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Pray For One Another

James 5:13-20

I want to start this morning by making a little confession. Very often when we were pregnant someone would ask me if I wanted a boy or a girl. Well if you know our history, then you know really I just wanted a living-breathing child. I wanted a healthy child, one that had all of their fingers and toes, two beautiful little ears, and eyes and a nose.

But deep down, if God had let me pick, I would have chosen boys. It’s not that I wouldn’t have loved little girls; I have four beautiful nieces, and my good friend Ella is here today and I love her to pieces. But I would have chosen boys because I understand them. I know what it’s like to have a frog in your pocket, or jump your bike across a creek, or get a mowhawk in the summer. And I understand what it is to play with the toys that boys play with.

It’s amazing that many of the toys that I loved as a kid I got to share with my boys. And because I loved Batman, Aquaman, Spiderman, and Superman as a kid I wanted to share them with the boys who loved them as much as I did.

And to be honest, I believe we all have a little affection for those Super Hero’s, that’s why they have such staying power. They are filled with action, drama, good verses the evil. And Superman even has that whole thing with Lois Lane to keep the ladies interested, I mean what more could you want?

Another reason that these Super Heroes are so attractive is that there is a whole different side to them as well, their secret identity. I mean Superman wasn’t always Superman, for most of the show he was just plain old ordinary Clark Kent. Sure the power was there for him when he needed it but for the most part he was just ordinary. But you let him step into that phone booth and he would come out ready and able to take on whatever evil came around.

Today, as we continue our look at the One Another’s found in scripture, I want us to look at something that we all have with in us. A power that we all possess, and if we are willing to use it then we will deeply bless one another, this church, and this community. But just like Clark Kent started in the phone booth, we have a place that we must start as well, if we are going to tap into real power. Look with me at our text this morning, it’s found in James 5:13-20.  

James says that our power, the power we find in prayer, is available to every one of us. It is a power that is not just for Superman but to every Clark Kent here today. As we see in James’ letter there are three instances that we are to pray for one another, so let’s look at those reasons this morning.

First we need to pray for those who are suffering or enduring sickness.

James 5:13-15 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. 

I believe that we understand this part of the verse pretty well.  As a matter of fact most of the prayers that we offer on the behalf of others fall into this category.  After national tragedies like the attack on America during 9-11 or as recent as the tornadoes that ripped through the country in April, churches and individual Christians have lifted people that we didn’t even know up in prayer.

I have been called to the hospital for people I didn’t know, folks who didn’t go to church to pray.  People who didn’t know how to call upon the name of God wanted someone to ask Him to give the family comfort, and peace as they watched a loved one take their last breaths. We know how to pray for those who are suffering.

Weekly we take time before our Bible classes and our worship to stop and talk about those that are sick or struggling and pray for them. We put their names in the Bulletin or send out e-mails so that you can go to your home and have a written reminder of those you are called to pray for. We make every effort for you to know who is hurting because we believe that we know how to pray for those who are suffering.

The question that we have to answer is not do we know how to pray for those who are suffering but do we pray for those who are suffering? 

You see James is not saying that we pray for a mass of people during a church service. He is not advocating that we go and roam the hospitals looking for people that are crying so we can say a short prayer on their behalf. He is not even saying that we need to have bulletins or WebPages of prayer requests.  Now while I believe that there is nothing wrong with saying those types of prayers; I don’t believe that is at the heart of what James is saying here.

Rather, When I am given the opportunity to pray for someone’s suffering I am given the opportunity to empathize with them.  You know what it means to empathize with someone don’t you?  It means to feel their pain, to feel what they are feeling.  Our call to pray for someone who is suffering means that I am to pray in a way that I try to feel their struggle and their pain. Sometimes that is easy, if you have had a similar experience you remember all to well what you felt. You remember your personal struggle, your remember the story of what happened to you.  Pray for them through your own story.

Sometimes it is a little harder because you have never undergone the struggle. So when we pray we have to come to the best understanding that we can. Ask yourself good questions like What is the current struggle doing with their relationship to God? What is the current struggle doing to their relationship to their family? Then think and see if there was a time that you felt alienated from God, or a time where you struggled with your family.  That’s the pain that we take before the throne on others behalf. 

Next James says that we are to pray when we have success.

James 5:13 Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.  Praise, is a wonderful thing. James says in times of happiness sing praises, offer thanks to the giver of all good gifts. Paul says in Romans 12:15 that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice.

As easy as it is for us to offer up prayers when someone is suffering why is it so hard to offer up prayers when things are right, during times of rejoicing?

I think one reason for this is that we think if things are wrong then God needs to help us out but when things are right then we did something great! You see anything that is good in my life must have come from my hard work, dedication, and shrewd business plan. That’s why it is so hard to be happy for someone else’s good fortune. It’s an admittal that they worked harder; were more dedicated, and had better business practices.  And we aren’t ready to make that kind of concession.

Let’s take a step back here for a little remedial learning.  Look quickly at what Jesus says in Matthew 7:11 how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

According to Christ good gifts come from the Father in heaven.  They are not a result of my goodness but a result of God’s goodness and His desire to lavish those gifts upon His children. If that is the case then the only reason that I could not pray a prayer of praise when something good happens to my brother or sister is because of the evil in my own heart.

So James exhortation for us to pray a prayer of thanksgiving shows the content of our heart. If my heart is right with God then I am able to rejoice when good things come your way, I am able to pray a prayer of thanks on your behalf.  

The second reason that this is so hard is because we tend to focus on the bad or evil things in our lives and communities. As a matter of fact when I ask you to look at the screen behind me what do you see? (A white screen with a black smudge on it) We are naturally drawn to see the black spot and forget about the white in the background. That is a great representation of how we look at life.  We are so conditioned to look at the black dots that we forget about the blessings that God has so abundantly poured out into our lives. 

James uses this text to remind us to look for the blessings of God.  To look at them in our lives so that we can share those with others and to look for them in the lives of others and rejoice.

What is it that makes you cheerful? What is it that makes you happy?  What is it that brings you a sense of joy?  Those are the things that we are to share with one another, those are the things that we together as a family and individually need to say a prayer of thanksgiving about.   

We received word Friday that Brayden arrived with no complications; did you say a prayer of thanksgiving? Families connected to this family are getting great reports from the Doctor, recoveries are going well, do you say a prayer of thanksgiving? You were able to meet in this place today and lift your voice in song, pray, hear this message from God’s word, will you say a prayer of thanksgiving?

We have so much to be thankful for in our own lives and in the lives of the members of this body, we need to stop and truly count our many blessings, naming them one by one.

Finally we need to pray so we can confess.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working 

For most of us we don’t get real excited talking about confessions.  The very word brings images to our minds of a dark room and a bright light in your eyes, while some big police officer bullies us to take the blame for something.  

But once again James tells us that we are to pray for one another, and this time it is a prayer of confession. Now the way that this usually works out is that we get to this part and we say, James says that we need to confess to one another so that we can pray about it. I believe that we need to do just that so you go first.

It is so easy to appear to be hyper-spiritual and to want to pray for everyone else’s sins while keeping yours a secret.  But what we have yet to realize is that this three-point plan for praying for one another has built on itself. 

We have talked about praying for someone who is sick and struggling and it doesn’t take any type of relationship for that to happen. You can ask me to pray for your first cousin’s nephew’s wife’s brother’s dad’s next door neighbors best friend’s boss at work and I can do that with out having any type of relationship with them.

Then we talked about praying a prayer of thanksgiving on someone’s behalf and that requires two things. First that I know them, and second that there is nothing in my life that would hinder my honest prayers for their good will.

But now that we get to praying for each others sins well that brings us to a completely different level of intimacy. Before I can trust you with the sins in my life I have to trust you.

I have to trust that you love me and care enough about me to hold what I tell you.

I have to trust that you will not use what I have told you against me.

I have to trust that you care enough about me to want what is best for me and even go the extra mile of holding me accountable for doing the right thing. 

And finally I have to trust that you want me to get right.

Unfortunately that type of trust is very rare in our churches today because it is very rare in our world today. But we are not called to act like the world. Let me read you Peterson’s paraphrase of what Paul says in Romans 12:2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Did you get that? Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking… God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

God wants His children to live a life of maturity not a life like the world that cruses through without thinking. Before we can honestly fulfill this command to pray for one another we have to be mature enough to trust one another, and that’s where the problem lies. Psychologists tell us that the reason that we have trouble trusting others is because we know deep down that we can’t be trusted. Maybe today before we even begin to try to pray for one another we need to get ourselves right first.

You see like Clark Kent, the power is always there, always available for the Christian. God has promised us that as long as we have breath we have a chance to tap into His power.  His power to heal the sick, sooth the suffering, cleanse us of our sins. His power to make us what He desires for us to be.

Today we get a great opportunity to pray for one another.  If you are sick or suffering I hope that you trust us enough to love you, and pray for you.  We want to help you carry that burden and show you how important you are to this family. 

If you have reason to rejoice I hope that you trust us enough to let us bask in the blessings that God has given you. I hope that we understand that when God blesses one member of this body that He blesses every member of this body.

And if your relationship with God is not right today I hope that you can trust us. Trust us to hold what you tell us, and to petition God on your behalf.

 

Questions To Consider

 

Do you find it easier to pray for someone who is struggling or rejoicing?

What does Galatians 6:2 have to do with praying for one another?

There are two sides to this passage; sharing someone else’s load and letting others share your load. Which one is harder for you?

Why do we struggle letting others see us struggle?

How does being in real Christian community make this easier?

What can you do to promote real Christian community at our church?

What can you do to help others get right with God?

How can you allow others to help you get right with God?

How does Luke 6:31 apply to this one another?



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