Prayer repsonding to lifes normal conditions Feb 11 07
Prayer: Responding to Life’s Normal Conditions
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Introduction: For the last month and a half in our Sunday morning gatherings around the Word of God, we have focused on praying productive prayers. Prayers that are filled with faith, centered in God’s Will, saturated in praise and thanksgiving—prayer that God not only hears, but answers. Praying productive prayers focuses on three principles: we believe God, we desire what God desires, and we give God the Glory for hearing and answering our prayers. Lastly, the purpose of praying productive prayers is to increase the boundaries of the kingdom of heaven (or the kingdom of God) here on earth and to decrease the boundaries of the kingdom of darkness. Specifically, we have talked about praying for fruitfulness— for ourselves and for other believers.
This morning I want to look at a second reason that we want to pray productive prayers—we want to respond the way God asks us to respond to life’s normal conditions—the everydayliness of life, those things that just happen as we live life—if you will—the unavoidable circumstances of life on earth. Circumstances and conditions we might deem as both good and bad—but more likely are really just part of living. I really like the way the Apostle James, the brother of Jesus, deals with them. Open your Bibles to James Chapter 5 and let’s begin in verse 13—"Is anyone among you suffering (suffering trouble, affliction, enduring hardships)? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:13-20, ESV NT Rev. Int.) Because this is a very significant passage on prayer—one we must study and think about—I want to take it slowly, and I want to take up to three Sundays (including this one) to study and talk about this passage in James.
Very specifically this morning, I want us to only look at the two parts of verse 13. "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." (James 5:13, NIV) Verse 13 in James 5 is one of the most practical verses in all of Scripture—honestly, it just can’t get more practical or direct—are you in trouble? If so, PRAY. Are you happy? If so, sing songs of praise! PRAISE! So practical, so direct, and yet just so doggone spiritual. One of my favorite Christians authors is A. W. Pink. Pink makes this statement about prayer, “I have long been convinced there is no better way—no more practical, valuable, and effective way—of expressing solicitude and affection for our fellow saints than by bearing them up before God by prayer in the arms of our faith and love.”
Do you see it? The practical response to any circumstance, condition, or situation that we face is to turn to God. It is God desire to be brought in to all the changing moods of our life. It really is not as easy as we think—it is a practical response to trouble to pray and it is a practical response to happiness to praise—but it is NOT a normal human response—the normal human response to trouble (suffering and enduring hardship) is FEAR, WORRY, AND DOUBT. This is the EXACT reason that Paul tells the Philippians, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6, NIV) And the NORMAL human response to happiness is to focus on the THING that has made us HAPPY. We get happy about a raise at work and then focus on what we will do with the extra income. Praise—praise that is genuine (real)—will always focus on God—the giver of the happiness—rather than on the gift itself. Praise says thank you Lord, I give you the glory for being happy in the situation today!
Both PRAYER and PRAISE are disciplines that we must PRACTICE. God desires our FIRST response rather than a belated response—a response given after the fact. Asking God to intervene—to help us work through and walk through the hardship—while we are enduring hardship is a powerful, productive prayer. To fret, fear, worry, and doubt in the midst of a hardship and then as a last ditch effort asking God to do something is an ineffective, unproductive prayer—James comments about those kinds of prayers in the 1st chapter, "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." (James 1:6-8, NIV). First response prayer and praise is the will of the Lord—it will advance the kingdom of God.