Summary: Last one on James. this was a summer series for 2009
James returns to where he began, in chapter 1 James speaks of the hard times we all face and our need for perseverance. This comes as we pray. Verse 5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, they should ask [that is pray] God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to them."
Prayer is the proper use for our tongues, not judgmental attitudes of hurtful attacks on our sisters and brothers in Christ. Not all our prayers are answered and James tells us the reason is our motives as we ask. Now, in these last verses, James underscores how prayer is appropriate in all of life’s situations.
Prayer is appropriate when we’re face trouble. It is appropriate when our soul is well. It is appropriate when we are ill and even when we confess and seek repentance. Prayer, for one another, is always a good thing.
Elders, anointing, confession have all been the highlights of this passage but I contend that those last few verses are meant to be illustrative of the larger lesson. I want us to take three things away from these verses.
Prayer is active. It’s not easy to pray. It’s easy to say words but it is not easy to pray and believe. In the gospels our Lord was confronted by Satan when he was praying and fasting in the wilderness. Do you think it was easy for Him? Why should we expect any less?
This is because active prayer isn’t about us but about God’s Kingdom. It lines us up with God’s agenda and desires. It puts us on the front line of being available to God for whatever the Holy Spirit wants from us. The pastor at a large Washington D.C. church tells how active prayer broke into his life during a prayer time on a college campus.
"As we shared prayer requests, my friend said their ministry needed a computer, and I said I’d pray for him. I started praying that God would provide a computer, and then I felt as if God interrupted me. It’s hard to describe the tone I heard from God. It was stern but not unkind. It was as if the Holy Spirit whispered these words in my spirit: Why are you asking Me? You’re the one with the extra computer!
So I quit praying midsentence and decided to do something about it. I told my friend I had a computer that I wanted to give him. And I became the answer to my own prayer. Why ask God to do something for us when it is within our power to do something about it ourselves?*
While in college I attended Sunday evening services at Peninsula Bible Church. They prayed differently. Someone would ask for prayer or share a concern. Then someone else nearby was appointed to pray aloud for the need right then. It was not unusual for the prayer time to last 90 minutes.
It also wasn’t unusual to have answers occur at the same time. I remember a person needing a refrigerator and another man offering one to them before the pastor could even ask someone to pray for the need. That was prayer at work. Prayer as sweaty work...
Prayer is a family thing. Since creation God’s intention was for us is to live in community with God and one another without the death sentence of sin. Even after our sin, God calls a "Abraham’s family" forms the "People of Israel" and God comes to earth Jesus calls a group of disciples to follow. Jesus prays we might "be one" and in the aftermath of Pentecost the church meets together and shares their resources.
Our culture has placed a high value on individuality and a supposedly right to privacy. In fact, the Bible seems to promote the exact opposite. We are accountable to one another. Our lives reflect on the Body of Christ as a whole.
Here’s a quick example of how this develops. I had records in the 60’s. You got your friends together to listened to them. Then came cassette tapes. Music became portable. We didn’t have to listen to what a D.J. wanted to play while we drove. Our tape decks let us listen to our music. In 1979 Sony’s first Walkman created private music. We could carry and listen to our tapes whenever we wanted.
Apples ITunes site went down Christmas day 2006 as millions of people tried to buy music online. A senior editor at MacWorld magazine, said, "The store itself was working; there was just too much traffic." Today you don’t listen to cuts you don’t want. You customize your playlists as well as add, and delete music at will. It seems to me a side effect of this transition is a greater lack of community than before.