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James 5:13-18 THE BELIEVERS AND HIS PRAYER LIFE

Intro: "One [man] tells the amazing story of his church's return to the tradition of true intercessory prayer. The church, located in a small rural Georgia town, had the typical `who's-who-in-the-hospital' prayer time on Wednesday evening. `We began to dread the service and felt guilty for feeling that way,' he said. Attendance was limited to a faithful(guilty?) few.

"One deacon decided to research the church's history of Wednesday night prayer meetings. Going through records as much as a century old, he discovered that the midweek prayer meeting had been one of the most exciting times in the church's life. Its attendance rivaled the Sunday morning crowd. The central element of the prayer meeting was `the prayers for the lost.' Specific names and situations of family members, friends, and co-workers were lifted up in intercessory prayer. Not coincidentally, the number of baptisms in the church was at a record high during this time.

"The deacon reported this history to the congregation. At the conclusion of the report, one faithful member declared, `We must reclaim the great tradition of prayer in our church.'

"The next Wednesday, a larger-than-usual crowd came to the prayer meeting, some out of conviction, others out of curiosity. For 45 glorious minutes, nothing but intercessory prayer for the lost took place. Word spread about the exciting prayer time, and the crowds grew steadily.

"`Probably the most exciting development took place three months later on a Sunday morning,' the church member said. `We were totally unprepared for what took place. George Carlson, probably one of the meanest sinners in town, came running down the aisle during the invitation. George was one of the people we had been praying for every Wednesday night, though none of us really expected him to change. George didn't even try to keep his voice quiet. Every person in the church heard him tell the preacher that if he didn't change his ways he thought he would die on the spot.

"`The preacher explained to him the way of Christ, and George accepted the Savior right then and there. We all heard him pray out loud: "I need Your forgiveness, Jesus, I accept You. Please come into my life."

"`That's when it happened,' the church member explained. `Almost spontaneously the church folks broke out into applause. Then people began standing and laughing and crying and hugging. Nothing like that ever happened in our stuffy church! Now we see someone accept Christ almost every week. And, almost always, that person is someone we have prayed for. You can't tell me that prayer isn't powerful!'

According to the Scriptures, the Lord's House is to be a house of prayer, Isa. 56:7; and God's people are to be a people of prayer, 1 Thes. 5:17, Rom. 12:12; Luke 18:1; Eph. 6:18. However, Payer and the prayer meeting have become the step-children of the church. I believe that God's people need some fresh insight into the awesome power of prayer and that we need to see great necessity of prayer. I don't know about you, but I am ready to see God touch this world by His power and the only way that is going to happen is when God's children get serious about their praying and learn to call on God one more time. You see, we are taught to pray, we need to pray and we must pray! There will never be a great move of God in this or any congregation until the people first learn to pray!

Tonight, I would like to take just a few minutes to look into these verses and see what James is trying to teach us about prayer. Join me tonight as I preach for a while on The Believer And His Prayer Life.

I. V. 13-16a THE CHALLENGE TO PRAYER

(James is speaking primarily about prayer and healing of the sin-sick believer. However, he also gives us some insight into our own daily prayer life. The challenge set before Christians in these verses is to pray!)

A. Subjects For Prayer

1. Affliction - Afflicted means to "endure hardship." Those who are walking through the valleys and trials of life are to pray - Phil. 4:6-7.

2. Sickness - When we, or others are sick, we are to call out their names in prayer. God is a healer! Therefore, we are to go to Him in prayer on behalf of those who are afflicted with sickness.

3. Brethren - We are to be in prayer for one another in the family of God. We have a duty to one another to prayer fervently about the needs, burdens and lives of our fellow believers. (Gal. 6:2)

4. Joy - It is implied that when there is joy, that too should be expressed. What better place to express than before the Lord in prayer? (Ill. Eph. 5:20; 1 Thes. 5:18)

B. The Strength Of Prayer - In verse 15, James mentions the "prayer of faith." Faith is what gives prayer is strength and effectiveness. God answers prayer, but He does so in response to the faith of His people - Matt. 21:22. James makes it clear that faith is an essential ingredient in effective praying - James 1:5-8.

(Ill. When Hudson Taylor went to China, he made the voyage on a sailing ship. As it neared the channel between the southern Malay Peninsula and the island of Sumatra, the missionary heard an urgent knock on his stateroom door. He opened it, and there stood the captain of the ship.

"Mr. Taylor," he said, "we have no wind. We are drifting toward an island where the people are heathen, and I fear they are cannibals."

"What can I do?" asked Taylor.

"I understand that you believe in God. I want you to pray for wind."

"All right, Captain, I will, but you must set the sail."

"Why, that's ridiculous! There's not even the slightest breeze. Besides, the sailors will think I "m crazy." Nevertheless, the captain finally agreed. Forty-five minutes later he returned and found the missionary still on his knees. "You can stop praying now," said the captain. "We've got more wind than we know what to do with!" )

(Ill. All I am saying is that if you need something from God, then it must be asked for in faith. God does not simply respond to our asking, it is our faith that moves God into action.)

C. The Source Of Prayer - All prevailing prayer has its roots in the written Word of God. What I mean is this, you cannot simply pray for something frivolous and expect God to grant it. However, when He has specifically spoken to something in His Word, then you can pray with confidence. It is His will and He will answer it. Faith is always based on the Word of God - Rom. 10:17.

(Ill. If there is a need, God will meet it - Phil. 4:19.

If there is a fear, God will replace it - Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 1:7

If there is a burden, God will lift it - 1 Pet. 5:7

If there is a need for someone to be saved, God will deal with them - 3 Pet. 3:9.

If there is a sin, God will forgive it - 1 John 1:9

All I am trying to get us to see is that when we pray, we can only pray in faith if we can base our prayers on the revealed will of God, His Word as found in the Bible. Anything else is merely something based on our own wants, our own desires or our greeds. Often, these things are not wrong and God may grant them. However, we can have absolute assurance that He will always answer those prayers that are prayed as a result of His promises.)

(Ill. Sometimes, an answer to prayer can be anything but a blessing. Years ago a pastor was called to the home of a widow whose teenage daughter was the apple of her eye. She told him that at the age of 3 the girl was very ill, and the doctors said she would die. We can all understand the shock to that mother, but we cannot justify her reaction. She admitted that she had accused God of cruelty and had demanded that He spare her daughter. She told Him she could never trust Him again if He did not do as she asked. Well, God granted her request, in spite of what the doctors said. The child grew up and lived a normal life for 13 years, but then she joined with bad companions. At the age of 17 she got into real trouble and broke her mother's heart. The tragic end of the story was told by that weeping woman when the pastor arrived at her home that day. "My Janie is dead! She took her own life last night, and I found her in her room this morning." After several minutes of convulsive sobbing, she concluded, "O, how I wish God had taken her when she was 3 years old. How I wish I had not insisted on having my own way!")

I. The Challenge To Prayer

II. V. 16b THE CHARACTER OF PRAYER

A. The Type Of Prayers To Pray - James says that our praying is to be "effectual fervent." These 2 words are the translation of a word that means, "to display one's activity; to put forth power." It simply means that we are to pray in faith and then put legs on our prayers for God's glory. We have a tendency to ask, then sit and wait. God's plan is that we ask, thank Him for the answer that is coming and then get up and live as though the prayer had already been answered!

(Ill. In Bristol, England, George Mueller operated an orphanage for two thousand children. One evening he became aware that there would be no breakfast for them the next morning. Mueller called his workers together and explained the situation. Two or three prayed. "Now that is sufficient," he said. "Let us rise and praise God for prayer answered!" The next morning they could not push open the great front door. So they went out the back door and around the building to see what was keeping it shut. Stacked up against the front door were boxes filled with food. One of the workers later remarked, "We know Who sent the baskets, but we do not know who brought them!")

(Ill. I believe that these words are an encouragement to us to be fervent, or excited about our praying. We should pray with a zeal of soul, and a burden of heart. Prayer should never be a humdrum undertaking.)

B. The Type Of Person Who Prays - James calls the effectual prayer a righteous man. This refers to a standard of life that reflects a commitment to God and His word and will. In other words, God has respect to the prayers of the holy. However, He does not hear the prayers of the sinful - (Psa. 66:18.Pro. 1:28-33; 1 John 3:22; John 15:7) If we are determined to be effective in prayer, then we must get our lives in line with God and His will for our lives.

C. The Type Of Power In Prayer - James tells us that proper and God honoring prayer "availeth much." This simply means to "put forth much more than was expected." When we pray in faith, it unlocks the great potential of God to work in our world. God honors the praying of His people, because His people praying honors Him!

(Ill. John Newton had received from the Lord some almost unbelievable answers to his petitions, and so he often engaged in "large asking." In support of this practice he would frequently tell the story of a man who asked Alexander the Great to give him a huge sum of money in exchange for his daughter's hand in marriage. The ruler consented and told him to request of his treasurer whatever he wanted. So he went and asked for an enormous amount. The keeper of the funds was startled and said he couldn't give him that much without a direct order. Going to Alexander, the treasurer argued that even a small fraction of the money requested would more than serve the purpose. "No," replied Alexander, "let him have it all. I like that fellow. He does me honor. He treats me like a king and proves by what he asks that he believes me to be both rich and generous." Newton concluded the story by saying, "In the same way, we should go to the throne of God's grace and present petitions that express honorable views of the love, riches, and bounty of our King!")

(Ill. A missionary family in Africa years ago had 2 small children. The second being born after they arrived on the mission field. The youngest was sickly and needed much care. It had to be wrapped in blankets most of the time to ensure that it stayed warm enough. The mother was heard to say, over and over, "I wish we had a hot water bottle." Her thinking was that with a hot water bottle, she could place it next to the child and provide it some heat. After a few weeks, a package arrived from England. In that package were several items that were sent to the family anonymously to help them in their new location. Among the items, there was a hot water bottle. The mother thanked God, but couldn't recall having prayed for it. As the last of the items were taken out o the box, the oldest child came to her mother and said, "Where's my new baby doll?" Her mother responded, "There isn't a doll in here." The little girl asked them to look again, and when they did, under all the packing material was a little, new baby doll. The mother asked the girl how she knew there was a doll in there. She said, "Well, when i asked God to send a hot water bottle for the baby, I asked Him to send me a dolly." This story becomes even more remarkable when we stop to consider that this package had to travel to Africa first by ship, then by pack animals until it reached the family. It began its journey some 6 months before the baby had been born and before the little girl had ever begun to pray for those things! What a God we serve!)

I. The Challenge To Prayer

II. The Character Of Prayer

III. V. 17-18 THE CONFIDENCE IN PRAYER

A. God's Promises In Prayer

1. To Hear Us - Jer. 33:3; Isa. 65:24

2. To Help Us - Matt. 7:7-8; Mark 11:24; 1 John 5:14-15

B. God's Performance In Prayer - We have a God who is able to do, as Paul says, "Exceeding, abundantly above all that we can ask or think." Eph. 3:20. (Ill. What James tells us about Elijah. God, moved in response to his prayer of faith!)

(Ill. God doesn't always answer prayers to our liking, or on our timetable, but He does answer the prayers of His children!)

(Ill. This truth is seen in the two following illustrations:

For several years after her conversion, Mrs. Hanover had prayed earnestly for her husband's salvation. Then one day he was killed in an automobile accident. She thought God had not answered her prayers, so she became disillusioned with God and stopped living for Him.

Five years later, she met a man named Roger Simms, who told her an amazing story. The day Mr. Hanover was killed, he had picked up Roger, who was hitchhiking. When Roger, who was a Christian, witnessed to him about Christ, Mr. Hanover was so convicted that he pulled off the road, wept, and prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior. Hearing this, Mrs. Hanover wept for joy and grief--joy that her husband had been saved, and grief that she had stopped obeying God and had given in to discouragement.

While Josh McDowell was attending seminary in California, his father went home to be with the Lord. His mother had died years earlier, but Josh was not sure of her salvation. He became depressed, thinking that she might be lost. Was she a Christian or not? The thought obsessed him. "Lord," he prayed, "somehow give me the answer so I can get back to normal. I've just got to know." It seemed like an impossible request.

Two days later, Josh drove out to the ocean. He walked to the end of a pier to be alone. There sat an old woman in a lawn chair, fishing. "Where's your home originally?" she asked. "Michigan--Union City," Josh replied. "Nobody's heard of it. I tell people it's a suburb of--" "Battle Creek," interrupted the woman. "I had a cousin from there. Did you know the McDowell family?" Stunned, John responded, "Yes, I'm Josh McDowell!"

"I can't believe it," said the woman. "I'm a cousin to your mother." "Do you remember anything at all about my mother's spiritual life?" asked Josh. "Sure--your mom and I were just girls--teenagers--when a tent revival came to town. It was the fourth night--we both went forward to accept Christ." "Praise God!" shouted Josh, startling the surrounding fisherman.)


C. God's People In Prayer - According to James, Elijah was not perfect, but was subject to the same passions that afflict us all. However, God used Him to do great things through the prayers of faith. You see, God deals with us on the basis of the hear and now, He never holds our confessed past against us. This encourages me, because all of us a prone to failure, but it is a comfort to know that when we get into sin, we can come back to the Father and have our prayer lives restored by simply repenting before Him, 1 John 1:9. If you take the time to look at others in the Bible, Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Hezekiah, etc, you find that they were all men who failed God at one time or the other, yet they were all great men of prayer. I am grateful that we have a God who invites us to join Him bringing our needs to His attention - Heb. 4:15-16.

(Great things happen when a saved people call on an omnipotent God!)

Conc: As we have considered the subject of prayer this evening, I hope your own heart has been stirred to think about revamping your personal prayer life. I also hope that the Lord will stir us up as a church to be more of a praying congregation. I would like to see us get back to a genuine prayer meeting before the Lord. Let's respond tonight as He has lead us. Will you do that?

Sermon By Alan Carr

 


 
 
 
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