SERMONHUNT.COM

Prayer: A force to be reckoned with. . .


Last week we finished the series we have been in for the last five weeks. We covered all of James 4 and the first 12 verses of James 5. While we are done talking about myths I didnt want to just walk away from the final verses of this book. 


James wraps up his writing with some critical thoughts on life, love and the power of prayer. While I will make mention of the context of these verse our focus today will be on prayer. 


We all know we should pray. We all probably have prayed at one time or the other. The fact is prayer is the source of connection to God. Prayer is the source of all power in our life. Sadly prayer is also one of the most ignored opportunities that Christ followers have at their disposal. 


A fifth grade boy who had heard a sermon on persistence in prayer was praying by himself in his room one night. As his dad passed his door, he heard the boy praying over and over again, "Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo." The next day, the dad asked his son what we was doing. The boy replied that he had given the wrong answer on a test for the capital of Mexico, and he was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of Mexico.

I think the boy was a little unclear on the concept, dont you? But sometimes, we do the same. We want God to adjust to us rather than our seeking what God wants and adjusting to Him.


During the fourth century the city of Antioch in Syria produced one of the greatest preachers of the church, John of Antioch. Because of his careful exegesis, unrelenting moral application, and unmatched eloquence he was given a nickname which became his stories title, Chrysostom, golden-mouthed.  Here is a sample of his writings on prayer: 

The potency of prayer has subdued the strength of fire; it has bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged (relived) diseases, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress if the thunderbolt. Prayer is a treasure undiminished, a mine that is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountains, the mother of a thousand blessings.

Henry Blackaby wrote:  

Prayer is not just a religious activity you go through once a day or three times at meals. Prayer is a relationship to a Person. It is a two-way communication with the God of the universe. When you pray, you are present in the throne room of heaven the nerve center of the universe. You do not have to enter prayer alone. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are intercessors with you. (Blackaby and King) 

The deepest desire of our hearts is for union with God. From the first moment of our existence our most powerful yearning is to fulfill the original purpose of our lives to see Him more clearly, love Him more deeply, follow Him more nearly. We are made for God, and nothing less will really satisfy us.  (Brennan Manning) 

As we close out this chapter and the book of James he writes about prayer but on either side of his major admonition to pray we find two other thoughts. First is a promise about life and then he writes about a purpose for loving others. Nestled in between these two thoughts is a strong encouragement to pray. Lets look first at the verses before and after the prayer emphasis. 

1. A Promise for Life: There will be ups and downs! 


This is a follow up to the teaching James had done in prior verses. Life will not always be happy. There will be times of challenge and even pain in our lives. There will also be times of great joy and blessing. 


13-15Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you've sinned, you'll be forgivenhealed inside and out. James 5:13-15 The Message


Are you suffering? Pray  He is stressing here the importance of prayer. Prayer is an important component of life to those that are suffering. It is important to know how to pray and practice praying when things are going well so that you dont have to introduce yourself to God when things are going bad. Its important to be in a daily relationship with Him. 


Are you satisfied? Sing  Singing is one form of praise and an expression of joy. We are told in Ephesians:  Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. 19 Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4:18-20 NLT


Are you sick? Call for help I am not preaching about healing today but the point that is being made here is that there are times when people of faith feel led to ask the church to pray for them and for the leaders to anoint them with oil. This was not an everyday kind of thing but one reserved for moments when great faith was being exercised on the part of the sick person and those praying over them. Oil was of course in those days both medicinal and symbolic of the Holy Spirit. 


There are times when we have to deal with prayers that dont get answered like we would like. Let me give you a way to process that: 


If the request is wrong, God says, No. 

If the timing is wrong, God says, Slow. 

If you are wrong, God says, Grow. 

But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, Go. 


For now we will skip verses 16-18 and go to his final thoughts. 


2. A Purpose for Love: Rescue the perishing 


 19-20My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God's truth, don't write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.  James 5:19-20 The Message


This is of course a very different message and would make a good teaching on its own so let me just point out the heart of these verses before we get back to prayer. 


Dont write people off

Go after them

Get them back

Prevent an epidemic

 

Now lets go back to the heart of the message today. We are told that prayer is a force to be reckoned with. 


3. A Power for Living: Prayer is more than a privilege 


It is my prayer and hope that God touches you today and that you feel the call to prayer on a daily basis. I hope some of us feel the need to move into a moment by moment relationship with God; a time of mental ascent and acknowledgement of His presence in our lives. 


 16-18Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn't rain, and it didn'tnot a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again. James 5:16-18 The Message


A. The practice and purpose of confession


We should never try to pray around unconfessed sin. 


1 Listen! The LORDs arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. 2 Its your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Isaiah 59:1-2 NLT


Too many times people avoid prayer and connecting with God because they dont want to deal with some ongoing sin in their life. 


The Bible talks about cheating God. (Malachi) We are all aware that we shouldnt cheat anybody out of something they deserve. We are not to cheat the poor. We are not to cheat on our spouses or cheat on our employers. 


We should not try to pray with unresolved conflicts. God is very committed to family and relationships although many of us can testify that those are the very relationships that often leave us scratching our heads. In Matthew 5 we read these startling words: 


And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Matthew 5:23-34 NLT


There is no sense in trying to pray if we are in a hateful relationship with someone else. 


If anyone claims, I am living in the light, but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 1 John 2:9 NLT


Some of you may wonder how you are to handle it if the situation is not resolvable. The fact is there are some relationships that cant be fixed. In that case, ask yourself if you really have done all you can to bring resolution and do you really want it to be made right. If your attempts have been honest and whole hearted God will not let this broken relationship stand in the way of your prayers. 


We should not try to pray with unconfessed selfishness. Remember this verse from James 4?  


Yet you dont have what you want because you dont ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you dont get it because your motives are all wrongyou want only what will give you pleasure.


Prior to World War II in Nazi Germany, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer conducted an underground seminary in Pomerania.  The teachers and 25 students shared a common life. His experience produced a spiritual classic entitled, Life Together, in which he documents the Biblical insights he gained.


In the last chapter of the book he gives some reasons for the practice of mutual confession. Primary among them is the isolation that sin brings. Sin drives Christians apart. Bonhoeffer writes, "Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him."


But confession to a fellow brother or sister destroys this deadly isolation. It pulls down the barrier of hypocrisy and allows the free flow of God's grace in the community.

             

The other main benefit of confession is that it brings healthy humiliation. Bonhoeffer wrote about how hard it was to confess to another person. He felt cut down by it. Yet he knew it was good for his sinful nature to be exposed in this way.                  

According to Bonhoeffer confession is also needed because it brings healthy humiliation: 


Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation. It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is a dreadful blow to pride. To stand there before a brother as a sinner is an ignominy that is almost unbearable. In the confession of concrete sins the old man does a painful, shameful death before the eyes of a brother. 


Confession promotes a poverty of spirit that is acceptable to God. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:3 


B. The power of consecration 


The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.            James 5:17


I want to leave this verse up on the screens for a few moments. Will you take a look at it? 


Just let these words sink into your spirit and mind. Let them call you to a better life. Let them call you today to a daily life in Christ. 


What do they say? They call us to a surrendered life of right living. The life we promote is one of holiness. It is not complicated. It is not hard to understand. It is simply this, Love God so much that everything you do is done with a heart to please Him. When you are in a daily relationship with Christ and you talk with Him every day you will be amazed how much you dont want to do things that you know are wrong. 


The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with! 


The following section will take about ten minutes and will be participatory as we walk through a season of prayer as a church. 


C. A plan for concentration


A hospital chaplain visited a delightful old lady in the hospital. As he approached her bed he noticed that with the index finger of one hand she was touching, one by one, the fingers of the other, with her eyes closed. When the chaplain spoke to her she opened her eyes and said, "Ah, minister, I was just saying my prayers--- the prayers my grandmother taught me many years ago." 


The chaplain looked puzzled, so she went on to explain, "I hold my hand like this, my thumb towards me. That reminds me to pray for those nearest to me. Then, there is my pointing finger, so I pray for those who point the way to others---teachers, leaders, parents. The next finger is the biggest so I pray for those in high places. After that comes the weakest finger---look it wont stand up by itself, so I pray for the sick and the lonely and the afraid. And this little one---well, last of all I pray for myself." 


Now thats not a bad pattern for prayer but I want to go back to one you have seen before in teaching here. 


Today we are going to pray together using this familiar acrostic:


A: Adoration

C: Confession

T: Thanksgiving

S: Supplication


Let us prepare our hearts for prayer: 


Wes:  Adoration: Jesus essentially taught us the same thing in the Lords Prayer, which begins, Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name (Matthew 6:9). This puts things in perspective for us. A good example of this type of adoration is found in Psalm 95:1-7. When we take time to praise and worship God in our prayers, we are placing God where He rightfully belongs. As a result, our problems and needs come into their proper perspective.


A prayer of Adoration  


Reader: 

1 Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
 2 Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.
 3 He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
 4 He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
 5 He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagles!  

Psalm 103: 1-5 

 1 Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
 2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
 3 For the LORD is a great God, a great King above all gods.
 4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains.
 5 The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too. 

 6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,
 7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. 

Psalm 95:1-7 


Let us pray a prayer of adoration


Wes:  Confession: The closer we draw to God, the more we sense our own sinfulness. When Isaiah came into Gods presence, he said, Woe is me, for I am undone! (Isaiah 6:5). The confession of our sin removes any barriers and clears the air of anything that would cause God not to hear our prayers. As 1 John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us . . . This is, once again, modeled in the Lords Prayer. After Our Father who art in heaven, we find, Forgive us our sins (Matthew 6:12).


Reader: 

9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9 NLT


1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
   Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
 2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
 3 For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
 4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.
   You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
 5 For I was born a sinneryes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
 6 But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. 

 7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken menow let me rejoice.
 9 Dont keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.   Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence, and dont take your Holy Spirit from me. 

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Psalm 51:1-13 NLT

Let us pray a prayer of personal confession 


Wes: Thanksgiving: Our immediate response after confession is thanksgiving. We should be thankful that God would indeed cleanse and forgive us. Should we give thanks because everything is going perfectly in our lives or because we are in a good mood? No, we should give thanks because God deserves our praise. Psalm 118:1 says, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For his mercy endures forever. As another translation puts it, His love endures forever. By giving thanks, or simply expressing gratitude for what we have, we prevent our focus from shifting to what we do not have.

Reader:  Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the God is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:5NLT


Let us pray a prayer of thanksgiving. 


Wes: Supplication: If we are faithful in the first three steps, the last step will not degenerate into some spiritual shopping list. Too often in prayer, we cut to the chase instead of spending time in adoration, confession, and thanksgiving first. Yet, God does want to hear our needs and requests. 


Reader: Scripture tells us, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God Philippians 4:6-7


Reader: We are also promised, And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus Philippians 4:l9


Let us talk to God about our needest need. 


Do not neglect this vital part of your Christian walk. As someone has said, Prayer is the breath of the newborn soul, and there can be no Christian life without it.  


The primary purpose of prayer is to grow the most important love relationship in your life.  


A little Boys Prayer:
"Dear God, please take care of my daddy and my mommy and my sister and my brother and my doggy and me.

Oh, please take care of yourself, God. If anything happens to you, were gonna be in a big mess."



1.  A Promise for Life: There will be ups and downs.

 

 Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if youve sinned, youll be forgiven--healed inside and out.  -James 5:13-15

 

Are you suffering?    Pray

 

Are you satisfied?      Sing

 

Are you sick?              Call for help

 

If the request is wrong, God says, No.

If the timing is wrong, God says, Slow.

If you are wrong, God says, Grow.

But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, Go.

 

2. A Purpose for Love: Rescue the perishing.

 

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from Gods truth, dont write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.  -James 5:19-20

 

Dont write people off

Go after them

Get them back

Prevent an epidemic

 

3. A Power for Living: Prayer is more than a privilege.

 

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldnt rain, and it didnt -- not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.  -James 5:16-18

 

A.  The practice and purpose of confession.

                       

Listen! The Lords arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. Its your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.  -Isaiah 59:1-2

 

If anyone claims, I am living in the light, but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness.  -1John 2:9

 

Yet you dont have what you want because you dont ask God for it. And even when you ask, you dont get it because your motives are all wrong -- you want only what will give you pleasure.  -James 4:2-3

 

B.  The power of consecration.

 

The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.  -James 5:17

 

C.  A plan for concentration.

 

1.  Adoration

2.  Confession

3.  Thanksgiving

4.  Supplication

 

Adoration

 

Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagles!  -Psalm 103:1-5

 

Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods. He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too. Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care.  -Psalm 95:1-7

 

Confession

 

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  -1 John 1:9

 

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me now let me rejoice. Dont keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and dont take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.  -Psalm 51:1-13

 

Thanksgiving

 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For God is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.  -Psalm 100:5

 

Supplication

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.   -Philippians 4:6-7

 

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  -Philippians 4:19