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Prayer for the Sick. Andrea Riccardi's meditation on the letter of James 5: 13-20

April 4 2022 - ROME, ITALY

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Saint James’ Letter ends with these words about prayer, which reflect the experience of the community he addresses. There must be sick people among them, suffering people, people oppressed by the burden of their sins. There are large scale issues too: James speaks about Elijah facing the tragedy of drought, about sky and rain.
After all, before the weakness of our own body just as before the least and the greatest history events, we feel helpless. So, we tend not to think about all those things. But how can you stop thinking about your or your dear one’s sickness? How can you avoid thinking about war in Ukraine, the victims, and the carnage that is under our eyes every day? Feelings of impotence and powerlessness grow inside us. Then, it would be better not to think at all, reduce all our worries to the bare minimum and take just about them.
In fact, the Gospel urges us to live and feel in an entirely different way: it urges us to look at those who are far away as our neighbours, especially if they are in need. That is why we keep on praying for peace in Ukraine, although every day we receive news about tragedies. And our prayer is a kind of protest before God because of the deep inhumane and unjust we see.
Besides we not only pray but we practice the solidarity with the refugees and those who are under the bombardments, lacking what is necessary to survive. The prayer for all, for those who are sick, for peace, must become a dimension of our life. And prayer is not powerless.
Says James: «The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availed much». There was an old translation in Italian which I like best: The prayer of the righteous “done with insistence” avails much. It avails much indeed and Jesus recommend his disciples to pray with faith: with such a little faith, believing that what they ask will be done, they can move mountains. The parable of the unjust judge and the poor widow shows that insistence avails. Then, faith and insistence: that is emphasised in the word “knock” which Jesus associates with prayer.
The Holy Scriptures teach us the great historic and spiritual value of prayer. Elijah’s human nature was not different from ours. But he intensely prayed asking it not to rain and rain stopped for three years and six months. And again, he prayed for the rain and the sky gave the rain and the earth yielded its fruits. The Psalms show the great value of prayer and they guide our steps when we pray.   
Pope Francis has recently taught: «Praying is bringing the agony of the world before God so that his eyes can look down at human history. Let’s ask ourselves whether, in the midst of the present war, we are praying and if concern about war is in the heart of our prayer».
Thus, we want to pray for peace in Ukraine insistently and today we pray for those who are sick. Particularly we would like to remember the sick people in Ukraine, who suffer for the lack of treatments and for the destruction of the medical facilities. We have been taking care of some people under dialysis, who had been prevented from going on with their therapies. They have been taken out of the country and saved. But how many more in the same utmost need, with no care and no medical facilities available! Who can count them? Who knows them?   
The weakest are always trampled by war. So,let us pray and pray together!
Says James: who is sick «call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him». He says also: «Pray one for another, that you may be healed».
Let us pray, let us pray one for another. This is the spirit of our community prayer. Prayer covers our sins, just like the commitment with our brother in distress will cover a great number of sins. Yes, the community which prays changes our hearts, touches our lives and marks history.   
The Lord wants to give peace to the world, that peace which men defile. The Lord wants to give all his faithful joy, joy that evil threatens and that the men deny making their own lives sorrowful.

Let’s listen to the word of the Lord in the end: «I say unto you, whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Up till now you have asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, so that your joy may be full» (John 16:23-24)

 

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