James 5:13-20 The Priority of Prayer
Happy New Year!
* I stayed awake to watch the partiers in New York, and then Dallas, bring in the New Year.
I must say, the ones in New York seemed to have a much better time.
And then I watched TV for a little while on New Year’s morning.
The theme was obvious…New Year’s resolutions.
Not only did many reveal their resolutions, some spent time discussing strategies on how to follow through with them and even how to handle potential failure.
* The resolutions ranged from drinking less (apparently, a good one to have AFTER New Year’s Eve); stop smoking, be a better person, and I even counted what I believe to be 4 weight loss commercials in a row on the same station.
Obviously, the marketing managers were taking advantage of the New Year.
But it dawned on me that believers don’t make resolutions once a year.
We come together at least once a week not only to praise our Creator but to look to His word for encouragement, correction, and resolve.
When I lay my head down at night and analyze the events of the day, it is a rare occasion that I don’t have something that I need to change.
So…change is, whether we like it or not a major part of the believer’s life.
It is a constant longing for and working toward being more like Christ.
Paul wrote that we should not conform to the pattern of this world but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
* Behavioral scientists have discovered that one of the ways we change our thinking is through what is called the Reticular Activating System. It works like this…
Once something has been brought to our attention, and we have been prepared to see it, we will notice it almost everywhere we go.
Advertisers know about this; certainly illusionists use it; and motivational speakers apply it as a means to achieve goals.
For example, if we decide to buy a car, we figure out which make and model and even the color we want and we picture it in our mind.
We will then see those cars everywhere! On the road, in the newspaper, on TV…everywhere.
What has happened?
Has someone miraculously used that information to manipulate our minds?
No, the cars were always there, but the moment we prepared ourselves to see them, our Reticular Activating System kicked in, and suddenly we notice them everywhere.
* This works in other areas of life as well.
As we begin a new year, if we have programmed our minds to see the negative things of life then more than likely, that is what we will see.
On the other hand, if we have prepared ourselves to see blessings and opportunities, then that is what we will notice more often.
It is the old pessimist-optimist thing; the cup half full verses the cup half empty.
Two people can have the same identical problem and deal with it in completely different ways simply because of their mindset.
* In light of the season…the season when we celebrate the birth of Christ and the season when the world celebrates a new beginning; it seems only right that we focus on things that are true, noble, right, good, and lovely; and let those things be the dominating influence in our lives.
Because far too much time is wasted dwelling on things that either will not happen or things over which we have no control.
* Today’s message is about The Priority of Prayer and how it affects our lives in a positive way.
What does prayer mean to you?
I think we can all agree that it is communication with God.
A form of communication that allows us to petition Him for needs; to thank Him for blessings; and praise Him for who He is.
But I wonder sometimes if we become complacent and a little ritualistic with our prayers.
Maybe we need to be reminded of what really takes place when we pray.
It is not just a muttering of words but a dynamic, powerful, process that takes place between a creature and its Creator.
When we think about what is really taking place, we can’t help but to get excited.
There is no other form of communication like it!!
* James 5:13a “Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray.”
The Greek word for “trouble” means “to endure affliction; to suffer; to undergo hardship”.
This particular word more than likely refers to undergoing trouble from evil people.
These troubles are not a result of a life lived apart from God but rather one lived in an environment of evil; one that is always present.
Persecution that comes through no fault of our own.
James had just encouraged his readers to be patient during times like this.
To trust in God as we endure each season of hardship because for the believer, there are blessings on the other side of trouble.
Now he is encouraging his fellow believers to pray during those times.
* James 13b “Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.”
Just a few minutes ago Jeff led us in songs that not only encouraged us but also praised God for His love, His redemption, and our revival through His Son Jesus Christ.
It is only appropriate for believers to express our appreciation for the One who provides true happiness.
* James 5:14-15
“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.
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.”
The Greek word for “sick” in this passage is translated as a physical illness 18 times in the NT.
But it is also used 14 times to refer to emotional or spiritual illness.
I’m not 100% sure, but it seems to me that James could be speaking about both.
* Illustration-I don’t know about you but I go through peaks and valleys in life.
Some days are mountain moving days but other days I couldn’t move a mole hill.
I would expect that most, if not all believers, go through times like this.
They suffer battle fatigue from facing one conflict after another.
One insult or injury after another. They are exhausted, weary, and depressed.
Perhaps they have misplaced their spiritual armor. (Eph. 6:10-18)
Or maybe they have starved themselves of much needed spiritual food.
Food that is only found in the life saving Word of God!
Whatever the reason may be the result is the same…spiritual weakness.
Weakness that draws us away from God and eventually into a life of sin.
When this happens, it is time to set our pride aside and call in reinforcements.
* It is a beautiful picture that James paints.
It is a picture of a fallen believer who finds strength in his fellow soldiers.
A believer in need and leaders who care.
A Christian who is weak either physically or spiritually and yet has the faith to call on the leaders of the church.
There is no shame in asking for prayer…it is the right thing to do; the wise thing to do!
Because sometimes the hole is so deep that we just can’t dig out alone.
When prayer is offered in faith, the sick become well, the weak become strong, and my Bible says that “the Lord will raise him up”.
* But the good news of prayer doesn’t end there.
James continues, “If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.” (15b)
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (16a)
If I am reading this right… healing comes from confession and prayer.
Confession being the point when we no longer deny or hide our weakness or sin…
But a time when we “come clean” so that we can “be clean”.
And prayer being the time when we take it to the Father who has the power to raise us up if it be His will.
* James then mentions that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (16b)
Almost implying that the prayers of an unrighteous man are powerless and ineffective.
Maybe that is why James says to call in reinforcements in times of weakness.
So that the prayers of strong can intervene on behalf of the weak.
So that the prayers of the well can intercede on behalf of the sick.
But then he gives us an illustration of a man whose prayers were answered.
And just in case we think we are not good enough to pray… James reminds us that,
“Elijah was a man just like us”.
Moses was a man just like us; Abraham, David, Peter, and the list goes on.
Each of these men had times of spiritual weakness but in the end, God raised them up!
* The story that James mentions about Elijah is found in 1 Kings.
Elijah was a prophet of God. His name literally means “the Lord is my God”.
When his contemporaries mentioned his name they knew who his God was!
* Tell the story of Elijah, Ahab, and the rain.
* As we being a new year I want to encourage you to be more prayerful.
To think a little more about what really takes place when we pray.
To realize that we can casually, without making an appointment, call on God.
To remember that this is not just any person that we are talking to.
He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and He holds our future in His hands.
To keep in mind that we have this avenue of communication because of the sacrifice of His Son and our Savior and that is why we pray in His Name.
To understand that He is ready and waiting for us to confess our sins and call on Him for forgiveness.
And to learn from the wisdom of calling on godly leaders to pray for us in our time of weakness.
And if it is His will, God and God alone will lift us up!