Summary: Through prayer, James urges us to seek God’s face no matter what our circumstances.
Facing God, Wherever You Are
Recently there has been much information in the media about the Islamic faith. You might have learned more about the Muslims in the last year than you did all the rest of your life. I was interested to learn about one of their “Five Pillars of Faith,” the binding rules of conduct in this very disciplined religion. Five times each day, orthodox Islamic believers bow in prayer. Once in the morning, at noon, once in the late afternoon, once at sunset, and right before they retire for bed, they have prayer. They kneel, place their foreheads to the ground and offer their prayers toward their holiest city of Mecca, the home of Mohammad. It is quite a unifying ritual for them, knowing that all over the world Moslems are doing the same thing, bowing toward the same holy place.
I couldn’t help but think of that Moslem practice when I read James 5:13-18. People, wherever they were and whatever they were doing, coming to a time of prayer. Now certainly our prayer is different. It is not a five time a day fixed ritual. Our physical position is not fixed, nor is our prayer directed toward Mohammad as our intercessor. But there is something to be said for that facing the same direction. Not toward a city or a particular holy place, but toward the one who created the universe. In the verses that we are looking at this morning James is urging us wherever we are, whatever our situation, to live our lives facing God in prayer. What a tremendous challenge!
Read text: James 5:13-18
Don’t miss what James is saying here. No matter the situation, you need to be facing God, communicating freely with Him. Martin Luther said, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” In this passage James highlights several different scenarios when we need to turn our face toward God in prayer.
1. Those who are in trouble. (v. 13a)
Now this is the only place in the entire N.T. where this word for “trouble” is used. It means “suffering through tough times, not related to physical problems.” This is the time when there isn’t enough money to pay the bills. When the storm rolls through as it did this past week and throws your car all over the parking lot or destroys your home or business, James says pray. When your friend is acting like a jerk and destroying your friendship, James urges you to face God in that time of trouble. “When the rug is being pulled out from under your life, pray!” That is not too difficult to understand, but notice what is not said. You can look all over the page, even all over the Bible, and you will not find the verse you would like to be there. “Is any of you in trouble? Pray and God will take that trouble away!” It simply isn’t there, no matter how much we would like it to be. As a matter of fact, remember James 1:2-4. (Read)
Trouble is part of life, but in the midst of it we have a choice. We can allow God to use it to mold us into who He wants us to be, or we can allow it to beat us down into something less than God’s will for us. James says we choose the outcome of our troubles by turning toward God in their midst. “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.”
2. Those who are happy. (13b)
We teach our kids to say “thank you” when they receive something from someone, but often we never learn to be genuinely thankful to the one who gives us everything. It is often the prayer of thanksgiving that we neglect. When we are in the deepest of trouble, it’s not hard to remember to turn to God, but when we are on the mountaintop, we have a tendency to forget who gave it to us. Here we are reminded not to forget! Sing songs of praise!
Now I have to tell you at this point, sometimes when we sing songs of praise, we forget to inform our face of what is going on. Now I know it’s possible for the people of this congregation to smile. I watch you when the service is over, and I see happy people. I see people with smiles and I hear laughter. But when it comes to the way you guys look during worship, some people might wonder if we’ve been baptized in lemon juice. I think we need to realize that there is nothing holy about being somber. And there is nothing particularly worshipful about being grim. I wonder if it isn’t somewhat sacrilegious to sing a song like