You Can Listen to the Full Sermon Here:-
In our modern age of instant messaging, information technology and the i-gadgets it is fast becoming obvious that skills from the past are becoming a dying art.
Talk about the fact that no one knits.
My mum and her knitting
• woollen jumper with cables picture
• knitting machine … “lovely patterns” picture
In hindsight maybe it is good that it is a dying art.
Let me talk about another dying art. To see what it is I’ll start with a quote.
I have so much to do that if I didn’t spend at least three hours a day in prayer I would never get it all done.
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
3 hours a day … at least.
How many of us would pray for 3 hours a week?
I suspect some would not even make 3 hours a month.
Prayer. It is a dying art. But it shouldn’t be because it is the gift which God has given us to get through any and every situation.
Let me show you what I mean. Turn to James 5:13-20
I like the approach James has to prayer. Instead of making us feel guilty about our lack of prayer, James is trying to motivate us to have a more fervent prayer life. Basically he is saying, “Pray because when you do exciting things happens”.
We should pray when we are going through troubling circumstances.
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. The people to who James was writing knew what it meant to suffer as they have been facing much religious persecution against them. It didn’t always make sense. James’ advise is this:-
When God doesn’t make sense, or when it feels like our world is overwhelming, we should be praying.
Not shaking our fist at God.
Not angrily fighting the world.
Not working it out on own strength.
But praying. Praying, as we make our way through the life challenges.
Exciting things happen when we pray.
We should pray when all is going well.
Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
How quick we are to pray when life all of the sudden has a difficult turn, or we find ourselves in great need – and of course we should pray then. But how sad it is that when all is going well our prayer life becomes even less. James says, “Do the opposite … pray when it is all going great”. Now for those of us who are musically challenged let me quickly clarify this verse.
James says Let him sing songs of praise. Does that mean we are now going to have to sing when life is good?
The Greek word used here is psalleto.
That sounds like the word “psalm” doesn’t it?
The text is literally saying Is anyone happy? Use a psalm. Now if you have read the Psalms lately you would know that they are basically prayers. Prayers for all sorts of occasions. Talk to God all the time through all sorts of situations which you face.
So we should pray … even more when all is going well. Using this time to draw even closer to God so you can be spiritually ready for every day.
Exciting things happen when we pray.
We should pray when we are struggling physically and spiritually.
Let me put the Scripture section up on the screen because it has been misunderstood far too often.
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
What I don’t want, and what James does not want, is for you to ring me, or Michael, or Brendon this week and say, “Hey I’m feeling a bit sick come over to my place and give me a massage with your oil – and we will pray while we are at it”.
I and the other leaders have no problem coming and praying with you to ask for healing. But what James is talking about here is a very specific context.
It isn’t just about physical healing.
Words like “sin”, “forgiveness”, “confession” and “righteous” are being used.
It is a mixture of spiritual and physical.
Sometimes long-term physical illness can affect us in a spiritually negative way.
Sometimes spiritual rebellion can affect us physically.
In both cases the Lord wants to help.
So see this passage for what it is. It isn’t a magic formula for healing, but it does call us to pray boldly. Somewhere in our prayer life we must find a balance between never expecting God to heal and requiring Him to heal on demand. It applies physically. It applies spiritually.
In a practical manner this is what it means.
When you are going through physically challenging times which are getting you down spiritually.
Or when you are going through spiritually challenging times which are getting you down physically.
When that is happen tell some people who have spiritual maturity and spiritual authority and ask them for help. In James say they would bring oil as well.
The oil was a sign of the presence of God – His Spirit and His anointing. It is a sign that God’s will is done. Healing will come, but not always as we expect.
The oil was also a sign of the physical support the elders have for you. They come to offer a shoulder to cry on, or to just be present. And then the elders pray for you as you share with them the spiritual struggles you are having.
We might not come with oil; but we will definitely come with God’s Word … and we will definitely have God’s presence … and we will definitely give you a shoulder to cry on. Then we will pray that God will do what God needs to do.
It might include physical healing.
It might not.
But it will definitely involve you being given the spiritual strength to deal with whatever you are going through.
Exciting things happen when we pray.
Now let me show you something just as exciting – in fact it is a very exciting and powerful picture of prayer in action.
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Has anyone here ever caught themselves day-dreaming about what it would be like to be a hero? You picture yourself in a situation where a life was threatened, or where selfless acts were needed … and then you are the one who rises to the occasions. And everyone tells you how good you are. You even get a medal.
It’s just a day-dream.
But let me tell you something – you can be a hero. If you turn people from spiritual death, or you help people who are wandering from the truth – that’s heroic.
Jesus Himself will tell you how good you are.
You won’t just get a medal, God will give you a crown.
We are all in a position to make it happen.
Exciting effective prayer is not just for a few leaders, it is for all of us.
Exciting effective ministry is not just for a few leaders, it is for all of us.
God has called us to keep an eye on one another because the path to eternal death can be a very deceptive one.
We have a mutual responsibility to each other.
To care for each other.
To bring each other back into line.
To help people who are wandering.
To say something when life-styles are not being as Christ-like as they should be.
We are called to walk the road together and care enough to say something.
Which is a power calling because the reality is we know just how weak we are in ourselves and in our own "Christian witness".
Perhaps it is our lack of wisdom.
Perhaps our commitment to God’s work is scarcely shown.
Perhaps our use of time and priorities leaves much to be desired.
Perhaps we are still following habits that should have been broken years ago.
Perhaps it is something else.
We have all wandered from the truth – none of us is perfect. So who are we to help others, or say something to others? The dilemma we face is the dilemma of trying to take the speck out of our brother’s eye when we have a log in our own eye.
How do we make it happen? It comes back to prayer and the exciting things that happen when we pray.
Prayer helps us to break away from being individualistic and isolated.
Our world and our circumstances often cause us to fall into the trap of thinking we can make it on our own.
We become so determined to fix our own problems that we push away help which is being offered.
We can sometimes be so stubborn that, in our stubbornness, we are actually pushing away the very people who can give us answers.
When we have a great prayer life this stops.
You see I can’t pray for you and not at some point start caring for you. I might see a need that you have, or some emptiness in your life, or some blessing that needs to be filled. As I pray for that I start journeying with you.
I rejoice as God gives answers.
I cry as when life isn’t what you expect.
I’m excited to see what God is going to do.
All the while you start to see how having someone pray for you like that, and journey with you like that, is so much more comforting … and so much more appreciated.
Then you see someone in need. And you journey with them. And you rejoice … and cry … and get excited.
You see what James is doing? He is getting us to realise that as we strengthen our prayer life and communication with God, that this will cause us to strengthen our prayer life and communication with each other. More and more our agenda is set by Jesus who died to put in place a community of believers who would support one another, pray for one another and carry one another through the difficult times.
When Jesus has placed us in fellowship together we cannot be distant and unconcerned about the spiritual welfare of others.
People of God Jesus Christ the perfect Son of God gave His life for us.
He was rejected by us and the offer of life He came to give was not appreciated at all.
But still He kept on working – with the Spirit opening hearts to see just how much we need a Saviour.
Jesus did not owe us the gift. Jesus could have just turned His back on a people determined to be His enemies. But He didn’t.
He came with compassion.
He suffered with compassion.
He caused us to be His children because of compassion.
And now we are community. A body drawn together by the one truth that Jesus is the Lord of our lives.
All undergirded, and founded, and filtered through prayer.
Don’t go home today feeling guilty about your lack of prayer.
Go home today motivate to have a more fervent prayer life because, when we pray, exciting things happens.