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LET’S PRAY (1): BECOMING A PRAYER FACTORY

(James 5:13)
November 10, 2019

Read James 5:13 – With this simple verse, Jas introduces the last section of
his letter. The subject is prayer -- mentioned 7 times in 6 verses. What else
would you expect from a man nicknamed “Old Camel Knees” for his
persistent prayer life? James knows prayer is a believer’s lifeblood.

This is a simple verse, but beautiful and profound. Its importance is illustrated
by a pastor who asked a little boy if he said his prayers every night. "Yes, sir."
"And, do you always say them in the morning, too?" the pastor asked. "No
sir," the boy replied. "I ain't scared in the daytime." Well, it’s good to pray at
night, but it’s far better to pray all the time in every circumstance. This is Jas’
version of Paul’s instruction in I Thess 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”

Jas refers to the extreme ends of the spectrum of life: suffering and
cheerfulness. He says, “If you’re suffering, pray; if things are great, praise,”
which implies prayer. So whether things are really good or really bad, pray.
Naturally, that implies praying in between as well. Jas’ message is, “Whatever
life is dishing out to you – good, bad or middle – pray. You can’t live a Xn
life without it. Prayer is how you stay in touch with headquarters.”

Of course, praying without ceasing doesn’t mean literally every second. We


work and play and even sleep. But the idea is, “Don’t get out of the habit.”
Have regular prayer times. But at a deeper level, both Jas and Paul are saying,
even when you move on to other tasks, keep the line open! Seek God’s
perspective and help on everything – confess sin immediately, and thank Him
as things happen. Don’t hang up. Stay engaged throughout your day.

Theologian Charles Hodge said, “In my childhood I came nearer to ‘Pray


without ceasing’ than in any other period of my life. I had the habit of
thanking God for everything I received, and asking him for everything I
wanted. If I lost a plaything, I prayed that I might find it. I prayed walking
along the streets, in school and out of school, whether playing or studying. I
did not do this in obedience to any prescribed rule. It seemed natural. I
thought of God as an everywhere-present Being, full of kindness and love,
who would not be offended if children talked to him." Isn’t that good? That’s
just what James is urging – make your heart a continuously running prayer
factory of dependence on the Father. How? Let’s examine Jas’ 2 extremes.

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I. When Suffering – Pray

“Is any among you suffering?” Suffering (κακοπαθεω) can mean affliction of
any kind, but often refers to enduring evil treatment by others. It is used only 2
other places in the NT. In II Tim 2:9, Paul speaks of the gospel, “for which I
am suffering, bound in chains as a criminal.” In II Tim 4:5, speaking of the
difficulties Timothy will encounter from false teachers, Paul urges, “endure
suffering.” The noun form of the verb is found in Jas 5:10 where Paul uses
OT prophets as an example of suffering. So in this context, he really has in
mind suffering inflicted by unfair treatment by others, tho, of course, by
application, it could include disease, discouragement, accident – anything that
causes affliction. Jas says, “When you find yourself in that place – pray.”

But what is our normal reaction when we hit the downside of life?
Unfortunately, prayer is not normally at the top of the list, is it? Not if we’re
honest. Our reactions are varied, but often lacking in perspective and faith.

Often we fall right into self-pity and anger. Why me? If God is good and
loving, how could He let this happen to me? Where was God when this
happened? Normal reaction, and down we go into the cesspool of self-pity.
But that’s a tough place to be. That’s a place that says, “God is not good.”
Self-pity is choosing to live in the neighborhood of “God is not good.” We’ve
chosen to live in a lie – bc God is always good whether it looks like it or not.

Why did Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit and bring down the whole
human race? Bc they thought God was holding out – they moved to “God is
not good” and destroyed the neighborhood. It’s our choice, but God doesn’t
want us there. I Pet 2:19) For this is a gracious thing when, mindful of God,
one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. [It’s a gift!] 20) For what credit
is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do
good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
21) For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you,

leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” The cure for
self-pity – get your mind off self and onto Jesus. You do that thru prayer.

An example: A missionary, Eric Frykenberg, met a man in Dundee, Scotland,


who’d broken his neck at 15 and been confined to bed for 40 years. But his
spirit was unbroken, his cheerfulness inspiring a constant stream of visitors.
One asked, “Doesn’t Satan ever tempt you to doubt God’s goodness?” The
man replied, “Of course. I see old schoolmates living productive lives and
Satan says, ‘If God is good, why does He keep you here all these years? Why
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did He let you break your neck?’” The visitor asked, “So what do you do
when Satan whispers those things?” The man replied, “Why, I take him to
Calvary, show him Christ, point to his deep wounds and say, ‘You see, he
does love me.’ Satan has no answer for that. He flees every time.” Good
answer. Godly answer. Self-pity cannot stand before the goodness of God.

Another reaction to suffering is fear. What’s going to happen to me? How can
I endure this? Paralyzing fear! Assumes God is powerless. But Phil 4:6-7: do
not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7) And the peace
of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your
minds in Christ Jesus.” Fear is a tough neighborhood. Move back to Trust.

Other times, we doubt. This thing is tough. I wonder if God even exists. Or if
He does, does He care? Heb 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to
please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists
AND that he rewards those who seek him.” Don’t live in the Doubt
subdivision. Move to Faith.

Or our first reaction may be revenge. I’ll get even if it’s the last thing I do. Far
from praying, we’re seeking our own bloody solution. Revenge is so sweet.
But Rom 12:19: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath
of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” It
takes lot of prayer to leave that neighborhood. But for Him, we must!

How about escape (into alcohol or drugs) or just giving up. Very natural
reaction, right? Joni Eareckson Tada begged a friend to give her an overdose
when life dealt her the severe blow of quadriplegia from of a diving accident.
Who among us might not have done the same? Or how many people leave
God behind when someone offends them. Giving up on faith. Jesus speaks to
that. Mark 13:13b: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” It’s
not the endurance that saves, but it is the endurance that demonstrates the faith
is real. How do you endure? Prayer. Lu 18:1, “And he told them a parable to
the effect that they ought always to and pray and not lose heart.”

You get the point. We have a lot of reactions to suffering. But the only one
that helps – is pray. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” But pray
how? Pray for what?

First reaction – pray for relief. “Get me out of this.” Appropriate prayer? Yes.
David prayed it often in the psalms. But read closely. God often answered not
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by providing immediately relief, but providing a new vision of Himself. God
often answers by pointing away from the circumstance to the God of the
circumstance. “Get me out of this.” Good prayer? Sure. When Peter was
sinking into the waves, he prayed, “Lord, save me!” (Mt 14:30). Jesus did.

But there’s an even better prayer. “Let him pray.” For what? How about
endurance. That’s an even better prayer. Know why? Bc you and I don’t
know why we’re suffering. We don’t know whether it’s best to have relief or
not. But God does. That’s why “Help me endure whatever you ask” is an
even better prayer. God wants to perfect us, not relieve us of all pain. So he
says in Jas 1:2) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various
kinds, 3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4)
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and
complete, lacking in nothing.” That’s God’s will for your life and mine and
our prayers ought to align us with His desire.

Paul tells Timothy II Tim 4:5, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure
suffering.” He doesn’t say, “Avoid suffering, or pray out of it.” He says,
“Endure it.” God doesn’t promise relief; He does promise endurance. Heb
10:36: “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will
of God you may receive what is promised.” Suffering grows us as nothing else
does. When you see the doc, you don’t tell him what to prescribe, right? Well,
God is the great physician. Tell where it hurts, where you think you need
relief. But let Him prescribe and trust His answer. Prayer is about trusting
God to give you what you would ask for if you knew everything He knows.

Philip Yancy had a five-hour delay at O’Hare airport heading to a Xn


conference. He ran into a wise woman headed to the same conference. They
began to talk and shared stories of hardship and suffering. But at the end the
woman said, “Philip, do you ever just let God love you? It’s pretty important,
I think.” That’s Jas point, Beloved. Psalm 103:17: “But the steadfast love of
the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him.” That love
didn’t stop when our suffering began, so we may be sure that in some way it is
an expression of His love. Seek relief, but seek endurance, too. Pray

II. When Sanguine – Praise

So what about when things are good? You’re cheerful – in high spirits. Then
praise, another form of prayer. But hardly our natural reaction, is it? When
we’ve got good news, having a good day, facing favorable circumstances,
what do we do? Celebrate, right? Throw a party, revel in our good fortune,
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take the afternoon off, dinner out, go on a shopping spree. Worst case, we may
even find occasion to boast, or gloat – making sure everyone knows of our
success. The last thing we think about is God’s part in all of this.

But God urges, “Think of me first!” Give praise where praise is due – to Him,
not to yourself. You say, “But I worked hard for this. I deserve to enjoy it.”
So enjoy it – but remember who gave you life, who gave the ability you’ve
used, who gave you the opportunity, who gave you good health, and who gave
the increase? Paul reminded in I Cor 4:7b: “What do you have that you did
not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive
it?” Turn good times into an occasion for, not for self-promotion.

Self-promotion is dangerous. Know why? Isa 48:11: “For my own sake, for
my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will
not give to another.” Why did God allow this good thing into your life? For
His glory. We profane His name when we take the credit and draw the
attention to ourselves. We’re touching glory that belongs to Him. As hard as it
is to see God in the bad times, sometimes it’s even harder to give Him the
credit due Him in the good times. We don’t need Him, we lose focus on Him
and very shortly are out of touch altogether. And when we lose touch with
Him, we lost touch with reality.

Joe DiMaggio became a baseball star, then went away for 3 years during
WWII. He returned home in late 1945 and attended a game at Yankee Stadium
with his son, Joe, Jr. Naturally people noticed and soon took up the chant,
“Joe, Joe, Joe DiMaggio. Joe, Joe, Joe DiMaggio.” Joe smiled down at his
son and the boy said, “See, Dad. Everybody loves me.” Well, that’s just how
we are when we start exulting in our own success as tho we created it. Never
true – always a gift from God – and for His name’s sake, not ours.

Contrast that with Russ Busby, a photographer who saw Graham in the
company of the world’s elite concluded the reason God has so used him is that
Graham always led people not to himself, but to God. He quoted a student at
the Pittsburgh school of evangelism said, “I went to Philadelphia to meet a
great man (Billy Graham) and I came home with no other desire than to
serve the Gospel of a great Savior.” That’s getting the praise going the right
direction – and that comes from a lifestyle of praying without ceasing.

Conc – So what is Jas’ point in this introduction before he gets into the details
of prayer? He is saying, “Make prayer a lifestyle. Pray at both extremes and
pray in the middle.” Make your heart a prayer factory. Talk to Him as you
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would a friend. Tell Him your joys and sorrows; your victories and
frustrations, your faith and your doubts, your loves and your anger. Share your
joys with Him and share your weaknesses with Him. But always looking for
His perspective – sure in the knowledge that He has one and that His is best.
Share your suffering and share your cheer.

I love the true story of the little girl whose mom asked her one morning,
“Jessica, did you say your prayers last night?” The little girl answered, “Well,
I got down on my knees and started to pray. But then I thought, ‘I bet God
gets awfully tired of hearing the same old prayer over and over.’ So I
crawled into bed and told him the story of the three bears.” Oh, to have that
kind of relationship with the Father. Prayer is how we can live with Him day
and night.

And you know, you really can’t separate prayer and praise. Paul tells us we
should even “rejoice in our sufferings,” (Rom 5:3), knowing they will grow
us. So Denise Jackson found out when her husband, country-singer, Alan, left
her a few years ago. Friends rallied around her and began praying with her
about the situation. But one came one day and said, “Denise, we love you and
we’re all for you. But we need a different prayer. A bigger prayer. We need
to pray not that Alan will come back, but that you will be the woman God is
calling you to be. Of course we want Alan to come back. But that’s
secondary. The first thing right now is that you seek God with all your heart,
not Alan. My prayer is that God will show you what incredible love He has
for you.” Alan eventually returned, but the point is to develop a heart that is a
prayer factory – in good times AND bad. Let’s pray.