The Prayer of Faith

If the links don’t work for you, here is Sam’s video presentation Prayer, The Dinosaur Song and No Longer Slaves.

Todays reading is James 5:13-20Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Richard.

When I was at college, all new students were given a booklet called First Resort.

The reason it was called First Resort is that the Student Union wanted new students to turn to it first to find information about college and what was available in the city and it was actually pretty good. Of course some 40 years on it looks pretty quaint as these days most people go straight to the internet.

In our reading from James his overriding theme is that prayer should be our first resort but sadly it is often our last resort when all other things haven’t worked. His message is very clear

  1. In trouble—pray
  2. Are you cheerful—praise—another form of prayer
  3. Sick—get others to pray for you
  4. Struggling with sin—confess and pray
  5. Pray fervently because it is effective—God really does answer prayer just look at Elijah he was an ordinary person but God did incredible things through him
  6. Finally bring others who have wandered from faith back to God—we can’t of course do this on our own, we need to be praying for the person

In some ways I could end here but you may be disappointed with a 1 minute talk. In essence this is today’s message: Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray and then pray some more.

I will, however, expand in this short time together.

  1. Suffering comes in many forms. In James’ time persecution was the lot of many early Christians which brought immense suffering, imprisonment and death. In our country we generally do not suffer persecution but like every other human being there are times when we go through some real challenges; the death or sickness of a loved one, the loss of employment, for some, poverty and of course suffering brought on by illness, physical or mental. Sometimes it is challenging to pray when we are struggling but James exhorts us to pray in the bad times. Over these couple of weeks following my dad’s death I have tried to maintain my daily Bible reading and prayer time. In doing so I have found myself asking God for simple things, to please help me get through the day. He is our heavenly Father and we can be assured He is there for us.
  2. Praise when cheerful—I hope you all have times of joy in your lives. Often it is the simple things, being with family and friends, an encouraging phone call or having time out to relax. Last week we were able to see John Stillwell our Children and Families Minister—it was his birthday and throughout the week he met up with family and a few of his friends at a safe distance. He told us he had had a wonderful week—he was beaming, and it was a delight to see. He also praised God in his conversation with us for the lovely week he had had. It is so easy to forget to praise God and pray when things are going well. Like many of us I love going to the seaside and getting into the sea, it is a real treat. When I get in and I feel those waves coming across me I always praise God and thank him for the opportunity. Is there something particular that you like to do? —perhaps next time, you can praise God for being able to do it.
  3. Illness is another area to bring to prayer and James exhorts his readers to bring the sick person before the elders to be prayed over and anointed with oil. The early church came from Judaism and inherited many of its customs. If you were a faithful Jew and were ill the first person you would turn to would be the Rabbi who would anoint you with oil. Going to the Rabbi served two purposes, firstly it brought your health issue before God, a spiritual need; and secondly oil was widely used as a medicine. In Luke 10:34-35Open Link in New Window Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan binding the injured man’s wounds and pouring oil on him. Isaiah 1:6Open Link in New Window mentions oil as a method of soothing for wounds. As one commentator put it—It is prayer and medicine.

    Who are the elders in this passage? —they would have been wise and Godly people in the church community. We are blessed with such people in our church communities and I have often found myself sharing a prayer need with them. There is real power in others praying for us. I think perhaps we are sometimes a bit reticent to ask for prayer, it can feel self indulgent or the issue not worthy of prayer. It perhaps comes from our culture of ‘soldiering on’ through difficult times but I would encourage us to stop thinking like that and seek prayer for healing both for physical and mental health needs. Jesus says come to me all who are weary and heavily laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28Open Link in New Window). Last week Ian our Vicar invited us to be in touch if we have prayer needs—please do take that offer up and we will pray for you.

  4. Is sin a problem in our life? If we’ve said no, then I suggest we think again! We all struggle with sin. In Romans 7Open Link in New Window verses 21 onwards, St Paul describes his battle with sin:

    I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!

    James says—share your failings with others. I really like the confession within the Anglican liturgy—each week it gives us the opportunity to realign ourselves with God. Although we don’t itemise our sins to each other we do declare publicly that we have fallen short in our Christian walk. It is a very good discipline.

  5. If you are in any doubt by now that prayer is an essential part of Christian living, James illustrates the point the example of Elijah. James describes Elijah, considered a titan of faith as an ordinary man but it was through prayer that God used him mightily. Prayer is therefore a game changer. Do we really believe our prayers can change things? Well, all of us have had answers to prayer in our own lives or the lives of others but so often we limit our view of prayer.

    In the Second World War hundreds of thousands of allied troops were trapped at Dunkirk facing annihilation at the hands of the Nazi forces. King George VI called the nation to prayer and millions of people went to Cathedral’s and churches on Sunday 26 May 1940 to pray for the safe return of our soldiers. The estimate from the Prime Minister Winston Churchill was that 20-30,000 might survive—in fact over 300,000 troops made it back. Of course we know of the bravery of thousands of people with small boats who took part in the rescue but the sheer numbers rescued was beyond what had been hoped for. It was described as a miracle.

There is a children’s song—our God is a great big God—so often we make him out to be so small. We need to be praying big prayers and be praying with an expectation that they will bring change.

If you are struggling with your prayer life then here are a few suggesting to re-engage meaningfully: back:

  1. Just do it—God listens to your prayer
  2. Lord’s prayer
  3. Pray before meals
  4. Use Daily Prayer from the Church of England
  5. Believe that prayers make a difference.

Finally I would to thank all those many members of the St Matthews Church family and other friends for praying for us. It has made a huge difference to know that we are lifted up in prayer.

Amen

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

Share this on Facebook