Summary: This sermon contains some observations about effective prayer and a discussion of healing prayer.
A. The story is told of a man who went and made a sales presentation to the leadership of a church.
1. When the presentation was over, one of the men in leadership when into the auditorium, knelt down and after a minute of silent prayer, returned and announced in a solemn tone, “The Lord says we should wait.”
2. Without flinching, the salesman went into the auditorium, knelt down, and after a moment of silent prayer, returned and said to the leader who had just prayed, “The Lord wants to talk with you again.”
3. I’m not really sure that either man was actually praying, but it is interesting that they both saw prayer as a way of getting what they wanted.
B. Please don’t misunderstand this statement, but in some respects, there is nothing wrong with using prayer to get what you want.
1. In James 4:2, James wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
2. In James 1:5, James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
3. In today’s passage, James says that if we are in trouble or sick, then we should pray to God about it.
4. In other words, if there is something we want from God, then we should pray about it, and we should ask others to pray on our behalf.
C. But we all know that there is more to effective prayer than just asking God.
1. The Bible teaches that not all praying is effective.
2. According to Psalm 66:18, those who pray while they cherish sin in their hearts will find that God doesn’t listen to that prayer.
3. According to Matthew 6:5, those who pray only to be seen by men will not receive the reward of answered prayer, because their reward was to be seen by men.
4. According to James 1:7, those who waver in faith should not expect to receive an answer to prayer.
5. And according to James 4:3, those who pray for things simply because of selfish desires will not receive what they ask for.
6. But at the same time, James wants us to know that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
D. I think we all would agree that the great people of God in any generation are those Christians who pray.
1. These people do not necessarily talk more about prayer.
2. They don’t advertise their belief in prayer.
3. They don’t try to explain everything about prayer.
4. No, they are those humble, dedicated ones who simply and obediently pray.
5. They don’t necessarily have more time than the rest of us to pray, they just consider prayer more important than the things with which most of us fill our lives.
6. They have disciplined themselves and have worked out a time, a place and a system for prayer.
7. And believing in a God who hears and answers prayer, these people have claimed the power of prayer.
8. Brothers and sisters, I don’t know about you, but I’m not there yet.
9. I have a long way to go in becoming more faithful in prayer.
E. James, the writer of this letter we have been studying, was a person of prayer.
1. His contemporaries knew him by the nickname “camel-knees.”
2. He had spent so much time on his knees in prayer that they were literally baggy and rough.
3. So, it shouldn’t surprise us that James has a lot to say about prayer in this letter of his.
4. He speaks about prayer with authority and from experience.
F. There are many ways that we might approach this passage, but the way I would like to do so is to simply point out a couple of observations, and then spend a few minutes addressing the question of healing prayer.
A. The first observation is that James wants us to realize that prayer is appropriate on all occasions.
1. What should a person do when they are suffering or are in trouble? Pray. And we usually do.
2. What should a person do when they are sick? Pray. And we usually do.
3. What should a person do when they are happy and successful? They should sing songs of praise, which is just another form of prayer.
4. But isn’t it interesting that that is often what we forget to do.
5. When we are in need, our natural tendency is to turn to God.
6. But when we are doing great, our tendency is to forget about God.
7. Prayer, however, is always the right activity, regardless of our situation or circumstances.
8. And if we will make prayer the most basic and consistent part of our relationship with God, then we will experience prayer power, whether at times of need or times of plenty. Whether we are in pain or in pleasure.