Think On These Things ~ James 5:13-16

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

~ James 5:13-16

The Power of Prayer

I have people in the midwest that I am praying for right now, a family in China as well.

I have people in Florida that I pray for daily and weekly.

I have people, new friends here in Sulphur, that I pray for regularly.

Some of the prayers are general in detail, others specific to situations.

To be honest, I am not really sure exactly how prayer works and recently had a light bulb moment that my own belief in the sovereignty of God, was at times, a stumbling block to my prayers.

I’m not questioning His sovereign rule over all things; that all things come by His hand. Rather, I don’t understand necessarily how my prayers fit within that and rather than ask as a child fully expecting a father to answer I was qualifying my prayers with too much, “If it’s your will…” not really believing an answer would come. Sort of like it was becoming a get out of jail free card I was giving to God so I didn’t have to be sad or angry or disappointed if he didn’t answer the way I wanted or seemingly at all.

He is not bound by my will or the desired outcomes I am asking for; I am bound by His will and the work He is doing in the lives and situations of those I pray for and about. I don’t have to remind Him of what I might want and qualify it with “Really Lord, only if it’s what You truly want.” His perfect will is always being done. There is comfort in that.

Something else about prayer that I just realized the other morning is the way prayer connects us, the prayerer and the prayee. Obviously the idea of entering into each others suffering and bearing with one another as a part of praying is real and true. (This is one of the reasons I think ministers can be worn down and fatigued to the point of burnout. When they truly walk alongside their congregants, praying for them in all the various and sundry situations we humans go through, they are taking on the burden of that person. So they may not be battling cancer or emotional trauma or what have you but they are taking on a weight that is multiplied by the number of people they minister to. The tip here is that as you pray for your pastor you help ease the burden he takes on as he prays for you and others.)

We don’t live in a vacuum. Our actions, sinful and otherwise, have an affect on the other people around us. Prayer doesn’t happen in a vacuum either and the effect works, in my opinion, in a sort of reverse way in that when I pray on someone’s behalf it can also cause me to be changed or challenged either directly or indirectly in some manner.

Here is an example of a direct connection. If I am praying that my daughter Claire would love correction, something we should all love, then I need to also pray for myself and how I am correcting her. Am I correcting her out of frustration or annoyance? Am I correcting her with a view toward godliness or just wanting her to do things the way I think they ought to be done? Is being “right” more important to me than her personhood? Am I nitpicking?

My prayer for her to love correction should cause me to examine my own reasons for wanting her to love correction as well as my own willingness to be corrected.

Indirectly, I may be challenged to love my husband better as I pray for a friend who wishes to be more joyful in her submission to her husband. I may become convicted of areas where I ought to practice more acts of mercy by providing a meal or dropping a get well soon card in the mail for someone who is sick. If I see someone who seems to be struggling with pride or some other sinful behavior as I pray for them it can be a good way for me to check myself for those same besetting sins in my own heart. We tend to see them more quickly and certainly more clearly in those around us. At least I do.

Prayer changes us in ways I cannot even comprehend much less really understand but I am becoming more and more enchanted and grateful for what a gift this tool is in the christian life. I believe genuine prayer is going to grow compassion and repentance, contentment and joy within our spirits; our connection to our Father and to each other is only deepened and strengthened by this odd, hard to understand practice.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will 
he hears us. I John 5:14

May we be confident is our asking, expecting our Father who loves us to answer.

What are you praying for?

Prayer

I really don’t understand how it works but I know that it does. I know that it is holy communication. I know that He hears us, indeed says we should pray without ceasing. I know it is not a magic lamp we rub and out pops the Holy Spirit to do our bidding but again, He listens to the cries and petitions of His children.

Sometimes, having an adult autistic child has its moments. Things can get edgy and volatile but I have learned that when it seems a storm might be brewing that I can shoot a text to my Mother and sisters asking for prayers on our behalf and Sam’s,  and things will typically settle down. It’s uncanny really, especially because I know that prayer is not some kind of magic trick but rather God hearing His children and granting what they ask in His Son’s name.  Last time this happened I asked them which one was not praying I would loose these last stubborn twenty pounds. (Okay, I know that goes back to treating prayer like the magic rub on the genie lamp but it was good for a laugh.)

But I know that sometimes praying can feel like the God and me version of the child tugging on your shirt who is incessantly asking for something all day every day. Or it just feels less than alive and genuine. Or like I am doing all the talking. Or that my words are thick and clumsy.

A friend recently shared this excerpt from AW Tozer’s sermon Make Time To Pray and I found it helpful:

Am I faithful in prayer?” Ask yourself that. “Well, I’m busy,” you say. Yes, you are busy. So was the Lord Jesus. So was Martin Luther. Luther said, “In the morning I have so much work to do that I am going to have to pray longer today.” Are you faithful in prayer, and do you meditate on the Word? How much of Scripture have you read lately? Have you read it with meditation and tenderness? These are a few questions. You can answer them evasively and the snow lies there. Or you can answer them honestly and see the springtime come to your heart. Put yourself in the hands of the One who loves you infinitely. If you have failed Him, you will have to admit that there is a rut or snow on the meadow. Tell Him so–don’t hide it. He will not turn His back in anger and say, “You disappointed me and betrayed me.” There is a balm in Gilead, plenty of it. The balm and healing in the blood of the Lamb will get you out of the rut.”

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My prayer life is so much fuller when I have been having a steady diet of His word. And honestly, it’s His words that often spark prayers and there is something comforting and powerful at the same time in knowing that I am praying His words back to Him.

What a gift prayer is to us.

 

A Prayer For Our Nation

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us – sinners all.

We confess that you are rarely what we most desire, though your desire for us led you to a cross atop Golgotha. We want cleaner homes, better clothes, spouses more attentive to our needs. We want children who will sit still in church, and hymns that suit our tastes. We want our pastors to speak to our needs, rather than lead us in worshipping you. We want the driver in front of us to go faster, and the one behind us to slow down. We want jobs we enjoy, and family who won’t ask us for money.

Sometimes we want more righteousness, or more personal purity, or a better prayer life. We seek religious virtue, Lord, but we do not seek your Cross. We are afraid of what you will ask of us should we seek that Cross, and so we make you smaller and tamer. We make you an intellectual puzzle, or an emotional experience. You are an all-consuming Fire, and we have turned you into a Bic lighter.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Forgive us that we approach your Holy Word like we already understand you.

Forgive us that we pray when it’s convenient, that we talk too much and listen too little.

Forgive us when we seek the company of those who please us, rather than those who need us.

Forgive us that we have sullied your name by attaching it to political ideologies and national pride.

Forgive us when we hold ourselves above our brothers and sisters because they are Baptists, or Catholics, or Orthodox; because of who they vote for; because their children are in public schools; because they do trick-or-treat or they don’t trick-or-treat or because they only pass out those butterscotch candies that nobody really likes.

Forgive us that we see unrighteousness everywhere but in our own mirrors.

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Oh Lord, we are a country founded in rebellion, and we have fallen into grave sin. We have made greed a virtue. We have borrowed until there is no grain left in the storehouse, and now we throw the costs onto our children and grandchildren.

 

We have cultivated a hyper-sexualized culture. We allow our children to reach their teens without knowing how to behave like men and women.

We have sanctioned the murder of millions of unborn children.

Amidst all this, we have the gall to proclaim this God’s most favored nation. We boast, oh Lord, when we should tremble.

If you, oh Lord, would count our iniquities against us, who could stand? We are shot through with sin, as a nation, a city, a church, as individuals.

But you are faithful where we are faithless, and you have promised that when we confess, and repent, and lay hold of your Cross, that you will cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

So we praise you, Lord.

Thine, oh Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Thine.

Thine, oh Lord, is the kingdom, and Thou art exalted above all.

We praise you and we beg your mercy, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Tony Woodlief