Praying Through the Book of James

| Time: 22 Minutes

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.”
(James 5:13 ESV)

The Apostle James opens his letter telling us that we have reason to be joyful when we face all kinds of suffering, because we know that God is refining our character through them and accomplishing wonderful things in us through them. We can have real joy in suffering because we know God is accomplishing his loving purposes through our trials. They aren’t meaningless or coincidence. Yet, when we are in pain, we find this hard to grasp. That’s why James ends his letter encouraging us to pray—it’s his first application point for his audience in his letter.

We read, “Are you suffering? Then pray!” and we immediately think, “Well, what do I pray?” James and the Holy Spirit—the ultimate Author of the Bible—do not leave us hanging. James has just given us tons of insight into the temptations we will face when we are suffering. James illuminates the inner workings of our hearts and shows us our need for the Holy Spirit’s help.

James told us in chapter four that we are prone to asking God for the wrong things (James 4:3). Why? Because we have divided hearts. We don’t always ask God for the right things, because we don’t always want the right things. We don’t always want what is truly good and best for us. But God gives us grace (James 4:6), and through James’ letter, the Holy Spirit lovingly leads us to pray for God’s will—for the help we need, and the right heart.

The prayers below came out of our personal study of James’ letter. We hope that as you endure trials, these prayers help you draw near to God.

How to Use This Article

Let’s make sure this article brings you the most joy possible.

Please don’t try reciting these prayers verbatim as if they have some power on their own. We don’t want to mislead you into thinking they’re a special incantation.

Rather, we hope you hear these prayers as if you’re overhearing a friend praying on your behalf. As you listen, you might be inspired to pray similar things, or you might learn something about prayer. We want to walk with you, hand-in-hand, to the throne of grace—the throne of our good and kind, heavenly Father. We trust that as you come to him in sincerity and faith that he will answer your prayers with the mercy you need in this time of suffering.

Now, if you do find the wording of our prayers especially helpful, please pray these words from your heart and consider them God’s gift to help you express your heart to him! You could even write them out in your journal or pray them out loud.

God cares most about the attitude of our hearts, rather than the words when we pray (Matthew 6:7-8). He is delighted that even in your pain, you are drawing near to him.

Lord, we pray that you would use these prayers to strengthen the hearts of everyone who reads them. Meet them, we ask, by your Holy Spirit, and reveal to them your presence and care in their suffering. Amen.

Praying Through the Book of James

The following prayers are each based on the bolded verses listed above them.

“Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds,” (Read James 1:2-4)

Lord, please help me to consider how you are shaping my character through this trial and use that realization to bring me joy. Please help me submit to your work through this trial and to be steadfast, not resisting you. Help me remember that you are using it to make me whole and mature. I rejoice that you care for me—for my ultimate spiritual well-being and maturity, and not just my comfort. Give me grace to bear this trial with joy.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (Read James 1:5-8)

Lord, I need wisdom. I need wisdom to see this trial from your perspective. I can’t count it as joy unless you help me see the value of the maturity and steadfastness you are producing in me. I need wisdom in this trial. Please give me wisdom in this situation, but also the courage to act on the wisdom you provide. Guard me from choosing my own way when you faithfully answer and kindly reveal the best way.

“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.” (Read James 1:9-11)

Lord, help me remember that this trial is for a season, and that it is your kindness to humble me and help me see the fleeting nature of my life. Please use this trial to teach me to number my days, and to value what you value. 

Read Psalm 90

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 ESV)

Lord, please help me to trust you. Help me believe that there is blessing in enduring this pain. Help me to endure the pain, and to strive for righteousness through it all, knowing Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that he could award me his righteousness, which I don’t deserve. Help me not only look forward to the end of this trial, but to my heavenly hope of enjoying life with you in eternity where there will be no more suffering.

“Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Read James 1:13-15)

Lord, when I am tempted to sin, please make me honest and humble enough to find the source of my temptation in me and not blame you. Show me what I am wanting that I don’t have. Replace that lust with a righteous desire for you alone. Teach me to catch my wrong desires before they grow into sin, and learn to say, “I shall not want.” Satisfy me, Lord. Satisfy the thirsts of my heart in a righteous way.

Read Psalm 23

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (Read James 1:16, 17)

Lord, help me discern when my thoughts of you are wrong, and please replace any wrong visions of you that I have. Help me know you as you are—to see and to believe that you are only and always good. Thank you for giving me new birth through your Word of truth and making me an entirely new person when I believed in Jesus. Thank you for redeeming my suffering so that even my pain serves to deepen our relationship and make me more like Christ.

Read Luke 11:11-13

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:19-21 ESV)

Lord, help me understand that I need your Word. I am tempted to neglect it, in fear that it will expose my sin and need for change. Please give me the meekness to receive your Word, and the faith to believe that I need it desperately. Plant faith in me, Lord, and help me keep receiving even the words from your Word that are tough to hear. Help me not resist your loving voice of correction. I confess that I have been angry and have not wanted to draw near to you. Please forgive me for being angry and not trusting you. Remove that anger from my heart.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (Read James 1:22-25)

Lord, help me to obey. I ask for your Holy Spirit’s strength to carry out your commands immediately, joyfully, and from the heart. Help me to persevere in obeying you in this area that feels so challenging right now, remembering that blessing comes with obedience.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (Read James 1:26, 27)

Lord, open my eyes to the needs of those around me, experiencing deeper and more enduring suffering than I am. Use my own pain right now to make me more compassionate towards those who have less than I do. Help me use what strength I have in order to serve those around me. Please guard me from numbing my pain with the pleasures of the world and give me the courage to serve you as I suffer. Guard me from a myopic perspective thinking I’m the only person suffering. Reveal to me any orphans or widows in my life that I can care for today.

“Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (Read James 2:1-9)

Lord, help me see my brothers and sisters in the faith with your perspective. Help me not judge them by appearances, or by what they have to offer me, but to honor people based on their faith in you alone. Please forgive me for only wanting to love those who can love me back, and for ignoring those you love deeply. 

“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (Read James 2:10-13)

Lord, I need your mercy. I look around and see the errors in others, and I am full of excuses about my own sin, or blind to it. Lord, keep my heart soft! Make me aware of my sins, and quick to confess them and repent of them to you. Do not let me forget your mercy toward me personally. But help your mercy toward me to transform me into a more merciful person.

Lord, I am not a victim in my suffering, I cause more pain to your heart through my sin than you could ever deal me in loving discipline. Help me love you for your mercy towards me.

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” (Read James 2:14-26)

Lord, you are testing my faith in you through this trial. You have exposed my lack of faith in the truth that _____. Help my unbelief, Lord. Please give me the strength to live as though your promises to me are true. Please increase my faith and empower me to live it out in the way that’s most challenging right now. Please forgive me for the ways I have acted in unbelief. Lord, give me the joy of deeper friendship with you as I learn from you how to obey, trusting our heavenly Father.

Read Genesis 22 and Matthew 26:36-46

“For we all stumble in many ways.” (Read James 3:2)

Lord, thank you for your grace toward me in this trial. Thank you, Jesus, for suffering to the end, and enduring without relief the suffering I was due, so that I can know the grace to get back up again when I fall. Thank you, dear Lord, for the grace to change! Thank you that my stumbling is not the end of my story. Thank you for the hope of the resurrection, that though I may stumble, you uphold my hand, and will give me the power to keep walking in faith (Psalm 37:24; Romans 8:11).

“The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (Read James 3:1-12)

Lord, I am in constant danger. I am tempted to say things about you that are untrue, things that will hurt others, things that would not honor you. Set a guard over my mouth. Thank you for your Holy Spirit, the fire you have given me, stronger than my tongue. Thank you for the gift of self-control. Lord, put your Word, your promises, and your praise on my tongue. Help me build up others with my tongue. Guard me please in this trial from sinning against you and others with my tongue. I want to say _____ but I know I should not. Please fill me with your Spirit and remove the evil thoughts of you or others that I want to express.

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” (Read James 3:13-16)

Lord, I have been sinfully motivated by _____. I thought this decision was wisdom, but really, I just wanted my own way. I am sorry for my jealousy. I am sorry for wanting ______ for myself. Please forgive me for masquerading my will as yours. Lord, change my heart please. Make me want your glory and your will more than mine. Please heighten my sensitivity to my own selfish ambition so I sense it before I act on it. I repent, Lord, giving up my own will. Lead me in your will.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17, 18 ESV)

Lord, teach me to ask for your wisdom in every decision. Write this verse on my heart and mind so that I can recall the qualities of your wisdom and act wisely moment-by-moment. Please give me the wisdom described here. Give me a pure heart, Lord. I ask for sincerity and integrity, especially in this trial. Purify the motives and desires of my heart so that I act out of wisdom and not selfish ambition. Refine the inclinations of my heart.

Consider memorizing this verse! It’s a great passage of Scripture to run through in your mind when you need wisdom.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this—that your passions are at war within you? You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions. (Read James 4:1-5)

Lord, I am sorry for my anger and my bitterness. Really, I am angry because you are not giving me what I want. I am sorry for not being honest with you and just asking you for my desires, not trusting that you care, and not wanting to acknowledge you. I am sorry for asking you only to get what I want out of you. I am sorry for wanting my kingdom more than yours and seeing you as a means to my ends. Lord, I so desperately want ______ because _________. I believe what I want will make me happy, but Lord only you can satisfy my heart. I have coveted and not believed you are enough. Take the passions of my heart and change them to be the passions of your heart. Make me want the right things Lord! Share with me the desires of your heart, so that they become the desires of my heart.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.(James 4:6 ESV) 

Lord, thank you for your grace in this trial. Thank you that every time you expose my sin and what I need to repent of, you give fresh grace to forgive me, love me, and set me on my feet. Please guard my heart from hardening up with pride and trying to muscle through this difficulty on my own. Help me, Lord, to be humble hearted before you, to remember “blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3 ESV) Keep me poor, Lord. Keep me needy. Keep me humble. Thank you, Lord, for your painful kindness to use this trial to keep me needy and close to you. I’d rather be close to you than free of pain. Thank you for being a faithful friend, willing to wound, that I may know your grace better and learn humility.

Listen to the Song “Faithful Wounds” by Cory Asbury

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you doubleminded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10 ESV)

Lord, teach my heart this precious pattern. Break and soften my heart when I refuse to weep. Do not let me be too proud to cry before you. Help me know the value of repentance. Make me quick to repent, and unafraid to be broken before you, knowing that after I have mourned my sin, your loving hand will always pick me up. Thank you for welcoming me to draw near to you. Please give me courage to cut out of my life all that defiles me, and would your Spirit purify my heart and heal me from my divided mind and heart. Teach me to resist the devil and his accusations and temptations. Incline my heart to seek after you and draw near. I am sorry for resisting you, and I ask for the courage to seek you with humility.

Consider memorizing this verse! It’s a great passage of Scripture to recall when you are convicted by sin and need to repent.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers… who are you to judge your neighbor? (Read James 4:11, 12)

Lord, please guard my lips from gossip and from pronouncing condemnation on others in this trial. Make me so occupied with believing and obeying your Word that I have no time to judge the lives of others.

Instead you ought to say, “‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.(Read James 4:13-17) 

Lord, I confess my arrogance in thinking I know the future. I am sorry for boasting about my own plans, as if I get to decide tomorrow. I want to submit to you once again. Tomorrow belongs to you. Here are my plans: I desire to _______. But I leave that in your hand. Please lead me in and align my heart with your will. Teach me to commit my every way to you.

Read Proverbs 3

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17 ESV)

Lord, keep me from talking about you instead of walking with you. Give me strength to do what I know I ought to do. Keep me from sins of omission, by giving me power to carry out what you have clearly instructed me to do. Please give me sufficient time today to do what you’ve called me to do and help me seize the moment with courage.

You have laid up treasure in the last days… you have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter. (Read James 5:1-6)

Lord, my vision is blurry. I cannot see as I ought. I have let _____ capture my heart and distract me from your kingdom. I have lost sight of your return. Restore my vision, Lord. Give me a lean heart, fit for the next world, and willing to let go of this one. I have put my treasure in this world, desiring it most, because my heart has wanted _____most. Please, Lord, show me your glory again, show me the treasure I have in Christ and set my heart on him that I might pursue heavenly and not earthly treasure. 

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. (James 5:7 ESV) 

Lord, make me like the farmer. Please give me diligence, responsibility, and holy productivity as I wait on you. Make me an active waiter, trusting all the while that as I work, you are working in more ways than I can perceive. Give me the strength to get up and do as you’ve called, day by day by day, being enduringly patient in the work you have given me to do. Please change my mind so that the end-goal is not the end of this particular trial, but when you return. Teach me to hope in your arrival more than anything else. 

Read 2 Timothy 2 

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:8 ESV)

Lord, my heart feels all tossed about, disturbed, and vulnerable. I need you to establish it.

  • Please give me specific Scriptures to steady my heart.
  • Please give me people in my life who love you and will help me to not waver, but keep my heart fixed on you.
  • Please make me a wise steward of my own heart, fleeing what would distract me and pursuing what will anchor my heart deeper in trusting you.

Lord I do not have enough of an eternal perspective—settle my heart in the eternal realities you have spoken of in your Word. Make me immovable as I wait on you. 

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (Read James 5:9-11)

Lord, help me believe that there’s blessing in enduring this trial! Help me see your good purposes as I suffer right now. Please open my eyes to your compassion and mercy. Open my eyes to the eternal reward of submitting to this hard work you’re doing in my life. Oh Lord, show me your love in this specific discipline, that I might love you more for it! 

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:12 ESV)

Lord, as I endure this trial, keep me from getting lazy in my commitments. Make me increasingly a person of my word in this season. Help me grow in trustworthiness, like you. I ask your forgiveness for lying, for exaggerating, for saying yes or no when I really mean no and yes. Forgive me for giving out my word too freely, and for breaking my word. I ask for grace to keep the commitments I have made, and new zeal to pursue truth with all my heart.  

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16a ESV)

Lord, thank you for your church, and for the other believers you have put in my life, like ___. Please give me the courage to be honest with them, and would you use our relationship to sharpen us both. Please make us both more willing to confess sin outright. Please give me the healing you promise that you give when we honestly confess sin in community. Are there any sins, Lord, that I need to confess today? Reveal them to me and provide a brother or sister in Christ who I can confess to and pray with.  

Consider reading the small book Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (Read James 5:16-18)

Lord, thank you for the privilege of praying to you. Please make me fervent and full of faith in prayer. Help me believe you for big things, just like Elijah did. Help me believe nothing is too hard for you. Thank you for counting me as righteous in your sight based on Jesus’ merit, not mine. Would you please help me never doubt your power. Teach me to pray for big things in this trial. I have doubted that you can ______. Please prove me wrong and give me faith to keep asking.

Read 1 Kings 18

Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (Read James 5:19, 20)

Lord, thank you for your kindness to pursue me in my wandering and save my soul from death. Thank you for your love to put James’ letter in my life as I’m suffering. Lord, I want to lead others to know you better, and cling to you in their trials. Would you please use this trial in my life to help bring someone else to know you or to see you more clearly. 

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