Tonight’s Bible study looked at just one verse: “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13)

Trouble can come in many shapes and forms: health worries, financial concerns, problems with work (or the lack of it), relationship problems, and many other issues. We may also face trouble and persecution because of our faith. James has already taught us much about the way we should respond to troubles, however: with gladness and rejoicing, because we know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance (see James 1:3-5). James shows us that prayer needs to be our response to trouble. It’s all too easy for us to be overwhelmed by troubles and to feel alone and forsaken during times of testing. Prayer enables us to draw close to God and to see things in perspective: God is always with us and is much greater than any trouble we may face. As we pray, we receive His wisdom in our situations and learn to see things from a different perspective (see also 2 Cor 12:7-10).

It’s easy when we are happy to forget about God, but James is keen for us to involve God in every situation in life. When we are happy, we need to show a thankful heart and involve God in our joys as well as our woes (many of us are better at complaining to God than thanking Him!) Whatever our lot in life, God is with us at all times and loves to bless us. As we pray and sing songs of praise, we align ourselves with God and learn to live with a keen awareness of His presence and purpose in our lives. There is something very powerful about singing: as Eugene Peterson has said, “When there is more in us than we can contain, we sing.” The psalms show us both aspects of prayer: many psalms are psalms of lament (eg Ps 44:9-16, Ps 86:5-6), but there are also psalms of great rejoicing as the psalmist meditates on God’s nature (eg Ps 44:26, Ps 33:1-3, Ps 149:3). However we pray, there is something powerful in God’s word and in singing this, for we then see God as He really is and are aware of His workings in our everyday lives.

As Matt Redman sings in ‘Blessed Be Your Name’, our response to God, whether in good times or bad, should be the same: we are called, by faith, to bless God and to praise Him.
“Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say,
‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ ” (‘Blessed Be Your Name’, Matt Redman)

‘Blessed Be Your Name’, Matt Redman