Summary: How should God’s people pray?
13Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. 19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (NRSV)
We live in an awesome time! Think of the changes the last few decades have brought:
The information highway (Internet) changed business and communication – the way we receive information – for good.
Political upheaval – We have seen the fall of communism. We’ve seen “Bush-to-Clinton-and back”! We have seen the race and gender barriers lowered; Mr. Obama is the first African-American (or minority of any kind) to serve as President. Wow!
The AIDS and Ebola viruses, stem cell research and other assorted medical/ethical dilemmas cause us to wonder if the term medical advance is somewhat over-rated. The ECONOMY is on a roller coaster ride. And…There’s nothing left to eat that’s safe, except liver and okra!
Are we doomed? Is there an answer?
• Some would say, “No – just hang tough, get what you can, and be yourself. You’ll get by.”
• On late-night TV the talking head says, “Of course there’s an answer; just send me $500 – I’ll send you a prayer cloth, and soon you’ll be rich.”
• On the streets, in the boardroom or classroom it’s, “Here, have a drink/snort/smoke, and you won’t worry about all that!”
Well, what does God say about all that? The conclusion to the Book of James has a real solution for the gloom and doom crowd. James tells us that the answers to “are we doomed”, and many more (in fact, all) of life’s nagging questions is found in prayer; specifically, true prayer – without a net…
WITHOUT A NET?
In every phrase James has practical instruction for us as individuals, and a church body…praying without a net.
Years ago I stood at the Grand Canyon…and got a little dizzy. It is quite awesome to stand, looking out over that incredible hole in the ground.
My mind wandered to the old story of the famous acrobat, who attracted a huge crowd to watch him walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. He nimbly and skillfully passed over the waters below, suspended by a thin line – and, without a safety net!
He did it a second time – easily, with a smile on his face. “Bravo” yelled the crowd. The performer spoke to the onlookers, “How many believe I could do this carrying someone on my shoulders?” All hands shot up; “We believe, we believe.” “Who would like to be first?” The crowd went home!
Shouting Bravo when you have no intention of climbing on the man’s back is what I call “praying with a net.” It is saying, “OK, I’ll pray about this, but if I get uncomfortable in this process, I’m gonna bail…I’ll go with something I can see.” That something you can see is the safety net. It is trusting in yourself as the one who can handle the problems if God won’t.
That is not the kind of prayer God wants to hear. He wants to hear prayers offered by people who have no safety net – just faith in God.
What does it look like when a church family is ready to pray without a net? What “marks” can you notice in a prayer ministry that is netless? See James’ advice:
WE ARE TO PRAY CONSTANTLY –
13Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.
When sick or merry takes in just about all of it -- bad times or good. A dear friend, Donna Smith, once told me, “I never say Amen I always have so much to pray about.” That’s probably good advice; when you’ve got God on the line, you wouldn’t want to hang up the phone!
Praying constantly involves intentionality. There must be something of a decision to organize your life around the things of God. There must be a readiness to respond to the leading of God. If not, you’re operating with a net.