Summary: This sermon looks at how our prayers can be effective and realistic.
A while back there was an article done in The Oprah Magazine entitled, “Does Prayer REALLY heal?” The article sites a study done by Elisabeth Targ, MD, a psychiatrist with impeccable research credentials who was conducting studies that disturb some people and fascinate others: and that is the ability of prayer to heal life-threatening disease. She did prayer studies for seven years. In her first project, she enrolled 20 patients with AIDS and randomly assigned them to two groups: one that received prayers from experienced healers and one that did not. The patients and the healers never met, and neither the patients nor their doctors knew if or when they were being prayed for. To Targ’s surprise, 40% of the control group died and no one in the prayer group died during the six- month trial period.
Prayer, or distant healing, is one of the liveliest areas of research in alternative medicine. Respected scientists at major institutions such as Harvard, Duke, and the Mayo Clinic are conducting studies and publishing their findings in mainstream medical journals on the effect that prayers have on sick individuals, and the results have been conclusive that Prayer works. Daniel J. Benor, MD, a psychiatrist whose book Spiritual Healing is an encyclopedic review of healing research, says that, based on existing evidence, “if prayer were a drug, it would be approved for use.”
James says in our text, the prayers of a righteous man is powerful and effective. We know that prayer is effective, and we know that prayer is powerful, but often we neglect to tap into that resource. This morning I want us try to convince you of the effectiveness of prayers so that by doing so, you will be persuaded to pray more often, more fervently and more effectively.
Now the first issue I want us to see that out prayers are effective and they do make a difference. Often times when we pray, the results are not immediate and we don’t feel anything. There are times we do, there are times when we feel as if we have just been to the Throne room of God and our face still radiates with God’s light, but let’s be honest…there are times when we feel like our prayers are like arrows being shot into the sky, only to return to the earth to pierce out hearts. You may feel like you are wasting your time praying, but understand praying is never, I repeat never a waste of time.
James gives us the example of Elijah. He says, and I love how he says it, Elijah was a man just like us. Don’t you just love that. When Elijah prayed, the whole entire meteorological pattern for that region was altered. He prayed that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t rain, he then prayed that it would rain, and guess what…it rained.
Now in our day and age, we see the weather maps, and we see the satellite pictures, and we think that the weather patterns are already established, so what’s the purpose of praying to change the weather if it is already set? And a lot of people see that all things are like that, pre-determined and there is nothing we can do to alter that. What God has predetermined to happen will happen and there is nothing we can do to alter that. God is sovereign and what He has set will happen, and we can’t change it. We can’t effect God.
If that is the case, then why pray? If a person is sick, and God has all ready determined that the person will not get better, then why pray in the first place? In Exodus 32, there is a story where the Israelites had messed up big time. God’s command to not build any idol was disobeyed and God had determined to destroy them. But Moses interceded. He asked God to spare them, and guess what happened? It says in vs. 14 that the Lord relented. The King James Version says, “He repented.” The Living Bible says, “God changed His mind” as a result of Moses’ prayer.
God does not have everything about your life pre-programmed. You are not a puppet on a string. God made you in His image with the freedom to choose good and evil. And this passage says that you can alter the plan of God by your prayers.
Now there are some things that are coming in the future that are predestined by God. Jesus said He is going to build His church. The Church is built, and nothing could stop it. He is coming again to receive those who are faithful following Him. Even with all of Hell opposing, Christ will return. But some of the events in life can be dramatically changed by prayer.