Summary: Prayer is God's invitation to us to come home.
Prayer – The Path Home – James 5:13-20 (Part 1)
Sept. 2, 2012
Let’s go home. Let me read you a quote from the book, “Prayer” by Richard Foster. This is how he begins the book:
"God has graciously allowed me to catch a glimpse into his heart, and I want to share with you what I have seen. Today the heart of God is an open wound of love. He aches over our distance and preoccupation. He mourns that we do not draw near to him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness. He longs for our presence. And he is inviting you – and me – to come home, to come home to where we belong, to come home to that which we were created. His arms are stretched out wide to receive us. His heart is enlarged to take us in."
For too long we have been in a far country: a country of noise and hurry and crowds, a country of climb and push and shove, a country of frustration and fear and intimidation. And he welcomes us home: home to serenity and peace and joy, home to friendship and fellowship and openness, home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation.
Do you want to go home? I know I do. I want to be with God. I want to know Him, to love Him with every fiber of my being. I want to possess Him and have Him possess me. I am tired of living a dry, fruitless life, filled with disappointment and ruled by petty desires. I am tired of playing religious games. I want God. I want to go home. Are you with me? I think many of you are. This current life is not good enough. It’s not how God meant us to live. There is so much more.
The path to this life, the invitation to our true home, is prayer.
What do you think of when you hear the word prayer? I know for me often I am filled with ambivalence. I long for prayer, yet it repels me. I am so familiar with prayer, but I know that my experience with prayer is so shallow. I know I should pray, but I don’t. And when I hear a message about prayer I feel guilt, often I’ll make promises to improve, and then nothing happens. Or I may start out praying more but after a couple of weeks I give up.
This sermon is on prayer. It’s on prayer because that’s exactly what the passage in James talks about. But I don’t want anybody going away feeling guilty after hearing this message. I want you to be filled with anticipation and excitement. Prayer is God’s invitation to us to come home. It is the means we can be with God. This morning He is holding out His hands and saying, “Come join Me and I will change you and give you the true desire of your heart.”
Let’s go home. Let’s look at the passage again (read James 5:13-20). Pray.
From this passage I want to highlight five aspects of prayer. This morning we will be looking at the first two. In a couple of weeks time, we’ll look at the final three. The first aspect or prayer is this: Pray at all times. Look at verse 13 (read verse). This verse covers the extremes of our daily emotions and circumstances. We are to pray when we are in trouble. That seems kind of obvious doesn’t it? When we are undergoing problems and trials, that’s when we automatically run to God. This verse is tied to the previous section about patiently enduring suffering. Prayer is one of the great resources that God gives us when we are suffering.
On the other end of the spectrum is when we are happy. It’s at those times that we should pray too. Of course the content of the prayer is different. When we are undergoing troubles we cry out for help, for deliverance, for strength, for wisdom. When we are happy, we lift up prayers of praise and thanksgiving. Our prayer often takes the form of a song of worship. I think an important point of this passage is that we are to pray at all times no matter our circumstances or emotions. In other words, we are to pray at all times. This is explicitly commanded in several Scriptures. 1 Thess. 5:16-18 says: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 6:18 says: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” The command is clear. We are to pray on all occasions without ceasing.