13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.
As Christians, our first instinct should be to pray, not our last one. It is said by some that prayer is the last refuge of a scoundrel and there is probably some truth to this statement. So many people use God as a last resort. They want to try all other options first. When they are sick, they’ll try home remedies, they go to the doctor, they have treatments and surgeries. Only when all of these things have failed will some people ever think of turning to God.
Time and time again people turn to God in times of need, only to disappear when the trial is over. They’ll come to church, come to a Bible study or a prayer meeting until the time of crisis is passed. This is not what God has in mind and it is not what James is instructing here.
The idea is that we should turn to God at the first instance of trouble because we’re always in tune with God and always in communication with Him. Sometimes God gives us an answer to our prayers through earthly sources. God may say go to the doctor. God may instruct us to apply for a certain job rather than showering money down upon us.
We are to live a life of faith and trust God for our needs but God has also given us common sense. He’s given us simple solutions to big problems sometimes. Not every prayer requires a miraculous response from God. Sometimes all we need is to have our eyes opened to what is already in front of us.
This doesn’t mean that we only go to God for the big things that require miracles. We should go to God for all things. Sometimes God responds with “let me handle that for you” and sometimes God responds with “here is someone or something that can help, check with them.”
The exact same thing is true of praising God. Our natural reaction when something good happens is that it was a result of our hard work. We worked so hard or were so smart or patient and we were finally rewarded for all of the good that we had done. Or other people will instinctively say that they were lucky that something went their way when it could just as easily have gone the other way.
What some call luck, Christians should be inclined to acknowledge God. Theologies differ on the topic but most Christians believe in some sort of freewill. Even those who strictly hold to God being sovereign in our lives aren’t likely to believe that if they stub their toe that God had foreordained it. Assuming we have freewill, God works within those parameters to answer prayer.
What others may call coincidence Christians can see as the work of God. If a person is wondering whether to switch jobs and out of the blue receives a phone call from someone offering them a job, this is probably not coincidence. God works in ways that we do not see and He can solve problems that we don’t even know we have. And when a person is constantly in a prayerful mindset, He can even answer prayers before they are formed on our lips.