James 5:13
Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
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(13) We now pass on to advice of different kinds—to the heavy-laden or light-hearted, to the suffering and afflicted. Prayer is to be the refuge of one, praise the safeguard of another; the whole life is to revolve, as it were, around the throne of God, whether in the night of grief or day of joy.

Let him pray.—No worthier comment can be found than Montgomery’s hymn—

“Prayer is the burden of a sigh,

The falling of a tear,

The upward glancing of an eye,

When none but God is near.”

Long petitions, or many, cannot be always made; mind and body may be too weak and ill; but ejaculations—“Arrows of the Lord’s deliverance,” as Augustine called them, “shot out with a sudden quickness”—these are ever in the power of the beleaguered Christian. And—

“More things are wrought by prayer

Than this world dreams of.”

Let him sing.—The word originally applied to instrumental music, the Eastern accompaniment of “psalms.” Praise, like prayer, ought to be individual as well as congregational. Hymns might be used by all in their devotions, and could not fail to be a blessing; while for those who have God’s great gift of music, it were surely better to sing—as the Apostle urges—than to say. There is a sadness latent in the most jubilant of earthly tunes, but not so with the heavenly; and quiring angels do not scorn to catch our humblest notes, and weave them in their endless song, if they be raised in thankfulness to Him Whom they and all creation praise.

James 5:13. Is any among you afflicted? let him pray — That he may be supported under his affliction, so as to be enabled to bear it with patience and resignation to the divine will, and find it to be sanctified to him, and made the means, as of exercising, so also of increasing his grace, and of purifying him as gold and silver are purified in the furnace. Is any merry? — Is any in health, and in a prosperous condition, and under no peculiar trial; let him sing psalms — Let him give thanks to God, and express his thankfulness by singing psalms or hymns of praise. The purport of the verse is, that, as believers in Christ, we ought to employ ourselves in such private religious exercises as are suitable to our present circumstances and frame of mind. “When rendered cheerful by contemplating the manifestations which God hath made of his perfections in the works of creation, providence, and redemption, or by any blessing bestowed on ourselves, we are to express our joy, not by drinking, and singing profane, lewd songs, but by hymns of praise and thanksgivings offered to God for all his mercies, Ephesians 5:18-19. On the other hand, when afflicted, we are to pray; that being the best means of producing in ourselves patience and resignation. But as the precept concerning our singing psalms, when cheerful, does not imply that we are not to pray then; so the precept concerning prayer in affliction, does not imply that we are not to express our joy in suffering according to the will of God, by singing psalms or hymns, as Paul and Silas did in the jail at Philippi.” — Macknight.

5:12-18 The sin of swearing is condemned; but how many make light of common profane swearing! Such swearing expressly throws contempt upon God's name and authority. This sin brings neither gain, nor pleasure, nor reputation, but is showing enmity to God without occasion and without advantage It shows a man to be an enemy to God, however he pretends to call himself by his name, or sometimes joins in acts of worship. But the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. In a day of affliction nothing is more seasonable than prayer. The spirit is then most humble, and the heart is broken and tender. It is necessary to exercise faith and hope under afflictions; and prayer is the appointed means for obtaining and increasing these graces. Observe, that the saving of the sick is not ascribed to the anointing with oil, but to prayer. In a time of sickness it is not cold and formal prayer that is effectual, but the prayer of faith. The great thing we should beg of God for ourselves and others in the time of sickness is, the pardon of sin. Let nothing be done to encourage any to delay, under the mistaken fancy that a confession, a prayer, a minister's absolution and exhortation, or the sacrament, will set all right at last, where the duties of a godly life have been disregarded. To acknowledge our faults to each other, will tend greatly to peace and brotherly love. And when a righteous person, a true believer, justified in Christ, and by his grace walking before God in holy obedience, presents an effectual fervent prayer, wrought in his heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, raising holy affections and believing expectations and so leading earnestly to plead the promises of God at his mercy-seat, it avails much. The power of prayer is proved from the history of Elijah. In prayer we must not look to the merit of man, but to the grace of God. It is not enough to say a prayer, but we must pray in prayer. Thoughts must be fixed, desires must be firm and ardent, and graces exercised. This instance of the power of prayer, encourages every Christian to be earnest in prayer. God never says to any of the seed of Jacob, Seek my face in vain. Where there may not be so much of miracle in God's answering our prayers, yet there may be as much of grace.Is any among you afflicted? - By sickness, bereavement, disappointment, persecutions, loss of health or property. The word used here refers to suffering evil of any kind, (κακοπαθεῖ kakopathei.)

Let him pray - That is, prayer is appropriate to trial. The mind naturally resorts to it, and in every way it is proper. God only can remove the source of sorrow; he can grant unto us "a happy issue out of all our afflictions;" he can make them the means of sanctifying the soul. Compare 2 Chronicles 33:12; Psalm 34:4; Psalm 107:6, Psalm 107:13, Psalm 107:28. It matters not what is the form of the trial, it is a privilege which all have to go to God in prayer. And it is an inestimable privilege. Health fails, friends die, property is lost, disappointments come upon us, danger threatens, death approaches - and to whom shall we go but to God? He ever lives. He never fails us or disappoints us if we trust in him, and his ear is ever open to our cries. This would be a sad world indeed, if it were not for the privilege of prayer. The last resource of millions who suffer - for millions suffer every day - would be taken away, if men were denied the access to the throne of grace. As it is, there is no one so poor that he may not pray; no one so disconsolate and forsaken that he may not find in God a friend; no one so broken-hearted that he is not able to bind up his spirit. One of the designs of affliction is to lead us to the throne of grace; and it is a happy result of trials if we are led by our trials to seek God in prayer.

Is any merry? - The word merry now conveys an idea which is not properly found in the original word here. It refers now, in common usage, to light and noisy pleasure; to that which is jovial; to that which is attended with laughter, or which causes laughter, as a merry jest. In the Scriptures, however, the word properly denotes "cheerful, pleasant, agreeable," and is applied to a state of mind free from trouble - the opposite of affliction - happy, Proverbs 15:13, Proverbs 15:15; Proverbs 17:22; Isaiah 24:7; Luke 15:23-24, Luke 15:29, Luke 15:32. The Greek word used here (εὐθυμεῖ euthumei) means, literally, "to have the mind well" (εῦ eu and θυμὸς thumos;) that is, to have it happy, or free from trouble; to be cheerful.

Let him sing psalms - That is, if anyone is happy; if he is in health, and is prospered; if he has his friends around him, and there is nothing to produce anxiety; if he has the free exercise of conscience and enjoys religion, it is proper to express that in notes of praise. Compare Ephesians 5:19-20. On the meaning of the word here rendered "sing psalms," see the notes at Ephesians 5:19, where it is rendered "making melody." It does not mean to sing psalms in contradistinction from singing hymns, but the reference is to any songs of praise. Praise is appropriate to such a state of mind. The heart naturally gives utterance to its emotions in songs of thanksgiving. The sentiment in this verse is well expressed in the beautiful stanza:

In every joy that crowns my days,

In every pain Ibear,

My heart shall find delight in praise,

Or seek relief in prayer.

- Mrs. Williams.

13. afflicted—referring to the "suffering affliction" (Jas 5:10).

let him pray—not "swear" in rash impatience.

merry—joyous in mind.

sing psalms—of praise. Paul and Silas sang psalms even in affliction.

Is any among you afflicted? either troubled or afflicted in mind, as appears by the opposite being

merry, or more generally afflicted any way. Not that we need not pray at other times, but when under afflictions God calls us more especially to it, and our own necessities put us upon it.

Let him pray; for support, patience, sanctification of afflictions, &c.

Is any merry? let him sing psalms; express his mirth in a holy manner, by praising God with psalms or spiritual songs for mercies received from him, 1 Corinthians 14:15 Ephesians 5:19; and so keep up his spiritual mirth by a spiritual exercise, lest his cheerfulness degenerate into vanity and frothiness.

Is any among you afflicted?.... As the people of God generally are; they are commonly a poor, and an afflicted people; at least there are many among them that are so, and many are their afflictions: those whom Christ loves, as he did Lazarus, are not free from sicknesses and diseases; and these are rather signs of love than arguments against it; and when this is the case of any of the saints, what is to be done?

let him pray; to God that can save him; in the name of Christ; under the influence of the Spirit; believing in the word of promise. Times of afflictions are proper times for prayer; there is then more especially need of it; and God sometimes lays his afflicting hand upon his people, when they have been negligent of their duty, and he has not heard of them for some time, in order to bring them near to him, to seek his face, pay him a visit, and pour out a prayer before him; see Psalm 50:15.

Is any merry? in good heart and spirit, in a good frame of mind, as well as in prosperous circumstances, in soul, body and estate:

let him sing psalms; let him not only be inwardly joyful, as he should be in prosperity, and be thankful to God for his many mercies, temporal and spiritual, he enjoys; but let him express it vocally, and melodiously, by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs: not that these are the only persons that are to sing psalms, or this the only time, any more than that afflicted persons are the only ones that are to pray, or the time of affliction the only time of prayer; but as affliction more especially calls for prayer, so spiritual joy, and rejoicing in prosperous seasons, for singing of psalms: weeping, and singing of psalms, were thought, by the Jews, inconsistent. Kimchi, on the title of the third psalm, observes, that their Rabbins say, that when David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, he wept; and if he wept, why is this called a psalm? and if a psalm, , "why did he weep?"

{8} Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

(8) He shows the best remedy against all afflictions, that is, prayers which have their place both in sorrow and joy.

Jam 5:13. If one among you suffers, let him pray; if one is of good courage, let him sing psalms. This exhortation stands in no assignable connection with what goes before. The sufferings to which Jam 5:7 ff. refer are those of persecution; but κακοπαθεῖν has here an entirely general meaning. On account of the following εὐθυμεῖ, many expositors (Beza, Semler, Rosenmüller, Hottinger) incorrectly explain κακοπαθεῖν = “to be dejected” (Vulgate: tristatur quis). It rather means to be unfortunate, to suffer, in which aegritudo animo is certainly to be considered as included. Pott incorrectly takes it as equivalent to the following ἀσθενεῖν, which is only a particular, kind of κακοπαθεῖν.

προσεύχεσθαι] denotes prayer generally; there is no reason to limit it here to petition.

ψάλλειν] literally, to touch, used particularly of stringed instruments; in the LXX. the translation of נִנֵּן and זִטֵּר = to sing psalms; comp. particularly 1 Corinthians 14:15. Both joy and sorrow should be the occasion of prayer to the Christian. The form of the sentence is the same as in 1 Corinthians 7:18; 1 Corinthians 7:27. Meyer: “The protases do not convey a question, being in the rhetorically emphatic form of the hypothetical indicative;” see Winer, p. 152 [E. T. 213], p. 255 [E. T. 355], p. 478 [E. T. 678].[239]

[239] Lachmann has after the sentence containing the hypothesis put a mark of interrogation. Al. Buttmann, p. 195 [E. T. 226], rightly declares this to be unnecessary, but has in his edition of the N. T. adopted the same punctuation.

Jam 5:13. κακοπαθεῖ: See note on Jam 5:10; it refers perhaps rather to mental worry or distress, while ἀσθενεῖ refers to some specific bodily ailment.—εὐθυμεῖ: only found elsewhere in Acts 27:22; Acts 27:25 in the N.T.—ψαλλέτω: refers both to playing on a stringed instrument (Sir 9:4) and to singing (Ephesians 5:19), and is also used of singing with the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).

13–16. Affliction—Sickness—Confession

13. Is any among you afflicted, let him pray …] The precepts point to the principle that worship is the truest and best expression of both sorrow and joy. In affliction men are not to groan or complain against others, or murmur against God, but to pray for help and strength and wisdom. When they are “merry” (better, of good cheer) they are not to indulge in riotous or boastful mirth, but to “sing psalms.” The verb is used by St Paul (Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19). Primarily it was used of instrumental string music, but, as in the word “Psalm,” had been transferred to the words of which that music was the natural accompaniment. It is, perhaps, specially characteristic of St James that he contemplates what we may call the individual use of such music as well as the congregational, as a help to the spiritual life. We are reminded of two memorable instances of this employment in the lives of George Herbert and Milton. Compare also Hooker’s grand words on the power of Psalmody and Music (Eccl. Pol. v. 38).

Jam 5:13. Προσευχέσθω· ψαλλέτω, let him pray; let him sing psalms) It is allowable also to sing psalms in adversity, and to pray in prosperity: but in adversity the mind in general is less able to endure the singing of psalms; and that which the mind endures ought rather to be done. They were especially accustomed to do this in public in the assembly of the faithful; as the antithesis shows, let him call for, as applied to the sick: Jam 5:14.

Verses 13-20. - Exhortations with respect to practical conduct in health and sickness. Verse 13. -

(1) Is any among you suffering? let him pray.

(2) Is any cheerful? let him sing praise.

Prayer in the narrower sense of petition is rather for sufferers, who need to have their wants supplied and their sorrows removed. Praise, the highest form of prayer, is to spring up from the grateful heart of the cheerful. Ψάλλειν (cf. Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19). James 5:13Is afflicted (κακοπαθεῖ)

See on the kindred word κακοπάθεια, suffering, James 5:10. Only here and 2 Timothy 2:3, 2 Timothy 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:5.

Let him sing psalms (ψαλλέτω)

The word means, primarily, to pluck or twitch. Hence of the sharp twang on a bowstring or harp-string, and so to play upon a stringed instrument. Our word psalm, derived from this, is, properly, a tune played upon a stringed instrument. The verb, however, is used in the New Testament of singing praise generally. See 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9.

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