Sermon Synopsis for April 2, 2017
E.M. Bounds, a nineteenth century attorney and pastor who wrote extensively on the subject of prayer, is known for saying, “Failure to pray is failure in all of life.” Most believers would agree with his words on a mental level, but many have a hard time embracing them practically. Prayer is often an aspired value, but it is seldom an actualized one. Just look at the programming of most modern churches. Decent crowds will show up for festivals, sports activities, fellowship meals, and concerts. But if a prayer meeting is advertised, a mere small percentage of the membership participates.
This is a sad reality when you consider the Lord’s admonitions to “pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), “to pray always and not become discouraged” (Luke 18:1), and to “pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). How can we shake off the sleepiness of prayer-less lives? I believe James’ words in James 5:13-18 share two important concepts which will help. By understanding them, we will have knowledge concerning how to pray, and we will be endued with great motivation to pray.
A PATTERN FOR PRAYER (vs. 13-16)
When I seek to encourage believers concerning their prayer life, I often encounter a multitude of excuses. One of the most famous is this — “I don’t know what to pray!” I can relate to the struggle. I remember how I was once clueless regarding how to talk to God. In time, I learned several concepts which helped. Now it seems that my biggest difficulty with prayer is that I don’t have enough time to talk to God about all of the things on my prayer agenda.
One trick, if I can call it that, which has helped me in this matter involves what I call “prayer prompts.” Life seems to throw many situations and circumstances our way. Each of our experiences solicits some sort of emotion. These emotions can be used as reminders, or as prompts to pray.
The other day, I was on a bicycle ride, enjoying nature and some good, wholesome physical activity. All of the sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, my mind became overwhelmed with anxiety concerning a certain situation. I was tempted to give into despair, to stew in my emotional juices concerning my frustration. Fortunately, I had learned this secret concerning prayer prompts. I regarded the occasion as an opportunity for prayer. I saw it as a Divine reminder to talk to God.
In your life you will have similar experiences. God will allow many circumstances to come across your path. To be a prayer warrior, you must learn how to use such occasions as prompts to pray. James hinted at this principle in his letter. He showed his readers four scenarios which should startle us to supplications. He said that they should pray when they faced suffering (5:13a), joy (5:13b), sickness (5:14-15), or sin (5:16).
THE POWER IN PRAYER (vs. 17-18)
On top of developing a pattern for prayer, believers must become acquainted with the power of prayer. When one becomes familiar with the life-altering, earth-shaking nature of intercession, he or she will be more motivated to pray. James sought to impress his readers with this truth. He said, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18). Prayer produces a powerful result. When you turn your eyes of faith towards heaven, the God of heaven hears, and He responds. Let Him hear you!
Get the full manuscript of the sermon for April 16, 2017 here