Prayer, 27 November 2011

Big Idea: prayer is powerful in many ways.

We’ve been going through the book of James, written by Jesus’ half-brother. The entire book of James is about practical, real faith, faith that works in real life.

Today we’re talking about the power of prayer. We pray because we can’t help it. The very word
prayer comes from the Latin root precarius—a linguistic cousin to precarious.

Does prayer excite you or feel more like a task? Why?

Most people that I know—including myself—are frustrated by prayer for one reason or another.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (James 5:13)

Are you in trouble? Pray! Now!

The Greek word means “enduring hardship, experiencing misfortune, experiencing calamity.” Have you ever been there?

Are you happy? Thankful? We’ve just sung songs of praise.

Prayer and praise.

Prayer is talking with God. It is more than just asking God for stuff.

Sometimes we treat God like Santa Claus, always asking for things, often in desperation. We pray ONLY in times of trouble.

As a dad, it would drive me crazy if the only time my kids called my name was when they wanted something from me. I love it when they say thanks, share ideas, reveal their feelings, ask me questions, and offer kind words. When I have a relationship with them, I WANT to give them good things when they ask.

Many are frustrated with prayer because they don’t get immediate answers to their prayers, but petitions or requests are just one type of prayer. I fear that for some of us, if it weren’t for trouble, we would never talk with God.

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

I think this verse is pretty clear. The word for “sick” means literally “to be without strength.” It’s not having the sniffles, but being truly sick.

This phrase “call the elders” is a command to the sick person.

Too often we call the doctor or grab head to the medicine cabinet. There’s nothing wrong with doctors or medicine, but the local church is the God-designed community where we are to love and serve one another. It is a joy to worship together, to bear one another’s burdens, to pray for each other.

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. (James 5:15)

What makes prayer effective? Is it long prayers? Deep, intellectual words? Oil? No, it is faith-filled prayer.

Where does faith come from? It is a gift of God.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Do you have faith to believe God will answer your prayer?

One of the many Hebrew names for God is Yahweh Raphah, the LORD who heals.

The phrase “prayer offered in faith” literally means in the Greek “THE prayer of THE faith.”

What is the prayer of faith? John tells us...

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)

Philip Yancey said, “Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.”

Does God always heal as we desire, instantly and completely? No. Why not? Great question! He does not always answer the way we desire...or in our timing.

In some cases, we may be the reason we are sick. If he has sinned—sometimes sin causes sickness. Jesus often forgave sins during healing encounters.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

Prayer matters. Prayer is powerful.

We looked at this verse several months ago when we talked about praying for one another. There’s something powerful about confession. The verb tense means “keep on confessing your sins to one another” and “keep on praying for one another so that you may be healed.”

Again, there is often—not always, but often—a relationship between sin and sickness.

Proverbs 15:29 says...

The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29)

John 9:31 tells us...

We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. (John 9:31)

James continues with an example.

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:17-18)

Elijah was a role model for James. James’ nickname was “camel knees” because he spent so much time praying that calluses developed on his knees.

1 Kings 18 tells the story of Elijah’s powerful prayers.

Notice it says he was a man “just like us.” He did some great things, but he was also a coward.

God wants to see faith, real faith, faith that leads to prayer. When we pray according to God’s will, He will respond. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ and the more we hear the Word and spend time in prayer, the more we will know and understand God’s will and pray accordingly.

Matthew Henry said...

“It is not enough to say a prayer, but we must pray in prayer. Thoughts must be fixed, desires must be firm and ardent, and graces exercised. This instance of the power of prayer, encourages every Christian to be earnest in prayer.”

I love this...

"Everything in God’s store is on the bottom shelf–you have to get on your knees to get it.” - Robert Collier

After all of these verses on prayer, James concludes his book by saying...

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

Sheep wander. That’s why they need a shepherd.

It’s so easy to lose our way, especially when our world is so dark. None of us is perfect which is why we need one another. We have a strong enemy that will do anything to get us off the path, either sending us backward or just leading us to a picnic at the side of the road that prevents growth.

We were made for community and it is required if you truly want to follow Jesus. You can’t do it alone. Our culture says to reject authority and be your own person, but that’s not the message of the Bible. We were created to live interdependently. Brothers look out for brothers. Sisters care about sisters.

These two verses paint a beautiful picture of restoration, wisdom, and initiative. This is not, of course, speaking of harsh criticism and judgment, but rather speaking the truth in love.

Prodigals are always welcome here in the Scio family. Always.

Of course the greatest demonstration of this is introducing an unbeliever to Jesus. There is no greater joy!

We have noted previously that ...

Prayer Is The Primary Work Of God’s People (Phil. 4:6-7)

It is not a program or an event. It is what we do. It is not only the way in which we communicate with and know God, it is a way to bless others.

“Prayer Is The Soul’s Sincere Desire”

Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
unuttered or expressed,
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
the falling of a tear,
the upward glancing of an eye,
when none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try;
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high.

Prayer is the contrite sinners' voice,
returning from their way,
while angels in their songs rejoice
and cry, "Behold, they pray!"

Prayer is the Christians' vital breath,
the Christians' native air;
their watchword at the gates of death;
they enter heaven with prayer.

O Thou, by whom we come to God,
the Life, the Truth, the Way:
the path of prayer thyself hast trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray!

James Montgomery, 1771-1854

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