In 1986 Bon Jovi released their third album, “Slippery When Wet”; and on it was the song, “Livin’ On a Prayer”. A good friend of mine counts this song one of his favorites of all time.
The song was the creation of three men: Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child. The song is the band’s signature song, topping fan-voted lists for decades. After the September 11, 2001 attacks – in which New Jersey was the second-hardest hit state after New York, suffering hundreds of casualties, the band performed an acoustic version of this song for both states.
When asked to speak about the song and its meaning, Jon Bon Jovi said, “It deals with the way two kids – Tommy and Gina – face life’s struggles, and how their love and ambitions get them through the hard times. It’s working class and it’s real…I wanted to tell a story about people I knew…a lifestyle I knew.”
Here are a few lyrics:
Once upon a time not so long ago
Tommy used to work on the docks, union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck, it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day working for her man
She brings home her pay, for love, for love
She says, we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love
We’ll give it a shot
Woah, we’re half way there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Now James would understand that. As we’ve seen throughout our examination of this letter, life for the first century Christians is far tougher than what Tommy and Gina were facing; they had livelihoods. Many of those to whom James is writing don’t. Add to that the loss of loved ones due to intense persecution, the rampant spread of disease, and oppression, and their lot in life was meager at best.
So what does James tell them at the conclusion of his letter? What practical exhortation does he give them in verses 13-18? In a word – “PRAY”. He calls them not to live “on a prayer”, but to establish a lifestyle of prayer in which every want and need, joy and blessing is bathed in prayer. Look at what he says here. He talks about the incalculable value of prayer. In fact, in six verses he mentions prayer seven times, describing its application and its power. We are going to look carefully at all of this on Sunday, Mother’s Day, in a message entitled, “Healing Prayer”. I hope you are planning to be with us, especially since this text has been used throughout the centuries to support some serious fallacies.
In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
- What examples do you have of specific answered prayer in your life?
- Did God ever surprise you in answering your prayer?
- How are the words of James 5:13-18 an elaboration of what James says earlier in his letter?
- In verse 13 what’s James saying about what our focus should be in all circumstances?
- How are praying and praising two sides of the same coin?
- What can we learn from verses 14 and 15 about the extremity of the need for prayer in special cases? (note the word “over” in verse 14)
- Is James promising healing every time the elders anoint with oil and pray?
- Who does he say we should confess our sins to? What are the circumstances?
- Why does James cite Elijah as an example of effective prayer?
- How is this example an encouragement to us?