Plagued recently with insomnia, I’ve been reading Sirach. I am struck by the similarities between Sirach’s teaching on prayer in the midst of trouble and James’ instruction in ch. 5. In particular, Sir 35:26 reads, “His mercy is as welcome in time of distress as clouds of rain in time of drought.” Unfortunately the Heb. is incomplete in Ms. B:
ן מצוקה כעת חזיזם בעת בצורת[…………]
The LXX reads:
ὡραῖον ἔλεος ἐν καιρῷ θλίψεως αὐτοῦ ὡς νεφέλαι ὑετοῦ ἐν καιρῷ ἀβροχίας (v. 24).
The Vulg. has
speciosa misericordia Dei in tempore tribulationis quasi nubes pluviae in tempore siccitatis.
I hope to explore the context of this passage in greater detail. For now, it is sufficient to note that Sirach provides an analogy between God’s mercy in distress and rain in drought. Elijah’s prayer for rain in James, when read against this backdrop fits well with the broader eschatological context of James 5.
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near (vv. 7-8).
James admonishes his readers to remain patient–waiting for the Lord’s coming–waiting for rain–waiting for his intervention ἐν καιρῷ θλίψεως. Elijah’s prayer for rain in James mirrors our prayers for the mercy that attends the coming of the Lord.