spirit of life and immortality, which dwells in all who are born of the Spirit, searches all things, yea, the deep things of God, and knowing the mind of God, maketh intercession for us according to the will of God, and John says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (I John 5:14,15) Those who are addressed by the apostle James in our text are all m possession of this Spirit, all being born of it, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, therefore he says, “Is any among you afflicted?” That is, if any one among the saints is afflicted, it is his peculiar and inestimable privilege to pray. None others have the ability to pray with the spirit and with the understanding, for they possess neither, and in their absence all their prayers are but the vain expressions of the prompting of the carnal mind, which cannot please God.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, and they are not only many, but various, but their afflictions rise not out of the ground, neither do they come by chance, for God hath, for wise and gracious purposes, chosen them in a furnace of affliction, because he knoweth that it is good for them to be afflicted, it seems to humble them, to teach them their dependence on God, and to make them remember the throne of grace. Having nowhere else to look for succor and support, and deeply sensible of their pressing necessities, they are constrained to enter into their closets, and to shut the door; their desire is unto the Lord, they desire seclusion from the world, and, if possible, from themselves, to enter the secret chambers, which are only known to the saints, and there -
“Into the bosom of their God
Pour out their long complaints.”
“Let him pray.” Our Father seeth in secret - he knows our feeble frame. He bows his ear and bids us come even unto his seat, to come boldly, notwithstanding our sense of vileness, of unworthiness; no frowning terror clothes his brow to fright the timid, trembling suppliant from his presence, but as a child coming to a loving parent, so the saints approach and draw nigh unto God by the new and living way, which he hath consecrated for them through the veil; that is, through the flesh of him who was made flesh and dwelt among us. None can come to the Father but by Christ, and none who come by him will ask God to change the purpose or counsel of his own will for their gratification, but rather will they pray that they may be reconciled in all things to the righteous will of God; and while they pray from the fullness of their hearts that God may forgive their trespasses, as they forgive all who have trespassed against them, they know that unless they have that forgiving spirit in them which from the heart forgives those who trespass against them, neither will their heavenly Father forgive them their trespasses.
At this present time the saints are passing through a great fight of afflictions; we have fallen on exciting times; wars are raging in our land, our sons are called into the tented fields,
“Where blood and carnage
Clothe the ground in crimson,
Sounding with death groans.”
Let all the afflicted saints then call mightily on the name of the Lord, as he affords us the spirit of grace and supplication, that he may support us under our present trials, and in his own good time and way restore peace and prosperity to our beloved country, and protect his dear children under the shadow of his wing, until the indignation be over past.
Ye saints of the most high God, pray without ceasing, and in all things give thanks unto God. And may the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
October 1, 1862.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 266 – 271