Summary: We have not because we ask not. There is power in persistent prayer.
The Power of Persistent Prayer
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 extremely 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 could not help but think of that Muslim practice when I read James 5:13-18. Applying this to the Christian, it would be Christians, wherever we are and whatever we are 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. However, 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 come together and face God in prayer. What a tremendous challenge!
The Jews had a similar tradition, they would gather, if they were in Jerusalem, at the Temple courts to pray. The time was usually around 3 in the afternoon. The Apostles took advantage of that time of gathering to teach the people about Jesus. I am not recommending a particular place, nor am I recommending a particular time. I am recommending, persistent, humble, heartfelt prayer.
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.
Why is persistent prayer a problem?
There are no small matters in which we should not pray about. Anytime we have a decision to make, it would be a good idea to bring in the Father into the decision making process. Prayer is open communication with the Creator of the Universe in a Father/child like relationship/conversation. There are no matters too small for us to talk about with our children, therefore there should be no matters to small for us to talk about with our Father.
Cable television tycoon Ted Turner has often been quoted as being critical of fundamentalist Christianity. Turner made some very revealing remarks at a banquet in Orlando, Fla., in 1990, where he was given an award by the American Humanist Association for his work on behalf of the environment. “Turner said he had a strict Christian upbringing and at one time considered becoming a missionary. "I was saved seven or eight times," the newspaper quoted him as saying. However, he said he became disenchanted with Christianity after his sister died, despite his prayers. [Spokesman-Review, May 1, 1990. www.christianglobe.com/illustrations/prayer unanswered]
Concerning our prayers, probably every one of us has considered giving up on seeing some of our prayers answered. Probably more than just a few of us actually have given up and stopped praying, maybe not altogether, but at least quit praying for certain things. We quit praying because of discouragement and doubt. We quit praying because deep down we sometimes wonder if prayer really makes a difference. So how do we keep going when we feel like bailing out?
Jesus told his disciples a parable about persistent prayer. Luke 18 tells of a woman who pestered a judge to finally giving her justice. The woman wore the judge out. It is not suggesting that we keep bugging God in order to get our way, but to continue to bring our petitions before the Lord. James tells us there are two reasons why we do not get.
1. We don’t ask
2. We ask with the wrong motive.
In Luke 18 Jesus is telling us not to give up. In his book “the Parables of Jesus” James Montgomery Boice told of the story of Evangelist George Mueller. “George Mueller, the founder of a great Christian orphanage work in England in the 1800’s, was a powerful man of prayer. He knew the importance of keeping at prayer even when the answer seemed delayed. When he was young, he began praying that two of his friends might be saved. He prayed for them for more than sixty years. One of the men was converted shortly before his death at what was probably the last service Mueller held. The other was saved within a year of his death.” What do you think would have happened had Mueller given up.