The letter of James ends rather abruptly compared to a lot of the letters that you see in the New Testament. But it ends with one of its main themes: a faith that expresses itself in love.
And here we see a love that pursues a fallen brother or sister. In verses 15-16, it talks about dealing with a brother or sister who is not just physically sick, but spiritually sick. And he encourages us to pray that their whole body, mind, and spirit be healed.
But in the last two verses, he goes further.
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and over over a multitude of sins. (19-20)
Sometimes we see a brother or sister walk away from God. And too often, we just let them go without pursuing them. We may pity them, sometimes we even judge them. But we don’t pursue them.
But love doesn’t just let someone slip away without a fight. It pursues. Part of that pursuit is confronting them in their sin. Part of that pursuit is entreating them to come back. And part of that pursuit is praying for them. How do we pray for them?
I find it very interesting that just before he talks about bringing a brother or sister back, James talks about the kind of prayer that Elijah prayed. Elijah lived in a time when much of Israel had walked away from God. And so he prayed. What did he pray? He prayed that it would not rain. And it didn’t, for three and a half years.
And because of his prayer, it got people’s attention. It certainly got king Ahab’s attention. Eventually through his prayer, it brought people back to the worship of the Lord.
Sometimes we need to pray the same way. Like I said at the very beginning of this book, God brings trials into our lives to make us mature and complete. And sometimes God uses trials to bring us back to himself when we are wandering off. So sometimes we need to pray that way.
“Lord, bring a drought in so-and-so’s life. Help them see the futility of a life apart from you and bring them back to you.”
And I think God will honor that prayer.
It almost seems cruel to pray that kind of thing. But like God, we are to have a heart for people, not one that delights in the fact that they are struggling, but one that longs for their repentance and rejoices when they do.
How about you? When someone walks away from God, do you have a faith and love that pursues them?