Summary: This message draws upon several texts in the Epistle of James and shows how prayer accompanied by a relationship with God is powerful and effective.
This morning we are going to be looking at the book of James.
The theme of the James’ letter in the Bible is “Faith Plus”. It’s good to have faith, but that faith must also make a difference in the life of action and in the works we do. The key verse of the entire letter of James would probably be chapter 2, verse 17 where James said, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Likewise Chapter 2, verse 26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.“ What are those works that James speaks of? James tells us in chapter 1, verse 27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Another theme of the book of James is how the prayer of faith changes our life.
Now it stands to reason that James who was so concerned that Christians realize that faith without works is dead would want us to grasp that the prayer of faith without works is also dead. Now I want to let you in on an amazing truth. The works that must accompany the prayer of faith is for us to have a relationship with God that is growing, healthy, vital, and central to our life. Just as faith without works is dead, the prayer of faith without a growing relationship with God is dead.
So then how do we build our relationship with God? We build our relationship with God by drawing near to Him with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. James 4:8 is a key to this understanding. It says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you...”
Now I want to help you understand what drawing near to God means. Illustration: Anne and I went on vacation at Family Camp at Lake Geneva Christian Camp(an experience I found especially peaceful since I got to enjoy a camp without being the director). During family free time, I saw a little girl named Jackie and her father Tim fishing on the dock. I noticed that Jackie was having a great time but that her father was the one doing the work. He set the fishing line up, baited the hook, he even held the fishing pole most of the time. It looked like Jackie simply stood next to Tim as he fished. But yet it was obvious that Jackie felt like she was fishing. She got to share in the joys of catching a fish because she was near her father. I hope you catch the comparison here. The power of drawing near to God when we pray is a lot like Jackie’s experience. God is the one who does all the work in our life and in our world, but if we draw near to Him in prayer we will experience a part in the amazing thing He is doing.
How does drawing near to God make our prayer life a plus?
I. It Removes Doubts That God Hears Our Prayer
James 1:6-7 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;” God doesn’t want us to doubt. How can we doubt a God who is near us. We may not always understand or like the answer, but if we draw near to God we can have the assurance that God is hearing our prayer and responding in the best way all the time.
How many of you have flown in an airplane within the last year. You’ll understand this. Last Christmas, I flew to North Carolina to visit Anne’s family. Near the end of the return flight, the pilot told us we would be making our approach into Minneapolis. I didn’t doubt for one minute that the pilot was indeed landing in Minneapolis and not some place like Orlando or Hawaii. I didn’t doubt his word because the pilot was on the plane with me. Now if the day ever came where we had an automatic pilot and a far away voice from say Atlanta or Dallas got on the radio waves and told me that our plane was making its approach into Minneapolis, there would be plenty of doubt in my mind. Without a pilot flying with us to the Twin Cities we might end up in some place like Duluth or Rochester or God forbid maybe even Green Bay.
That’s how the presence of God with us can remove all our doubt. Do you know people who say, “I just don’t know what God wants me to do.” The problem is that instead of trying to find out what God wants us to do, we need to know that God wants us.