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INTRODUCTION: Take your Bibles, open to the Book of James chapter 5. We are going to finish this series that we began in the Book of James that we have called “Living Faith”. And today we come to chapter 5 verse 13 in the Book of James. And James forces us to ask ourselves the question, as we have been studying you know this already, but it forces us to ask the question, “Is my faith a real faith? Is my faith a living faith? How can I know that my faith is real and my faith is genuine?” That is really the whole issue that we have discovered here in the Book of James. And James gives us one test after another to find out whether our faith is a genuine faith. How do I respond to trials? How do I deal with temptation when it comes in my life? Am I a hearer of the word only? Or am I a hearer and a doer of the word? Am I practicing God’s word in my life? Do I practice real love, or do I show partiality in my faith? Does my faith result in good works? Am I working out my faith in the good deeds that I do? How do I control my tongue? These are all issues that we have studied as we have gone through this epistle, the Book of James. And now we come to one question as we get to chapter 5 verse 13 down to verse 20. The question that we really have to ask our self here is, “Do I have an effective prayer life?” That is really the issue here. Do I practice effective prayer? You can tell whether your faith is real or not by your prayer life. Do you even have a prayer life? One of the most frightening sermons I have ever heard, or actually I never heard the sermon I read it, was preached by a man by the name of Jonathan Edwards. It was called “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer”. As I read that sermon, it was a very fearful sermon. The whole theme of it was this, you can tell whether or not you are a true believer by engaging in regular secret prayer. And what he was basically saying is that if you are not engaged in prayer, if you don’t have a prayer life, he is saying that basically you are not converted. Let me just read you a little portion of what he said. “I would exhort those who have entertained a hope of their being true converts, and yet since their supposed conversion have left off the duty of secret prayer to throw away their hope. If you have left off calling upon God, it is time for you to leave off hoping and flattering yourselves with an imagination that you are a child of God.” Those are strong words, aren’t they? That is strong preaching. But yet James may agree with him, because as we come to this passage, he talks about prayer, effective prayer, the power of effective prayer. James was a pastor and he knew how important it was for believers to pray. He, himself, was a man of prayer. As a matter of fact, James had a nickname, do you know what it is? He was called “Camel knees”. I do not think you ought to give your pastors nicknames. Don’t give me one, okay? (Laughter) But they called James “Camel knees”. And you know why? Because he would go into the temple and he would kneel and he would pray for such long hours that he developed knots on his knees, and that is why they called him that. So James believes in effective prayer. He practiced it. Not only did he preach about it, not only did he write about it, but he practiced it. And so we need to do the same.
So let me give you two things here in our passage that I see. First James gives us an exhortation for effective prayer, we are going to look at that. And then secondly, we are going to look at an example of effective prayer. But first the . . .
I. EXHORTATION FOR EFFECTIVE PRAYER. Seven times in this section James mentions prayer. Seven times in these short verses. And yet this is perhaps the weakest area of the church. Someone said the church is an army that marches forward on its knees. And that is true. And if we are not kneeling, we are not marching, and so we need to pray. That is the most effective weapon that we have today and yet it seems to be the weakest thing in the church.
Now James in the first part of this passage gives us four circumstances or four scenarios when effective prayer is necessary. Let me give you the first one, first of all . . .
A. In Seasons of Suffering. Look again in verse 13, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” Now the word for afflicted here is a Greek word that simply means “to suffer”. Someone who is suffering hardships, someone who is suffering troubles, someone who is in great distress. James says if there is anyone here like that, if you are going through sorrow and suffering and hardship, then you pray. When he says “Let him pray”, this is an imperative in the Greek which is a command. James is not giving a suggestion. He is not saying “I suggest that you pray.” He is saying, “You pray.” It is a command. If you are going through suffering, you are going through distress, you are going through hardship, pray. Now there are several reasons why this is good. First of all, when you pray in times of suffering and trouble, God might remove the trouble. He may remove the source of suffering. Sometimes God will do that. When you are going through that distress, God will remove the problem. But secondly, when God chooses not to remove the problem, when God chooses not to remove the suffering, he gives you grace to endure it. He gives you the help to endure it. 2 Corinthians 12, Paul had a thorn in the flesh and Paul said, “Three times I prayed. Three times I asked God to remove it from me.” And God basically said, “No, my grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” And Paul said, “Okay, I accept that. Then I am going to glory in my weakness. I am going to glory in my infirmity that the power of God might rest upon me.” And so sometimes God will keep the suffering in our life, he will keep the problem in because he wants us to learn that his grace is sufficient and he wants us to depend upon him. But thirdly this is good because prayer will help us to submit to the sovereign plan of God for our life. It brings us into submission. You see, prayer changes things, but the thing it changes is us. And sometimes God will bring a dark providence into our life. And when that dark providence comes, we can pray that God will remove it and if he doesn’t remove it then we trust him for the grace and also we learn to submit to what God is trying to do. And so James says, “If you are suffering, if you are going through times of difficulty, pray.
But here is the second situation, not only in times of suffering, but also . . .
B. In Seasons of Singing. Look at the next phrase in verse 13, “Is any among you are inflicted? let him pray. is any merry? let him sing psalms.” And so in seasons of singing. The word “merry” here is a word that means cheerful or happy. These are people who are rejoicing over the goodness of God in their lives. They are rejoicing over the providential hand of God’s blessing. Sometimes God will give us dark providences and sometimes God will give us delightful providences. Sometimes God will do wonderful things in our life and when that happens we should praise him for it. We should give him thanks. Now some people are saying, “Now wait a minute here. He is talking about prayer and then all of a sudden he talks about praise.” Well, let me tell you something, they are related. When you praise God you are also praying. Prayer is not just asking. Prayer is also praising him and worshiping him. Both are acts of worship. Both are times when we are talking to God. And so praise, in a sense is a form of prayer. When we come to this church and we sing, we are in a way praying to him. We are praising him. We don’t do it for entertainment. We don’t do it as a show. Some people get the idea when you come to church there are people on the platform, they are the performers and you all are the spectators, and when the performance is done you should clap for them. And there is nothing wrong with clapping, that is okay, but what I am saying is that all that we do we do it unto God. It is praise to him. Okay? That is why I believe in a lot of singing. Because here the Bible commands us to pray, “Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.” Again, a command. When you come to God’s house you should be ready to bring your worship with you. I don’t have to have some kind of, certain type of music to get me in the mood of worship. I bring my worship with me to church. Okay? I can worship anywhere. I can worship in my van. I did a lot of time driving in that van. I better learn to worship in it, you know. (Laughter) I worship in my van. Sometimes people look over at me in my van and go, “What in the world is he doing?” I am talking, I am praising, I’m praying. I can worship in my office. Anywhere. I bring my worship with me. And that is the way it is to be in God’s house. The Bible says in Psalms 105 verse 2, “Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works.” And that is what we are supposed to do.
Now here is another situation. In Seasons of Suffering we pray, in Seasons of Singing, but also . . .
C. In Seasons of Sickness. He mentions this, look in verse 14, “Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” And so here is another scenario here, another problem, and that is if a person is sick. Now the word for sick here means weak. Now as I study this, I have found in a lot of commentaries that there are some that have a different translation of what this word sick might mean. The word can mean spiritual weakness, or it can mean physical sickness. So the question is what does it mean? What is he talking about here? There are some, many actually, who say really he is talking about spiritual weakness here. It can mean either word, but the context is really what determines how this word is to be interpreted. And I believe that what James is referring to here is physical sickness. And let me tell you some reasons why. First of all the sick person was to call for the elders of the church. That suggests to me that this person is bedridden. This person is unable to go to them, they must come to him. That to me implies that he is talking about a physical sickness. But also the word for sick in verse 15 is a different word than the one in verse 14. The word in verse 15 means to wear out and it suggests a sickness and exhaustion that accompanies physical illness. And so I think that is another reason that we can say this is physical sickness, also the word for sick in verse 14 can refer to spiritual weakness, but when that happens in the New Testament there is always a qualifier there that lets the reader know that this is talking about something spiritual. We don’t have a qualifier here. In other places it talks about weakness in conscience or in faith. Those qualifiers help us to see that it is talking about something spiritual. Here, I think it is not there, so I think it is talking about physical sickness. The word for save in verse 15, “save the sick”, is used frequently in the gospel to speak about physical healing. And then the passage also talks about anointing with oil. In Mark 6 verse 13 it says, “And they cast out many devils, and anointed them with oil many that were sick.” So, the anointing with oil was related to physical illness. All that to simply say that I think that what James is talking about here is a person who is physically sick, who is bedridden. It is a serious illness, so serious that he calls for the elders of the church to come and pray for him. The elders are the leaders of the church, the pastors, those who are leaders in the church are to come and pray. And the procedure is, the Bible says, first they anoint the sick person with oil, they anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And again, there is a lot of different interpretations as to what this anointing with oil means. So what does it mean? Well, some say it means practical medicine. That oil was used in this time to bring healing. The Good Samaritan, when he found the man who had fallen among thieves, anointed him with oil. He poured oil into his wounds. And so this is talking about practicing medicine, just giving them oil to help heal the wounds. I don’t think that is what this is talking about here. Again, I will give you some reasons why. I think the sickness that James refers to here demands more than just an oil to help him get well. This is a serious illness. It demands more than that. Also, I don’t believe that God is telling us that he wants his pastors to go around rubbing people down with oil. Okay, that is not in my calling. I am not going to go around rubbing the saints down with oil. I don’t think that is what it is referring to here. And the context of the passage suggests that the cure for the illness is prayer. Prayer is what brings the cure. Effective prayer. That is the thing. That is what’s in view here. You say, “Well then what is the oil for?” The oil is symbolic, and the oil speaks about the Holy Spirit and the power of the Holy Spirit. And it lets us know that God is the one who heals, and God can bring healing. Just like in the Old Testament, a person was anointed with oil, it symbolize that the Holy Spirit would give them the enablement and the power to do the ministry that they were called to. Here, the oil is symbolic, that it is the Holy Spirit who is able to bring healing to that person. Let me tell you something, I believe in a God who heals. I believe that God can heal. And I believe that God will heal. And that is what he is talking about here. God is Jehovah Rapha. He is the One who heals. Thank God for good doctors and good hospitals and good nurses, they are all a blessing from him. But God has also put healing within the body. God has given within our own human body the incredible ability to bring healing. I was reading about the former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and he wrote this, he said, “I don’t know how many operations I have actually performed in my surgical career, about 17,000 of one type and 7,000 of another. I was successful. I had a reputation for success. Patients were coming to me from all over the world, and one of the things that endeared me to the parents of my patients was the way my incisions healed.” And then he goes on to say this, “I was the one who put the edges together, but it was God who coagulated the serum. It was God who sent the fibroblasts across the skin edges. It was God who had the fibroblasts make collagen, and there were probably about fifty other complicated processes involved about which you and I will never know. But did God come down and instruct the fibroblasts to behave that way?” He says in a sense he did. God is the one who brings healing. It is all of God. And I believe that is true. And that is what we need to realize here. And so James says, “Listen, you let them call for the elders of the church and let them come and let them anoint them with oil and then pray.” And look again in verse 15, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up.” And so here is the thing, when you pray, you pray in faith. James says, remember he reminded us in chapter 1, “When you come, don’t come wavering, don’t come doubting but pray in faith.” Here I think he is again mentioning the same thing, when you pray for the sick person you pray in faith. And the prayer of faith will raise him up. Now again, it is very easy to misunderstand what is going on here. It seems to imply that all who pray in faith will be healed. And I emphasize when I say all who pray. James was not intended to say that all who pray would be healed or only those who have faith when they pray will be healed. That is not what he is really talking about here. And again there are some things to consider. First of all, God does reward faith. We know that in the Bible. As a matter of fact, if you look through the gospels you will find Jesus preforming miracles for people to reward their faith. We see and use the phrase, “Your faith has made you whole.” And so Jesus does reward faith. But also remember that Jesus healed people that didn’t really have faith, who clearly did not express faith. When Jesus raised the dead, that dead person didn’t express any faith, they couldn’t. When Jesus cast out the demon, again that person could not express faith in Christ. As a matter of fact, sometimes Jesus preformed miracles and healing for people who did not have any faith at all. And he did it because they didn’t have faith. He performed a miracle to provoke them to believe, to stimulate their faith. And then he would say, “Listen, if you don’t believe my words believe my works. Believe on me for the things that I do.” So he would do miracles of healing to promote faith, you see. And so God does reward faith, but also remember this, God does not always heal because of faith. You say, “What do you mean by that?” A person’s faith might be great, and yet God in his will choose not to heal. For some purpose that he has, and we don’t know. You say, “Well, give me an example of that.” The apostle Paul, he prayed. He said, “God remove this thing from me.” And God said, “No.” Now there were times when Paul would lay hands upon a person and they would be healed. And yet we also read in the New Testament where Paul had friends, his dear friend Epaphroditus was sick unto death and Paul did not heal him. He may have tried, but he was not healed. And so there were times when God chose not to heal. And here is the thing that you have to realize, in prayer the most important thing that you have to realize is “Thy will be done.” God, your will be done. And so submit to God’s will. A true prayer is the echo of eternal purpose, and we are submitted to that will. And sometimes it is not always God’s will to heal, and sometimes it is, but it is all according to him. It is all according to what the Lord will purpose. And so he says that “the Lord will raise him up, and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him,” in verse 15. Now that is very interesting. Why would James say that? Why would he say, “if they committed sins”? I think that he is saying that because he is giving us the possibility that sickness sometimes is due to sin. A person might be sick because of their sin. Now that whole idea might sound offensive to us. We might say, “Man, would God do that?” Well remember this that in Jesus’ day people had the tendency to over spiritualize illness. They believed that all sickness was related to sin. Remember one time the disciples came to Jesus and they were talking about a blind man. They said, “Jesus, who did sin? Did this man sin, or did his parents sin that he was born blind?” And what did Jesus say? Jesus said, “Neither. But that the works of God might be made manifest.” He was born blind that God might show his glory through him. And sometimes God will allow sickness and suffering to come upon a person so that God can reveal his glory through that individual. And by the way, if God has called you to that ministry that is a great ministry. To reveal the glory of God. And so Jesus said, “No one.” And so in that day they overemphasized or over spiritualized the illness. Now today, what we do today is we de-spiritualize the illness. We do not believe that any sickness is related to sin. We say, “Well, it is the defective genes or it’s microbes or it’s bacteria,” or we explain it away as that. We don’t believe that any sickness is related to sin. Except, perhaps in the obvious cases of cirrhosis of the liver or sexual transmitted diseases. Other than that, we don’t believe that sickness is related to sin. But what we have to do is get the biblical balance on this. And we have to understand that the Bible teaches that sometimes, illness sometimes, sickness is related to sin and sometimes it is not. You see, that is what the Bible says. Jesus said to one man, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Then he healed the crippled man. Jesus said to another man, a crippled man by the Pool of Siloam, he said, “Stop sinning, lest a worst thing happen to you.” He healed him and he said, “Don’t sin or something worse could happen to you.” And so, that sickness was related to sin. Paul told the Corinthians, he said, “Listen, this is why many are weak and sickly among you and some are even in the grave, some are even dead.” Why? They were abusing the Lord’s supper. They were sinning against God, and God was judging them by bringing sickness into their life. David in Psalm 32 realized that his physical illness was due to his sin. This is what he said, “When I kept silent, my bones waxed old through my roaring all day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” That is all describing physical sickness or illness. So what did David do? This is what he said, “I acknowledge my sin unto thee, in my iniquity have I not hid? I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” And so sometimes it is appropriate to do a spiritual examination when sickness enters into your life. And so sometimes God will choose to heal in his on sovereign will, and sometimes he will choose to allow the sickness to remain. And when he does, it is for the glory of God. He has a greater purpose.
This speaks to the next situation. We need effective prayer . . .
D. In Seasons of Sin. As well, look in verse 16, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” And James says, “Listen, that is why we confess our faults. We confess our sins that we might be healed.” Now, James does not mean to go around confessing all of our sins to any and everybody. He is not telling us to do that. There are two cases in the Bible when we are to confess our faults to someone else. The first case is for restoration. If I have sinned against a person, I am to go to that person and I am to ask his forgiveness. If it is a known open sin. Okay? Now if I have had mean thoughts about a person, I do not need to walk up to them and say, “Do you know what? I have had mean thoughts about you for a long time.” (Laughter) “And I want you to forgive me for that.” Don’t do that. But now, if you have sinned directly against an individual, then you should go and ask for their forgiveness. You should go and you should tell them that you are wrong. Basically, the circle of confession should follow the circle of sin. Private sins, private confession to the one you sinned against or the few that you sinned against. Public sin, public confession. If you have offended many for your sin, then you should confess publically. And then secondly, is accountability. The Bible says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Here is another reason when we go and we confess to another is that I want to be accountable or I need help. I might have a struggle in a spiritual area and I need another person to help me through, and so I find someone who is spiritual, someone who is wise, someone who is discrete, and someone who can keep a confidence. And I say, “Would you be accountable and would you help me bear this burden in my life?” And that happens sometimes, and it’s good. But even then you have to be careful who you choose to help you with sin, to be accountable to. Make sure that they are someone you can trust. You heard about the three preachers on a boat fishing? One preacher began confessing all of his sins and boy, it was shocking. The next preacher said, “Well, I am going to confess mine.” And he started confessing all of his sins, and boy they were even worse. And then the third preacher was there and he was silent and they looked at him. And finally he said, “Well, brethren, my sin is gossip, and I can’t wait to get off this boat.” (Laughter) You need to be very careful who you confess to. And it is for accountability. But James says, “Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another that you might be healed.” Look down in verse 19, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his was shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” And so, we help each other out through our confession and prayers for them. The word error in verse 19 means to go astray. Here is a person who wanders off into sin. We should pray for that person. Effective prayer for him or her. And by the way, this is errorest in the Greek which means it is a one-time occasion. A believer does not live in habitual pattern of sin. They don’t continue to sin and sin and sin. That is not the verb here. The verb is errorest, a one-time slip or a one-time fall, an occasion where they fall into sin. The Bible says you should go to them, pray for them, help them. And then the word convert means to turn. You try to turn them. You try to turn them back to God. And the Bible says that if you do that you cover a multitude of sins, and the idea here is forgiveness. This is a reference to forgiveness. When we help a person to come back onto the path and they confess their sins to God and they repent, God covers that sin. That is forgiveness. You see when we try to hide our sins, God will uncover them. But when we come to God and we confess our sins, he will cover them up in the sea of his forgiveness. They are covered. And the Bible says that if you help bring a person back, then you helped to cover a multitude of sins. David said, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” And of course they are covered by the blood of Christ.
And so James says, “Listen, we need to pray. We need effective prayer.” In Seasons of Suffering, pray. In Seasons of Singing, praise. In Seasons of Sickness, we need to pray for that person. In Seasons of Sin, we need to pray for that individual. Bring them back to God. But then here is the second thing. James gives us an . . .
II. EXAMPLE OF EFFECTIVE PRAYER. And who is the example? Look in verse 17, “Elias,” or Elijah, “was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” James gives us the example of Elijah. Now, to the Jewish audience that James wrote to he did not need to say a lot. They knew Elijah. Many times New Testament writers would just give some brief facts because they trusted that their peers, or the readers knew all about what they were saying. And these people knew, they knew Elijah. They knew that Elijah came on the scene in the nation of Israel at a time when the nation had plunged into idolatry. People were replacing the God of their fathers with Baal. And that was a horrible thing, a horrible time in Israel. As a matter of fact, this wholesale idolatry almost affected the nation in a permanent way. And so here comes Elijah. And Elijah, his name means my God is Yahweh. And Elijah, do you know what he does? He prays. By the way, Baal was a god that was, in ancient inscriptions he had lightning bolts in his hands. He was the god of the water cycle. According to them, he controlled the rain. He controlled the water that fell into the earth, and the clouds. And Elijah came along, and do you know what Elijah did? He turned a nation back to God. And how did he do it? He did it through prayer. Do you know what he did? He prayed. He said, “God, shut up the heavens that it might not rain.” And guess what? It did not rain. You say, “Well, that’s not a big deal.” Oh yeah? It did not rain for three years. That is a big deal. For that long. What was Elijah showing? God is the real God. Yahweh is the real God, not Baal. Baal is not the one who controls the rain, God the Father, God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Yahweh God he is the one that is in control, Baal is nothing. So he prayed, and the people began to see that Baal was not real. And so his prayers literally turned a nation and a people back to God and the point is simply this, you can have an effective prayer life. You can be an Elijah. Now, I know that is hard for you to comprehend, but that is the whole point of what he is trying to say. You can have effective prayer. You can be like an Elijah. You can bring a people back to God through your prayers. That is what he is trying to say.
And notice some of the things that he says about Elijah. First of all, notice . . .
A. The Integrity of Elijah. First of all he calls him a righteous man. Elijah’s prayers are effective because he was a righteous man. That is, he kept his sins confessed before God. It did not mean that he was sinless. It just meant that he kept his sins confessed. You say, “Man, I’ve tried to pray and God doesn’t answer my prayer.” Maybe it is because you are harboring sin in your life. Maybe it is because you have not forsaken that sin. The Bible says, “The effectual fervent prayers of a righteous man.” So there has to be that cleansing in your life.
But secondly, not only do we see the Integrity of Elijah, we see . . .
B. The Identity of Elijah. Notice what he says in verse 17, “Elijah was a man subject to like passions.” What does that mean? It is interesting that he gives this identity to Elijah. He does not say, “The man who was carried to heaven on a chariot, the great prophet of Israel.” He does not say that. He said, “Elijah was a man who was just like us, he had like passions.” What does that mean? He was a son of Adam. He had a sin nature. He was a sinner just like you and I. He was just a man. Sometimes we have the tendency to relegate saints in the Bible to be super saints that they have gotten to a level that we could never obtain. Do you know what the writer of James here is trying to tell us, “Look, Elijah was just a normal man. The only difference between him and me and you is that he prayed. He laid hold of God. He was fervent in his prayer.” That is what he wants to point out. He was cut out of the same cloth as us.
But also notice . . .
C. The Intensity of Elijah. It says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man” in verse 16. That is, the word “effectual” here is from the enegeo, where we get the word energy. Praying is work. We have to pray with energy. We have to pray with intensity. Thomas Brooks said, “Cold prayers always freeze before they reach heaven.” Spurgeon said, “He who prays without fervency does not pray at all. We cannot commune with God, who is a consuming fire if there is no fire in our prayers.” And that is true. Now I got to see this one time when I was a younger pastor in my twenties. I had a preacher come to my church to preach, some of you might know this name, J. Harold Smith. He was a great preacher. And I had Dr. J. Harold Smith come to my church and preach. He was in his eighties at that time. And he told me one night, it was the night at the church, I am going to preach my sermon “God’s Three Deadlines”. In case you don’t know, “God’s Three Deadlines” was an incredibly powerful sermon that J. Harold Smith would preach, and he always had great results with it. So I was kind of excited to find out how this was going to go. And I remember I went to the hotel to pick him up that day and he was eighty years old and so I went around and opened the door for him and helped him in and got in the car and began driving. And he said, “Brother Jerry, you just drive I am going to pray.” And I remember that he began to pray in the car out loud, fervently. I mean he was fogging up the windows. I had to turn on the defroster. And he was crying out to God. He was laying hold of God. And by the time we got to church, he was just soaked with sweat. He was soaked. And I couldn’t believe it. And then by the time he got up and he preached, and he preached with power and forty people got saved. And I thought, you know the secret of that is his prayer. Effectual prayer. Don’t tell me that effectual prayer does not change things, it does. And God blesses it. And James says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And we need to understand that. We need to believe that. And we need to get involved in effectual prayer for God to bring many unto himself.
Now here is the last thing . . .
D. The Intimacy of Elijah. The Bible says, “He prayed again and the heavens gave forth rain.” This tells me that Elijah prayed not just once. He prayed often. And that is the key to prayer. It is like spiritual breathing. We should remain in the spirit of prayer. Again, I quote Spurgeon. He said “It is well to have regular hours for devotion. And to resort to the same place for prayer as far as possible. Still, the spirit is better even than the habit of prayer.” The Bible says, “Pray without ceasing.” And so we do have times when we go and we meet with the Lord and we pray fervently, but also there are times when we have to stay in the spirit of prayer and we are constantly praying. That is what God honors. The habit of prayer and the spirit of prayer. The Puritans called this practicing the presence of God. Knowing that God’s presence is always there. Always being in that spirit of prayer. And I believe that if God’s people will begin to pray effectively, God will do great things on behalf of his people.
CONCLUSION: Let me just close with this. I was reading about the Holy Street Revival. There was a man who just got saved, his name was Jeremiah Lanfear. And he wanted to do something for God, he did not know what. So he decided that he was going to start a prayer meeting. And he printed up handbills and he talked about a location where they would pray. And he handed out those handbills and he went to this certain building, this location to an upstairs room where he would have this time of prayer. And he went there at the appointed time and he waited, and one person showed up. So he prayed. And they said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. Let’s do this again and we will see what happens.” And so they came back the next week and they prayed. But, do you know what? While they were praying two more guys walked in. And so it doubled. And so they did it the next time, and this time there were sixteen people that came. And they did it again and this time there were fifty people there. And they met again and this time there was a hundred. And then they outgrew the prayer room. They had to find another place. And then it exploded. Businessmen from all over the city of New York began to come in prayer meetings. And then it went up the coast, and then it went down the coast. And then it went west all the way to Chicago. And one person visiting America that day said you could not go to any place in America at noon without seeing some businessman in prayer on their face before God. And that brought a tremendous revival. And that was right before a titanic event in the history of our nation in America called the Civil War. Many young men got saved as a result of the prayers of those people and then lost their lives on the battlefield. Prayer changes things. And I believe that if God’s people will set their heart and their mind to seek God, there is no end to the blessing that God will bring. Let’s pray together. Father, we thank you for this message that James gives us. God, I pray that we would take it to heart. God, make us people of effectual prayer. Help us, Lord, to lay hold upon you this year in 2008 like we never have before. Help us, Lord, to cry out knowing, Lord, that you are a God who hears and answers prayer. So many people Lord that we need to pray for. So many that are sick. So many that are in sin that have never called upon the name of the Lord for salvation. O God, help us pray for them. Help us Lord to lay hold of heaven. And help us to see great things happen as a result, for your glory Lord, not for ours. Not so that we can boast, but Lord for your glory and your glory alone. Speak to our hearts today we pray. Heads are bowed and eyes are closed. We are going to give an invitation today. If God has spoken to your heart, I want to invite you to respond. You can come. We have plenty of room up here for you to come if God has spoken to you.
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You Have Hope exists to preach the clear, inspired, sufficient Word of God without compromise and with true conviction, so that listeners learn, understand, and trust the Hope which God has provided in His Word.
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