Faithlife Sermons

The Power of Prayer

Highlights in James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:01
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Have you ever noticed how many self-help books there are? Just browse through Barnes & Noble and you will find ones for just about any topic from how to cook the perfect meal, how to fix your car, how to lose weight, how to get a better job, how to invest your money, how to find the perfect partner, how to deal with stress. You name it, you can probably find it.
The problem, however, lies in the very approach they take: Self help. There are certainly many times we need to help ourselves but there is only so much we can do, and sometimes there is nothing we can do to help ourselves. Our society says, “God helps those who help themselves” but the Scripture also says, “God helps those who cannot help themselves”. Too often we try to do it all ourselves, or if that isn’t possible we turn to others we hope can solve our problems. It seems we only turn to God as a last resort when all else fails.
As believers, God should be the first one we turn to. Who knows our problems better, and who else is as able to deal with them. As James writes to Christians who are experiencing trials and are struggling with their faith he encourages them to bring everything to God in prayer.
James 5:13–18 NIV84
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 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. 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. 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. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

When to pray

In trouble – of any kind. The prayer believers are to offer in such circumstances is not necessarily for deliverance from the trial, but for the strength to endure it faithfully.
Happy – give praise to God. We don’t want to forget Him when things are going well.
Sick – to be weak
Not just physical weakness, emotional or spiritual weakness
Weak in faith – James’ readers were getting worn down by the troubles and suffering they were dealing with
Sinned – we should never be afraid to seek God, even when we have sinned. He already knows, and we have the assurance that nothing can change His love for us.

Who should pray

Yourself -
With the elders – the leaders of the church are there for encouragement. Notice that James says it is up to the one who is sick to call for them.
Anoint - the common practice of using oil as a means of bestowing honor, refreshment, and grooming
Each other – we need to have a mutual concern for one another and support each other

How to pray

With praise
In faith – trusting that God will give the answer that is best for us. God can and does heal, but not always in the way or in the time we want.
James 1:6 NIV84
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
With confession – Illness is not necessarily the consequence of sin, but it may be. There are times when confession is necessary before we will see an answer to our prayer.
Earnestly – sincerely and persistently
John Newton 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!”

Why pray

The goal of prayer is not to convince God to give us what we want or do what we say. It is first to deepen our relationship with God, then to align our wills with His, then to seek His help in meeting the needs we bring, When we do this God does indeed bless us, and answer our requests.
Make well – restore from being discouraged
Raise up – give spiritual strength
Forgiven – James says, “If he has sinned”. Showing that the illness may not be the result of sin, but if it is we can be forgiven (1 John 1:9).

Prayer is powerful and effective

The Jews had a saying that he who prays surrounds his house with a wall stronger than iron.
Example of Elijah
He prayed earnestly
Prayer will change our lives
Kathy Lee Gifford, “The Road, the Rock, and the Rabbi”
Then I felt Him gently rebuke me: You’re not listening. I said to seek Me first!
“Lord, do You mean first thing in the morning before anything else?” I questioned.
In my heart, I sensed His clear answer: Yes.
Wow. I already got up earlier than most—usually right before dawn. But with my new duties at Today, I would be leaving my home in Connecticut shortly after 6:00 a.m. for the hour-long commute into New York City.
“Really, Lord? Before I go into work?”
Yes. I felt Him tenderly remind me, As you begin your day, so goes your day.
So I began to awaken before 4:00 a.m. and pray for an hour for my family members, friends and colleagues, world situations, and personal concerns. Then I would open the Scriptures and study God’s Word for an hour more, with my puppies and the birds outside my window as my only company.
This new discipline soon became the best part—and my favorite part—of the day. I began to understand and cherish the Scriptures that talk about the joy of seeking God in the morning:
• “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life” (Psalm 143:8).
• “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night” (Psalm 92:1–2).
• “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3).
• “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1 NKJV).
And so, let us make prayer a more central part of our daily lives. As Paul says in
Philippians 4:6 NIV84
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
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