“The Prayer of Faith”
James 5:13-16, January 12th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these ancient words from the letter of James, chapter five, verses thirteen thru sixteen.”
13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
“Having listen to this reading, let us consider how we might use writing in our modern-day world.”
“The Prayer of Faith”
We live in a world in need of healing, at every level of society! You and I, we need healing, as we are of this world. Our friends, our neighbors and most assuredly, our families are in need of healing, for they too, are of this world in which we live. We all need healing from one thing or another at one time or another in any given day or moment in time. Those moments may come upon us suddenly and they may be abated, decreased or subsided for long periods of time; yet, being mortals living in the sometimes all too real world, we all need or have needed, healing, and most probably may need healing again and again. How we avail ourselves to the sources of healing all around us is what we are going to focus on this morning. If you are not among the suffering in our society, may you be blessed, and may you also be willing to share your cheerfulness with those around you whom need cheering up. Likewise, if you are not now sick be willing to pray for and over those who are. And let us be reminded that a sinful life is also a form of disease, when we are in this state, we are also in need of healing.
Our text this morning from James’ letter is telling us we need to pray for one another. And we may need to ask for such prayer before we shall find healing. This in of itself is important to grasp, as we need to ‘want’ what the love of God through others is offering to us. We need to be willing to invite the Spirit of God, the Love of God and the Grace of God; the Healing Spirit of God – to be upon us. This is crucial to comprehend and to grasp, as no where is it written that anyone is healed or made well through the Spirit, the Hand of God, without the consent and desire of the individual or someone who is asking on their behalf. It is not that hard, yet it is crucial. God helps those who want to be helped. God simply wants us to be willing to accept help and have a little faith in the outcome.
“The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” /James 5:15/ While we ponder all of this let’s consider how others have used prayer. As we do so, let us reflect on how we use prayer in our own lives. How is your prayer life? Prayer is how you and I, how we communicate with God. If you have no prayer life, then, you are not having any conversations with the God of your understanding. Seriously, have you ever been in relationship with anyone without having a conversation with that person now and then? Relationships take some level of conversation. What kind of relationship do you want to have with God? Casual, serious, intimate or just a distant relationship where you wave to each other on Sunday mornings? Most folks I have known, over the years, do want a relationship, of some sort, with God.
In the military, it is said, that even an Atheist will call out to God when the bullets start flying, and the Agnostic will set aside their demand for proof of God’s existence, and offer up a quick request when faced with a life or death situation. Let me assure you, when I do a memorial service, and I have done a great many over the years, everyone expects me to lead them in prayer. Never has anyone said to me, don’t bother to pray pastor, it won’t make a difference. Rather, at such sacred times, family and loved ones want to be reassured that God is merciful, kind and generous and will be with, and is with, their loved one. So, I ask you again: what type of relationship do you want with the God you have come to know or desire to know?
Throughout the ages we have heard of people offering up prayers to God. We have many examples within the Old Testament. Abraham was known to negotiate with God in prayer. Jacob on the other hand was more of a wrestler when he conversed with God. King Solomon was seeking wisdom when he prayed. Whereas Jonah was more inclined to beg for God’s mercy ‘out of the depths’ of his struggles. Do you listen to the things being offered up and asked of God in prayer? There is a lot to consider in that one prayer which Jesus taught his disciples. You know the one I refer to – we say it together every time we worship together. (Our Father who art in heaven…) Do you listen to the prayer or do you just say the words? This is an important distinction. Try focusing on each word and phrase as you pray. When you do, the prayer will open your very heart to a channel which perhaps you have not experienced. Confused by this, then take any good prayer, read it out loud and seek to internalize each, and every word of the prayer, thereby making it personal. Try this a few times until you start to feel connected to the prayer itself.
In the New Testament, there are those who were taught by Jesus directly, or in the case of the Apostle Paul, were taught by the Spirit of God or through those who had been taught by the original Apostles of Christ. The Apostle Paul, if you have read a lot of his writings, you will come to see that Paul, dared to speak boldly to God! Surprised? You needn’t be. Haven’t you ever spoken boldly to a friend when you aren’t sure they are listening to you? I have. If you are on solid ground in the conversation you will quickly know. Yet, if not, your loving friend will surely push back on you thereby helping you to understand more fully what you are in discussion about. This works when you are in conversation with God as well. Never be hesitant to express your feelings when speaking with God. God already knows how you are feeling – so go ahead and talk with God about this. You may be surprised with the results.
Jesus was known to pray in various and many different settings. He prayed for God’s power when he raised his friend Lazarus from the grave; he prayed to his Heavenly Father for deliverance from the cross, and he prayed for submission as he gave up his Spirit on the last day. The Disciples, his Apostles, they learned to pray from the example set by Jesus. The Apostle Paul was always calling on Jesus and his Heavenly Father. Seems Paul was always in trouble, getting arrested and being put into chains and sent to local prisons and jails. Yet, the scriptures tell us he continued to sing praises to God and continued to lift-up his voice in prayer. No, he never escaped his mortality. Yet, countless times we hear how prayer brought him comfort and freed him from the bonds of imprisonment and percussion many times. Our spirits are that which is healed. It is through our spiritual lives by which we shall feel the fullness of God’s mercy and grace.
There are all kinds of prayers, short ones and long ones. My wife always wants me to say a short prayer, unlike my father who could stretch out a simple blessing over a hamburger at McDonalds for half the meal! So, you can either say: “Thanks for this meal, Dear God. Amen”; or you can go on and on thanking God for the bread, the milk, the butter and the farmers who harvested it and the trucker who… right down to your dear loved one who put the plate of food in front of you to eat. (Of course, by then the meal has gone cold!) At such a juncture, you may need to pray for forgiveness from those who have patiently waited for you to complete the well-intended blessing you have offered.
It has been suggested that each of us start writing down our prayers, prayers that we want Jesus to answer for us! Prayers of healing that you wish to raise up to God. Consider sharing your prayers with one another. Sharing our prayers could possibly unite us, bringing us together in fellowship. Imagine if world leaders shared their prayers with other world leaders and they did likewise. Can you even imagine the possibilities of the conversations that would follow? You see, prayers can be more than a talk or discussion with God. They can be the basis for getting into deeper relations with the people sitting around you today, here in this church. Prayer could strengthen your very understanding of what relationships are all about. Just imagine how pleased Jesus would be if he became aware of how his example was inspiring us young folks, us moderns, way out here in the Twenty-First century. Imagine what the next generations might achieve if we set a good example for them to follow. You see, prayer makes a difference. It changes us and it changes our understanding of the world around us. I have tried it for myself and it has made a big difference.
When Jesus prays for others it is called an intercessory prayer. He is praying for someone else; Jesus is praying for his disciples and all who have listened to his teachings. This is something we can do as well. We can pray for others. This is what our scripture from James’ letter is asking of us. To pray for those who are now sick, filled with disease or lost in an avalanche of discouraging information. We may need healing from a long array of issues that are bogging us done. Perhaps it is a poor or a truly bad decision we made. No matter the situation, prayer can only help. And the more you rely on prayer, the more faith you will have in the new possibilities, and thus the better the outcome shall be. No matter what the outcome, you will feel healthier, improved and closer to God through prayer.
Within the walls of this church have been said many prayers. Each said for a different occasion and on different dates. These prayers have strengthened our relationship with God. Together, our shared connections have also become stronger. Today, we see the fruits of sincere prayer, intercessory prayer, prayers of thanks, prayers of confession and yes prayers of pain, prays of sorrow seeking safe passage for others and hope of renewal and healing for still others. We have prayed for the greater community outside these walls and prayed for the world. We have prayed to strengthen the church while striving to feed the hungry, cloth the naked and offer shelter for the homeless. No, we have not changed the world, yet in our efforts we have changed this church, strengthened it and we are making a difference to those we have touched with our love and compassion. The rest we offer up to God in prayer.