Life is full of alternatives. Sometimes these alternatives are helpful in saving money like generic brand medicines. Other times however, the alternative is not as desirable, such as when a waiter offers Mr.Pibb when you order Dr. Pepper.
As a follower of Jesus I know of the power of prayer which James alludes to in chapter 5 of his letter. His command to pray for one another is a beautiful reminder that we can pray. We have the ability to boldly approach God with our requests. James also reminds us of the incredible power of prayer. Many of us have seen and heard of how God has worked miracles in answer to prayers for healing, guidance, protection, and provision.
But, at times I unfortunately trade in the incredible opportunity to pray for a lesser substitute. All of these substitutes pale in comparison to prayer. But in my sinful pride I willingly substitute Mr. Pibb for Dr. Pepper in one or more of the following areas.
- Worry – this is my first go to substitute to prayer. I think about all the things that can go wrong. I think about what might happen if the sickness isn’t healed, the provision does not come through, or if I make the wrong decision. Jesus reminds us that worry literally does us no good (Matthew 6) but I still choose worry over prayer.
- Complain – this is a close relative to worry. When I complain instead of pray I am choosing to include others in on my worry. I look and see those who are not worrying, and so I take it upon myself to enlighten them of their need to be concerned along with me.
- Work – Now this sounds good at first. After all, “God helps those who help themselves.” And yet this saying is simply not found in Scripture. In truth, God helps those who cannot help themselves. There is nothing wrong with obedient action. James praises the one who is a doer of the Word. But relying on our own power and strength is displeasing to God. The Bible repeatedly tells us of the importance of abiding in Christ and allowing Him to work in and through us through prayer.
Back in chapter 5 James instructs those who are sick to call for prayer from the elders. He does not interject this course of action to be done after one has worried, complained, and tried all other options. Prayer is to be the first thing one responds with when the difficulties arise.
Are you like me in this area? Do you tend to choose one of these or other alternatives to prayer? Let me encourage you as one who has found the substitutes to be less than effective. Turn to God in prayer. Allow the truth of Scripture to direct your prayers into accordance with God’s will. Rely on Him to work for you and help you with your needs.
And then, trust Him. Trust that however God works for you will always be for your good and His glory.