What do you think prayer is? What are some things you pray for? James addresses this in 5:13-18:
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 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. 15 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. 16 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.
17 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. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
This is our last message in our “Prove It!” series and I want to spend it showing you what prayer can do.
A Few Quotes About Prayer:
“Good prayers never come weeping home. I am sure I shall either receive what I asked—or what I should have been asking for in the first place.” – Joseph Hall
When asked how one could pray better in public, Charles Spurgeon responded “Pray more in private”.
Martin Luther, when asked why he always prayed aloud, said “I want even the devil to hear me pray”
Satan dreads nothing but prayer. The church that lost its Christ was full of good works. Activities are multiplied that meditation may be ousted, and organizations are increased that prayer may have no chance. Souls may be lost in good works, as surely as in evil ways. The one concern for the Devil is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. – Samuel Chadwick.
Prayer is a powerful thing. According to our passage from James 5, three things that prayer can do are:
- V.14 – heal
- V.15 – restore
- V.17 – alter nature
We get so caught up in the words of praying that we forfeit the power that we have. We want to say it right – sound good – we make up words we never use in conversation when we are asked to pray out loud. But check this out:
GOD WANTS TO ANSWER PRAYER
God’s promises and purposes go directly to the fact of giving for the asking. The answer to our prayers is the motive constantly presented in the Scriptures to encourage us to pray. Look at these verses:
Call to me and I will answer you (Jer. 33.3)
He will call upon me, and I will answer him; (Ps. 91.15)
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Mt. 7.7)
This is Jesus Christ’s law of prayer. He does not say, “Ask and something shall be given to you.” Nor does He say, “Ask, and you will be trained [to ask more proper requests.]” Rather, when you ask, the very thing asked for will be given. Jesus does not say, “Knock, and some door will be opened.” Instead, the very door at which you are knocking will be opened.
SO WHY DON’T WE GET WHAT WE ASK FOR?
- James tells us in James 4.-3
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
- And Jesus said this in John 16.24
24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
OK, GREAT, SO HOW DO WE ASK?
Number one: know what prayer is:
(Adapted from Mark Driscoll): My daughter doesn’t come up to me to play and say, “Dearest father, I first would like to thank you for your kind provision in our former days. I thank you that you are strong enough to pick me up. Furthermore, I know that you have the ability to grant requests, and I acknowledge that gladly. Furthermore, in addition, my sub-point is this, that I would beseech you, though undeserving as I am, that perhaps in your great mercies, you could pick me and fly me through the air.” No, she walks up, says “Daddy pick you up and you can flyyyyyyyyyyy through the air?” That’s it. That was the request. Answer? “Heck yeah,” that’s the response. It’s really simple. It doesn’t need to be eloquent and complicated. Just let your dad know, he’s happy to hear.
Number two: have bigger faith
We need a quickening of faith in God’s power. We have hedged God in until we have little faith in His power. We have conditioned the exercise of His power until we have a little God, and a little faith in a little God. The only condition that restrains God’s power and that disables him to act, is lack of faith. He is not limited in action nor restrained by the conditions that limit men. – E.M. Bounds
Basically, he’s saying we don’t believe God is who is He says He is, so we ask “safe” things that He honestly doesn’t need to answer. We say things like “bless this meal” or “keep us safe on the road” or “pray that I’d get along with my family on vacation.”
The trouble with our praying is, we just do it as a means of last resort. ~Will Rogers
We do everything we can to make something happen, and then ask God to bless it or to fix it.
Prayer does a lot more than you think it can. And it is not limited by your lack of knowledge or bad vocabulary. You don’t have to say the right words to get a response from God. You have to have right faith, right motives, the right heart.
In the NIV it says “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
The ESV says “the prayer of a righteous person has power as it is working.”
Do you believe this?
How Do We Respond To This?
Pray. Right now. And pray for more than a good grade on a test you didn’t study for.