Chick-Fil-A employees, COVD-19 face masks, and Roger Goodell. All marked by repetition. We’re all familiar with the repetitive and memorable phrase by Chick-Fil-A employees, “My pleasure.” We’re also all familiar with the COVID-19 face masks and reminders to remain “Six feet apart” in public places. But I doubt many of you are familiar with Roger Goodell. As the NFL commissioner, many watched Goodell recently during the NFL draft say, “And as the [number] pick of the 2020 NFL draft, the [team] select [player].” Yes, over a couple of days, Goodell said basically the same phrase 255 times. That again, repetition at its finest.
As I finish up this blog series on James, I’m reminded all the more of the importance of repetition. Think of even certain rhythms and routines that you haven’t been able to repeat consistently in this COVID-19 season? Gathering with the body of Christ in person on Sundays, working out at the gym, enjoying a good meal at one of your favorite restaurants. And even more specifically regarding your growth as a Christian, what are those consistent rhythms you repeat? Reading the Word, praying, journaling, serving at church.
We remember what we repeat. I remember the taste of a Sweet Heat Carnivore pizza, Itis style. Why? Because it’s my favorite pizza in Wichita, and thus I’ve eaten it several times. I remember the anguish after rounds of burpees. Why? Because I workout at a gym a couple of times a week. Many of you reading this remember truths about God’s character and his purpose for our lives? Why? Because you read, listen to, and discuss gospel truths.
James ends this letter with repetition. Go ahead and read James 5:13-20. Did you catch the repetition? In six straight verses, James uses the word prayer. Why? Because he wants us to remember. He doesn’t want us to move past the significance of prayer. He doesn’t want us to neglect consistent communion with our Father. Simply put, James wants us to see both the purpose of prayer and the power of prayer.
James tells us in verse 13 to pray when we suffer, in verse 14 to pray when we are sick, and in verse 16 to pray when we sin. He litters this passage with both the example of the elders to pray (James 5:14-15) and the faithful example of Elijah in prayer (James 5:17-18). James uncovers the inner strength found in prayer in verse 16, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). Our Father in heaven who created the world and sustains all bends his ear to us in prayer. We might not always get “what we want” in prayer, but we always get what we need – namely God himself. James’ call for us to pray in all circumstances is twofold. Of course, we pray as God works in all circumstances, and we also pray that God would work in us, conforming us more and more into the image of his Son. The circumstances might not change. We might not get rain as Elijah did (James 5:18). But the Spirit will change us. Yes, the cliche instagram post and Christian coffee cup slogan really is true. Prayer really does change things – maybe not always our circumstances, but prayer definitely changes us.
And then James closes this letter in verses 19-20 with a call to confession, a call to repentance, a call to community. Confession is thus a catalyst for healing. We often get stuck in sin when there’s a lack of confession in community. James 5:19-20 exhorts us to be a people to help “bring back a sinner from his wandering” and thus requires we know others deeply and be deeply known by others.
The book of James shows that God prunes his people through suffering, and these closing verses of chapter five show that God preserves his people through prayer and community. We seek God in prayer for his glory and for our growth. We pray both with the community of saints and for the community of saints. We pray for strength in the midst of suffering. We pray for healing as a foretaste of the future healing in the kingdom of God.
Friends, may the book of James remind us of the comfort of the gospel – namely, that we are beloved as children of God (James 1:19) and the call of the gospel – namely, to suffer well, to speak wisely, to pray fervently (James 1:2-4, James 3:13-18, James 5:13-18). May we all grow in repetition in these pursuits. May we our words be just as memorable as those spoken by Roger Goodell or a Chick-Fil-A employee. After all, we remember what we repeat. Be encouraged as you remind yourself today of the great hope we have in the gospel. And then again, tomorrow. And then the next day. And then the next day. May the tune of the gospel of Jesus Christ be on repeat in all of our lives.