Summary: Pray when you are suffering, when you have success, when you are sick and when you have sinned
WHEN TO PRAY
A pastor had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard and then was afraid to come down. The pastor tried everything to get the kitten down but it would not move and the tree was too narrow to climb. Finally, he decided to get a rope. He threw the rope up to one of the branches and tied the rope to his car bumper. He backed up until the tree bent down, but just before he could reach up and get the kitten the rope broke and the tree snapped back into place and the kitten was gone. He looked all around the yard but there was no sign of it anywhere. The pastor felt terrible so he prayed, "Lord, I just commit this kitten to your keeping."
The next day he was at the grocery store, and met one of his neighbours. He happened to look into her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food. This woman was a cat hater and everyone knew it, so he asked her, "Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?" She replied, "You won't believe this, for weeks my little girl has been begging for a cat, but I kept refusing. Well, yesterday she was begging for a cat again, so I finally told her that she could have a cat when God gives her a cat. So I watched her go out into the back yard, get down on her knees to pray, and, really, Pastor, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, a kitten suddenly came flying out of the clear blue sky and landed right in her arms!"
Today we are concluding our series on prayer. I recognize that there is so much more on this topic that could have been addressed. Prayer is a huge topic and you can come at it from many different directions. Last week I spoke about what to pray for, looking at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. Today I want to talk about WHEN we should pray.
James 5:13-16 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 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. 15 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. 16 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.
Life is full of many different moments. There are good days and there are bad days. We never know what to expect. Life is totally unpredictable. Anyone who has had an accident or has had a family member suddenly get sick, can attest that life can change radically in just a matter of seconds. In addition, we all know firsthand how sin can devastate and destroy lives and some of us are living today with the consequences of wrong choices.
In this passage, James talks about 4 times that we should pray;
1. When we are suffering (13a)
He begins here in verse 13 asking “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” The word used here refers to suffering of any kind. It can include trouble, disappointment, and persecution. When we’re in trouble, we are told to look to God in prayer;
Psalms 34:4-6 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
When we’re in a mess we should pray for wisdom, strength, and for the removal of the suffering. We have the privilege of prayer where we can go to God at any time, in any situation with whatever is on our hearts. Frankly, I don’t know how people can go through hard times without the Lord in their lives.
It’s amazing how many bad things can happen to people. A few years ago a columnist named Bill Flick compiled some true stories from a single week. In Connecticut, a man driving a stolen car inadvertently stopped a police officer to ask for directions out of the city. A man in England, who sneezed several hundred times each day for 35 years, was told by health officials that he was allergic to himself. He was cured after another doctor discovered that he simply had a reaction to the oatmeal he’d been eating for breakfast since childhood. In Thailand, an elephant ate 110 pounds of dried rice and then drank 65 gallons of water and, within a half hour, exploded.