Faithlife Sermons

#11 Faith and Prayer - The Work of Prayer - What can I do? - Maybe God can

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This is what I dont want to hear. James says Prayer matters. It is a good answer to the problems you are facing. In every sitaution. Sometimes Prayer leads to healing. Sometimes we need to pray for forgiveness and confession. Sometiems our sin and our sickness is linked. At the end of the day when all is said and done James' answer is pray. How can that be. There has to be a better answer than that!

Notes & Transcripts

I

Y - I think most people of faith live in two different places, we go back and forth - its reflected in our prayers

“God Bless what I do.” - Maybe God will help me. God doing for ME. I am the boss God is like a helpful advisor.
explain
the Problem: God is special sause, a little extra sprinkled on to a decent life. Doesnt expect much out of God (intentionally)
When trouble comes, this turns to “Where are you God!?”
“How can I do for God.” - Maybe I can help God. DOING FOR GOD - God is the boss, I am the employee trying to impress. Or at least trying not to offend God
explain
The Problem: we work hard for God. Make sacrifices. Do things because we think we should. Stress worry and carry the whole load on our shoulders.
When trouble comes this kind of faith turns to “After all I have done for you, I cant even get a small goat to throw a party for my friends.”

G - Biblical Faith is DIFFERENT - Faith is a life cultivating an open-minded partnership with God and his holy spirit. Biblical faith is about PARTNERSHIP and PRAYER is the currency of that partnership.

Transition: At first when we read what James has to say about prayer its easy to slot it into the “God, bless what I do.” way of looking at the world. It fits neatly. But it doesn't take look before it starts making us uncomfortable.
v.13
Easy right - in trouble pray for help, happy thank God. I can do this. How bout we stop right here, sing some songs and go home a little better off and a little closer to God? Feeling a little better. Fits neatly into that first way of looking at things.
but here is where it gets sticky for me and maybe you.
v.14-16
Ok, now some of us from a more charismatic background can handle this. Perhaps you even get a little excited by these verses.
But others of us read this and maybe world quite prefer to skip over them because if you are anything like me all kinds of baggage comes with these verses for you. And you start asking serious questions, or perhaps looking for the exit.
Let me just tip over the baggage for us really quick.
First,
I think of TV preachers amassing fortunes “healing” people with healings that look good on tv but rarely last longer than a few weeks or days.
I think of people who were told when they got cancer that it must be because of some hidden sin in their life. Or perhaps because they didn't believe in God hard enough.
I think of
When I read, “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” I think of times this verse has been used to hurt people who were already hurting deeply.
I think of well meaning people offering thoughtless words to suffering people in passing.
When I read this I think of people in my life who I have cared about that got sick. I think of the people I have prayed for that did not get better right away. And I think of people who walked away from God because they didn't get better. That still stay away from God because illness or other kinds of disasters have convinced them that God doesn't love them.
WHAT DOES JAMES MEAN BY A PRAYER OF FAITH?
But I think there is more to it than that.
These words are challenging to those two kinds of places our faith can take us to.
Healing the sick is too much for the “God bless my day kind of faith.” It asks a lot more of God than intangeble blessings on our daily lives.
And in some ways it plays into the worst aspects of the “What can I do for God?” kind of faith. Unchecked it leads us to feeling guilty if eveyone we pray for isnt healed. Its yet another way to feel like we will never be able to do enough for God.
Well if you are struggling with it, you are in good company, In fact this passage has made christians uncomfortable for milennia.
And we have come up with all kinds of reasons to not take it too seriously.
But as we have talked about this is the point of scripture its the point of James
James is designed to generate this feeling in us. To challenge us, to make us look into the mirror and say, what is different about how the Bible thinks about faith and how I do?
Fortunately for us James gives us an example and its an example that gets to the heart of the bible’s understanding of faith and prayer.
he writes this v.17-18
He calls back to Elijah a prophet
Elijah’s story is this…
They fundamentally shaped the way they saw the world. They knew EVERY story, and the circulated all kinds of other stories about those characters. Almost like fan-fiction.
Elijah Partners with God
Sometimes God speaks and he follows, othertimes he takes the initiative, but the whole relatinoships is bathed in communication and prayer.
But ultimately his story is echoed all over the old testament. Human beings, partnering with God.
The closest thing we have to that today would probably be going to a star trek convention.
David, Daniel, Abraham, Noah,
all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where God said this about his intention for all of human kind...

27 So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Created in GOD’s image to Parter with God in ruling creation. To rule alongside God and with his blessing.
a little different than those two ways of looking at faith isnt it?
Elijah and the whole old testament give us a different idea of what faith look like.
When we look there it becomes clear that
“Faith is cultivating an open-minded partnership with God”
Its not asking God to give us hints and bless our efforts.
Nor is it breaking our backs to try and please or at least stay out of our “boss’s way”
It is a partnership with God and according to James, Prayer that rests in that kind of growing faith can result in far more than we may be willing to imagine.
Back to James
Lets look at James again v.13-18
maybe
We dont have anything close to that today

Y - Say Maybe God Can again and again - PRAY again, and again

W - and you will find a world that is full of opportunities to partner with God

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