By: Katie Kafka [Prayer Team leader]
I must admit I am always very humbled by all aspects of prayer. When I speak about prayer, there is always this voice of self-doubt in the back of my head telling me I am not qualified. Then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me how that voice of self-doubt is not speaking truth. He tells me I am qualified to share where God has me in my prayer journey. Prayer is a journey. It is this walk where your Christian faith merges with your circumstances. We travel across a variety of terrains and yet prayer is that steady constant bringing and directing our focus toward Heaven.
This morning we are going to hear from God’s Word in regard to prayer. We will be looking at James 5. I really want to encourage you to read the whole book of James when you get a chance. If only we could cover it right now. James is a short book, only 5 chapters. As I read through it preparing for today, I was reminded how pertinent it is to our current state of affairs as a society. The book focuses on how to put faith into action and gives many practical ways to live out your faith. In particular, it wrestles with how we live out a genuine Christian faith in the midst of:
- physical and spiritual trials
- worldly riches (or lack thereof)
I also noticed that the book of James begins and ends with mentioning prayer, leading us to realize that prayer is one example of faith in action. Today we are going to turn our focus to James 5:13-16.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
There are so many insights into prayer in these 3 verses. I would like to speak about them this morning in the context of prayer here at Equip Her. Prayer is something we value. You can count on coming each Tuesday and encountering prayer in some way, whether it is through personal reflection or praying with your small group. This passage sheds some light on how to put prayer into action by addressing three questions: When should we pray? How should we pray? Why should we pray?
In verse 13, there is a series of questions and responses. These highlight three instances of when to pray: in times of struggle, in joyful times, in weak and needy times. These scenarios cover the entire spectrum of human circumstances leaving us with the notion to pray in all things. Prayer is a constant element in the life of a genuine Christian.
If prayer is supposed to be an element of a genuine faith walk, then how do we do it? What is a good way to do it? This passage affirms the prayer model we encourage here at Equip Her. We have this common language where we talk about praying Upward (praising God), Inward (confessing our struggles) and Outward (praying for another). There are many methods and disciplines of prayer. Clearly, it is more important that we pray rather than get nervous over how we pray. I just wanted highlight that this passage is an example in Scripture that demonstrates our heart of prayer here on Tuesday morning. This prayer model is found in several places all over the Bible. When we are praying for a struggle, that is our Inward prayer. When we are joyful and singing praises, that is the Upward prayer. Calling elders to pray over sickness, confessing sins and praying for one another is the example of Outward prayer.
I wanted discuss in more depth the part where it says to “confess sins and pray for one another.” I think it can be a little daunting for people to do this. Most of us don’t want to air out our dirty laundry in front of people right away. It takes trust and relationship before we can get to this point. The word “confess” in vs 16 is used 10 times in the New Testament and it means what we would normally consider it to mean. You are in a lowly state and you have nowhere else to turn, so you ask a trusted companion to pray with you. This word also means to profess, giving it a slightly more positive undertone. Professing is an open acknowledgement. This gives confession a little bit of a makeover. We can understand it more now as an agreement to change–a way for us to engage in self-awareness and accountability.
Continuing on, this passage encourages us to pray for one another. “One another” implies mutuality, a shared confession. You are praying for me, and I am praying for you.
What might this look like in a prayer group setting? Let’s suppose I ask one of you to hold up a 10 lb. weight for me, high up above your head. The weight represents our burdens in life–our struggles and temptations to sin. For a while you can manage the weight, but then it starts to get heavy. The longer you hold it up, the more difficult it becomes. Then imagine, one of your prayer group partners comes along, takes hold of one side of that weight and helps you hold it up. That would be a big relief, wouldn’t it? This is a picture of what outward prayer can look like in our groups.
Notice the passage says “therefore, confess your sins to one another” pointing us back to what was mentioned in the prior verses. We all have things going on in our lives
- We all have struggles.
- We all have reason to sing praises.
- We all have dealt with the ill effects of our struggles.
- We all are sinners.
THEREFORE, share these burdens with one another. Tackle them together with prayer.
This leads us to the final thought of why should we pray? Verse 15 tells us that prayer offered in faith brings restoration, healing, and forgiveness. It also mentions in verse 16 that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” When people who are wholly conformed to the will of God pray together, the world changes.
I love how these verses keep it real. Are you encouraged by that? It is a relief to know we don’t have to have it all together. Not only that, but we can come to Christ in prayer this way AND we can come to each other in community as well. We all need space in our lives to work out our salvation in prayer and to come alongside a friend in the process. By praying in a small group, you get the privilege of participating in what God is doing in lives of the women sitting next to you. This allows us to see God work–to testify to His goodness and build authentic community with others. This rhythm of prayer has the power to accomplish much in our lives: restoration, healing, forgiveness, joy.
We are going to end our time with some reflection. Click on the video below. As the music plays, think about where you are in your prayer journey. Do you have a cheerful heart? Take this moment to praise God. Are you in a time of struggle? Take this time to pray and also ask the dear women in your small group to pray for you as well.
Dear Lord, thank you for this time and space today to think through our prayer walk with You. What an amazing gift You have given us . . . this ability to speak with You and connect with You in a profound and meaningful way. I pray that we would embrace this on a daily basis. Thank you also for the gift of praying with the church body. You reminded us in James 5 that big things can happen when a group of Christians fervently pray. May we continually come to You with our joys and burdens. May we also find ways to be transparent through prayer with the women in our small groups. We love You, Lord. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen
Here is the prayer verse for February for those of you who like to use the verse as wallpaper on your mobile devices: