The book of James is all about doing; being doers of the word. That is what we have been learning all this month. James says that what we do is as important as what we think or believe. He says near the beginning of the book that we should be doers of the word and not hearers only. That’s what we learned in the first sermon in this series. He says that if our faith is not being put into action it’s not really faith at all. Faith without some action is dead!
So James talks about how we can be doers of the word. He speaks of helping the needy. He talks about prejudice and favoritism. He even talks about how we talk; our speech, the topic of the second sermon. If you like to gossip go home and reread James chapter 3. Last week we talked about the wisdom that leads to this lifestyle of doing the word.
But he concludes the book by talking about prayer. That is our word for the day: prayer. As we have seen, James is all about doing. Most people don’t think that praying is doing anything. But James insists that the prayers of the faithful are effective. They are powerful and by them people are saved!
James says if any of you are in trouble you should pray, if you are sick call on the church to pray for you, if you have sinned, confess. Why? “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.” Now that is a bold statement! James says that faithful prayers will heal the sick and raise people above their troubles! Behind that bold statement are some leaps of faith. There are several “spiritual assumptions” or articles of faith that lie behind this belief in the power of prayer. To get to this bold belief, James has to trust God on several points. I want to examine those articles or leaps of faith today.
The first leap of faith is that someone is listening. Many people, even some Christian’s, think that praying is talking to yourself. They think that praying for another is just like saying “Get well soon.” It expresses their feeling but does not affect anything because they assume, maybe not consciously but unconsciously, that no one is listening. I know there are times when we are saying grace over a meal at our house when we have to stop ourselves and be sure we are not so quick to get to the food that we forget that we are actually talking to God and not just saying some words to the air.
The story goes that a pastor asked a church member to say a prayer in the service. That church didn’t have a sound system like ours and as a result some of the members of the congregation could not hear. One man yelled, “I can’t hear you speak loader.” The first man kept praying but not any louder. The second man hollered again, “I can’t hear you speak up!” Finally the man doing the praying stopped and replied, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Prayer is not just talking to ourselves or to the air. There is a God who listens. God hears our prayers. When we pray we are addressing the Almighty.
That can be a scary thought. If the president were here wouldn’t you choose your words carefully? If you were going to address the Pope would you think about what you said? But we are talking about someone infinitely greater than the President or the Pope. And God already knows us better than we know ourselves. And God loves us and is listening!
That brings us to the second leap of faith: that God cares. Even if we could address the president or the pope, would they care? They might listen to our little problems, but they have weight of the world on their shoulders. Would it really matter to them? Probably not. I don’t
know about you, but I spend a lot of time praying about things happening in my little world. Concerns about my family and acquaintances. Would such things have meant anything to the president of a superpower or the spiritual leader of a billion people? Probably not, but it means something to God and I believe the Almighty listens.
God cares for us and the everyday concerns of our lives because God loves us. I love my children. I can tell you all sort of thing about them. Let me just tell you about their hair. Both my daughter have beautiful hair. Mary has her mother’s hair – straight and dark brown. Kaitlyn has my hair which I got from my mother – auburn brown and wavy. But I have to admit, as much as I know about my daughters, I don’t know how many hairs are on their heads. I have never bothered to count them. But God has. God has numbered the hairs on their heads because God loves them even more than I do, more than I can!
If that is not enough proof that God cares, then just take Jesus as a proof of God’s love. “Christ died for us while we were yet sinners!” (Romans 5:8) Jesus gave his life, not just for people who had already committed themselves to try to live right, but for those who were still dedicated to living wrong. If he cares enough to die for us, then surely he will listen to us when we pray.
The third leap of faith is that once God has listened, God will do something. A lot of people think of God as sitting up in heaven looking down on the world observing us, but not really getting involved. They think the universe is a great machine that God designed and built. God put all the gears in place and like a master clock builder he wound the key and started the mechanism and then stepped back. In this understanding, the universe is running by itself and God is just sitting back and watching.
James, and the rest of the Bible for that matter, presents a different view. The Bible describes a God who is intimately involved in the universe. God walked with Adam and Eve. God spoke to Noah and Abraham and Hannah. God rained down fire for the prophet Elijah and appeared to Ezekiel and Isaiah and John. God became a human in the person of Jesus! God’s Son even made a special resurrected appearance for Paul. God is involved.
I think the problem is that many of us have had prayers that we thought were not answered. So we assumed that God, even if God heard them, decided not to answer. But that is where the leap of faith comes in. Faith is believing in things that we cannot see. I know there are times when I do not give my children the things they want or even think that they need. I do that because I know that those things are really not good for them or that the time is not right. Our Heavenly Father is the same way. Sometimes God says “no” or “not yet” because God knows what is best for us, but God does respond to our prayers.
Are any one of you in trouble? Is anyone having a good day? Is anyone sick? Has anyone sinned?
Then do something about it. Don’t just stand there turn to God! If you say you believe in God then do something to demonstrate it. Call on God in prayer when you face trouble. Praise God when things go good! Call your fellow Christians together for prayer when you are sick.
Be doers of the Word of God and not just hearers. Take a leap of faith! Trust that God is there, – and that our Heavenly Father is listening, – and that the Almighty will answer your prayers!
|Sep 27, 2015||Doers of the Word: Prayer||Listen||Download|