A DYING TREND IN THE CHURCH
In our modern age of instant messaging, information technology like: I-phone, I-pad, Apps, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and other electronic gadgets are fast becoming obvious that skills from the past are becoming a dying art. Let me talk about another dying art…………. To see what it is I’ll start with this quote. “I have so much to do that if I didn't spend at least three hours a day in prayer I would never get it all done." Martin Luther”. Think about that statement for a minute! 3 hours a day … at least how many of us would pray for 3 hours a week? I suspect some would not even make 3 hours a month. It is a dying art. But it shouldn't be because it is the gift [privilege] which God has given us to get through any and every situation. Let me ask you this morning! How is your prayer life?
- Is it consistent with your walk?
- Does it play an important part in your life?
- Do you only pray when you need something?
The reason I ask is that prayer is vital characteristic and mark of a genuine Christian! Think about it for a moment! How do you deal with your day to day problems? How do you preserve through trials? How do we follow the examples of godly people? How do you speak to a Holy God? "Through the privilege [not your right] of Prayer" We should pray when we are going through troubling circumstances........Is any one of you in trouble? He or she should pray. The people to who James was writing……. knew what it meant to suffer as they have been facing much religious persecution against them. It didn't always make sense. James’ advice is this…….when God doesn't make sense, or when it feels like our world is overwhelming, we should be praying......
- Not shaking our fist at God.
- Not angrily fighting the world.
- Not working it out on own strength but praying.
- Praying, as we make our way through the life challenges.
- Remember exciting things happen when we pray.
The bible is full of people who thought prayer was an important part of there lives.
- Abraham prayed
- Moses prayed
- Joshua prayed
- Ruth prayed
- Hannah prayed
- David prayed
- Solomon prayed
- Ezra, Nehemiah prayed
- Esther, Job prayed
- Isaiah, Jereimah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel,
- Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi prayed
- Peter, John, Paul, Jude, and the churches prayed. Even the Lord Jesus himself prayed in public and in private! Because He knew prayer was vital for Christian life!
What makes us think we don't have too? Why is the church failing to recognize the vital importance of prayer? Why is this becoming a dying trend in the evangelical community? Remember what Paul said to the church Philippians as he penned this in JAIL! “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” Phil 4:6. Everything by prayer which means "in every time": always, constantly, every day, as often as there is opportunity and need requires. Prayer is so important to a Christian’s life and to the churches life. The one on one, personal communion with the God…….who shows compassion and mercy with overflowing love which was demonstrated towards us when He saved us from His wrath and judgement. This is a wonderful privilege that Christians have, but many seem to disregard this privilege as…..
- A burden
- A waste of time
- I'm too busy
- Not right now
- Maybe later
But we have been commanded by a Holy and Perfect God to make our prayers and supplications to Him always, constantly every day. Why is the evangelical church failing in the area of prayer? We are to seek Him while He is near! “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” Isa 55:6. The children of God are to call upon Him at all times. This is what it means to have a personal relationship, with a loving and Holy God. Do you talk to your husband or wife, your children, parents, or friends? How are we to communicate with loved ones? Is Facebook and E-Mails enough? NO. John Bunyan said Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God. Warren Weirsbe said “prayer is certainly a high and holy privilege. To think that, as God’s children, we can come freely and boldly to His throne and share with Him our needs. “ Richard Baxter said "Prayer is the breath of the new creature." 7 times in this section James mentions prayer! In this closing section James encourages us to pray by describing 4 situations in which God answers prayer.
PRAYER FOR THE SUFFERING (V13)
“afflicted” which means “suffering” in difficult circumstances. Paul used this expression being persecuted for the proclamation of the gospel. In 2 Tim 2:9 it says “for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” What must we do when we are faced with trying times? We must pray and ask God for wisdom who gives it freely to those who seek Him. As one writer puts it “God can transform troubles into triumphs.” Remember Paul when He prayed 3 times to have this thorn removed from his life? Listen to God’s answer! 2 Cor 12:9-10 “But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Though we may not like the answer to our prayer we none the less must praise His name even in the midst of suffer. A prime example Paul and Silas when they were in jail praying and sing to the Lord! Acts 16: 25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,” Demonstrating the privilege to be called a redeemed son of the God! Prayer is not something we do after the storm; it’s something we do during….. even if the circumstances never change. I will still cry out to you in prayer and I still sing your sweet name, despite the outcome whether good or bad.
PRAYER FOR THE SICK (V14-V16)
I don’t think James is giving us a blanket formula for healing the sick….God is much greater than that! Not to diminish the importance but understand that God is not restricted to our abilities. Those who are “sick” which could be translated “weak” this passage is not just talking about the physical sickness in general, but spiritual weakness in battle for the gospel……Probably due to persecution these believers were faced with as they lived there lives for Christ and His glory. “Are any of you weak?” See the weak in this passage are those....
- Who have been defeated in spiritual battle
- Who have lost the ability to endure their suffering
- They are the fallen spiritual warriors
- The exhausted, weary, depressed Christian
- They have tried to draw to God but have lost their motivation
- They are the ones who have hit rock bottom
Paul penned these words! “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak [sick], be patient with them all.” 1 Thess 5:14. And who does James say for those people to seek? The elders…..not the elderly in the church body, but the spiritual mature ones. The ones who are called to spiritually lead the flock of God. “anointing him with oil” is not reference to some symbolic ceremony. “Anointing” could be better translated “massaging”. The elders were to rub massage oil on their body as a means to comfort and strengthen them as medical treatment. John MacArthur said “it may well have been that the elders literally rubbed oil on the believer who had suffered physical injures to their bodies from the persecution. Medical science was certainly in a primitive state and there were few trustworthy doctors. It would have been a gracious, kind act on the part of the elders to rub oil on the wounds of those who had been beaten, or into the sore muscles of those made to work long hours under harsh treatment.” The faithful prayers of the elders and the power of God’s sustaining grace, the believer will find strength in due season! Making our petitions known before a holy God who sovereignly acts on behalf of His people. “Raise up” God will restore His battered sheep’s enthusiasm to endure to the end. As Iasiah wrote! “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isa 40:28-31
PRAYER FOR THE NATION (V17-V18)
Did Elijah consider prayer a dying trend in his day? No. He was a praying man who prayed for his nation and the people who governed over him. James uses Elijah as an example, he prayed that it would not rain and his prayer was answered! This goes back in 1 Kings in chapter 16 when Ahad reigned as king and he was the worst of the worst. It says in 1Kings 16:30-33 “Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him......” The background to this incident can be found in Chapter 17 we read Elijah told king Ahab that it would not rain! While this chapter only gives us the story of the drought; James account gives its duration and links it to the prayers of Elijah and then Chapter 18 at the end........we read that the Lord sent rain on the land (v42-v46). Elijah prayers both created and ended a devastating three and a half year drought. So, if the righteous prayers of God’s children avail, or accomplish much, why is the evangelical churches weak or failing in this area? He was a man just like you and me! He had downfalls….he wasn't perfect! Do you remember what happened after this wonderful act displayed by God in the victory on Mount Carmel? He was so afraid and discouraged…………he ran away fearing for his life. But the beauty of this is even in the middle of discouragement…..he never ceased to pray to the one whom he knew he could trust! The sovereign LORD.
PRAYER FOR THE STRAYING (V19-V20)
Though we don’t see James mentioning prayer in section….the implications are surely there. If we are to pray for the sick, the afflicted, surely we must pray for the brother who wanders from the truth. “to wander” suggests a gradual moving away from the will of God, to lead away from the truth, to lead into error. The outcome of this wandering is “sin” and possible death! What are we to do when we see a fellow believer wandering form the truth? We should pray for him or her! Jesus said to Peter “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again [literally means converted], strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:32. Though we are to seek the lost with the gospel, it’s just as important to seek the saved! As Jesus said in Matt 18 dealing with sin and it says "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained [literally means won] your brother.” Matt 18:15. John MacArthur says "maintaining open, sharing, and praying relationships with other Christians will help keep believers from bottoming out in their spiritual lives. Such relationships help give the spiritual strength that provides victory over sin". We are to lift each other up to the Lord…..we are not called to tear down and destroy one another. We are called to have an attitude of love for the fallen brother….not to point fingers, murmur or crush them under the weight of their sin. We are to come alongside them and guide them in the Savior arms whether there saved or unsaved. we are never to turn a blind eye to sin....especially among the house of God. As Peter said “love covers a multitude of sins” 1 Peter 4:8. We have seen that prayer is a vital part of our lives….no excuses!
So, please don’t join the Facebook group of prayerlessness…….Prayer should never be a dying trend in our homes, churches …….and especially in the Christian life. We must never replace prayer with “what ifs, maybe later or but!" It’s way to precious and dear to the One who gave us this privilege. As we close this wonderful letter of self-examination I want to leave you with these 12 questions by Warren Weirsbe…….
- Am I becoming more and more patient in the testing of life?
- Do I play with temptation or resist it from the start?
- Do I find joy in obeying the Word of God, or do I merely study it and learn it?
- Are there any predispositions [bias opinions] that shackle me?
- Am I able to control my tongue?
- Am I a peacemaker rather than a troublemaker? Do people come to me for spiritual wisdom?
- Am I afraid of God or a friend of the world?
- Do I make plans without considering the will of God?
- Am I selfish when it comes to money? Am I unfaithful in the paying of my bills?
- Do I naturally depend on prayer when I find myself in some kind of trouble?
- Am I the kind of person others seek for prayer support?
- What is my attitude towards the wandering brother? Do I criticize and gossip, or do I seek to restore him or her with love?