Saturday, January 28, 2017

James: Week 6: POWERFUL PRAYER

WEEK SIX: POWERFUL PRAYER 

DAY ONE: PRAYING FOR WISDOM
  1. 1)  Read our focus passages, James 1:5-8 and James 3:17. Make note of what stands out to you.


  2. 2)  The admonition to pray for wisdom, found in James 1, comes with a promise offered few times in Scripture.

    a) Take a look at the word translated as let him ask. In what way are we to ask?

    b) Now look at the word translated as who gives. How does God give wisdom? 

    c) Look at Thayer’s Lexicon for the sweetness with which God gives generously

    d) There’s a great word picture in Thayer’s for without reproach. Make note of it.

  3. 3)  Put what you learned in #2 together to find the sweetness of this promise.

  4. 4)  There’s a warning about our asking that can’t be overlooked. Again, follow the links to gather more information.

    a) The word translated as “must ask” is the same as “let him ask” above.


    b) We’ve looked at the word translated as “faith”, pistis, before, but let’s review it. 

    c) What kind of battle does the word translated as “doubt” describe?

    d) What word picture is painted by the words translated as “surf” and “tossed by the wind”?
  1. 5)  Put what you learned in #4 together to understand the chaotic distress of the one who doubts.

  2. 6)  There’s an interesting truth in verse seven about the one who doubts, but still expects to receive wisdom. The word translated as “receive” suggests someone taking something they believe is owed them or belongs to them. How likely is God to allow this kind of “receiving”?


  3. 7)  James 3:17 describes the wisdom from above for which we are encouraged to ask. 

    a) pure

    b) peaceable


    c) gentle


    d) reasonable 

    e) full of mercy

    f) fruits

    g) unwavering

    h) without hypocrisy

  4. 8)  Use what you’ve learned to describe wisdom in greater detail.
PRAYER PAUSE:

We serve a God who is generous beyond measure. When we don’t know what to do, it’s not necessary to struggle, wonder, or agonize. All we have to do, if we lack wisdom, is to ask. God doesn’t sling it at us in anger or hit us in the teeth with it. He’s delighted to give more wisdom than we knew we need, simply because He desires to bless us.
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Savor that truth for a moment.

God makes one thing clear. This waffling back and forth to which we’re so prone will not result in wisdom. Doubt is a chaotic struggle within ourselves that yields only turmoil. Not wisdom.
The wisdom God gives us is so beautiful that it’s nothing less than a gift of Himself. Pure. Peaceable. Gentle. Reasonable.

Think about the last time you needed wisdom. To whom did you turn first? Did you read a self- help book or ask God for wisdom?

According to James, what a disciple of Christ is expected to do when wisdom is needed is simply ask and receive it.

How much of a role does doubt play in your prayer requests? 

What changes do you need to make in your prayer life?


DAY TWO: PRAYING AMISS

James 4:2-4

In our focus passage today, James addresses the issue of unanswered prayer. It’s not God’s fault we don’t receive that for which we’ve asked, James tells us. The problem is with our motivation.

  1. 1)  Read the focus passage, then read it again, aloud. Take notes on what stands out to you.

  2. 2)  James 4:1-2 describes a dreadful picture of believers who were in constant conflict with those around them. They argued and fought, not because they wanted a good outcome or because of a zeal for God. They indulged in conflict because they enjoyed it. It sounds like our media-driven society, doesn’t it?

    There’s no indication that they took these desires to God in prayer, likely because they knew they were not godly.

    a) When their desires rooted in lust were denied, what did they do?

    b) When their desires rooted in envy were denied, what did they do?

  3. 3)  The problem, James told them, was that they didn’t have because they didn’t ask, and if they did, their prayers had nothing of godly intent in them.

    a) Look back at the way God gives wisdom (from yesterday). Compare it with the way
    these believers expected to receive their answers.


    b) What did James say was the problem behind their asking? See kakōs

  4. 4)  Matthew Henry’s commentary on these verses is so profound that it sounds as if he’s been reading the vitriol commonly found on social media sites today. It’s worth following the link to read, and will expand your understanding of the political struggles which James addressed.
PRAYER PAUSE:

These prayers were not “unanswered” prayers. They were answered with a resounding no for one simple reason. They were not motivated by a desire to expand the kingdom of God or to give God pleasure, nor were they motivated by need.
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Their prayers were motivated by their own desires. They wanted what they did not need, and they assumed God would be a kind of “cosmic candy machine,” dispensing the desire of the day whenever they inserted their prayer-coin.

This is not how prayer works.

We have a loving Heavenly Father who delights in giving good things to His children. No good Father would coddle the foolish requests of an overly-spoiled child. He knows what we need, but He will not indulge our lusts.

Think about your prayer life for a few minutes.


a) Which of your prayers have been answered in the last six months?

b) Which of your prayer requests were either delayed or denied?

c) What was the motivation behind the requests that were delayed or denied?

d) How might you change your prayer requests so that you would not “ask amiss”?

DAY THREE: PRAYING FOR PROTECTION

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 nasb

Those words don’t sound much like a directive to prayer, but I believe they are. When we are under attack from the enemy of our soul, we are not powerless. We can have the strength to resist the devil, but it comes after we submit to God.

The preceding verse gives an important introduction to the topic of avoiding the schemes of the devil. God opposes the proud. He gives grace to the humble. THEREFORE, choose humility by submitting to God.
  1. 1)  Let’s dig into this verse to get a better understanding of how we gain protection from the evil one.

    a) submit

    b) resist

    c) flee:

  2. 2)  Use what you learned to expand your insight into James 4:7 and write it here.

  3. 3)  Ephesians 6 broadens our understanding of resisting the devil. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and make notes on what stands out.

  4. 4)  In an encounter of spiritual warfare, the only one who should flee is the enemy. We resist. We stand firm. He flees. Examine Ephesians 6 to find the different levels of authority in the dominion of darkness and make a list here.

  5. 5)  Under what level of authority do we live and serve? 

    a) Matthew 18:18-20
page119image12904 b) Matthew 28:18-20
         
         c) Luke 10:19
  1. 6)  Consider the different levels of authority in the realm of darkness versus the authority of Christ under which we do battle. How often should we be defeated? How often are we? Why is that?


  2. 7)  With what virtues should we clothe ourselves? (Ephesians 6:14-17)

  3. 8)  When most people list the armor of God, they stop at verse 17. I believe verse 18 holds the key to the entire spiritual battle. What is the most neglected piece of weaponry we have?

  4. 9)  The lessons of James prepare us to submit to God, pray and petition in the Spirit, and resist the evil one. How might these lessons be helpful in prayer?

    a) Persevering in trials


    b) Controlling the tongue 

    c) Addressing our sin


    d) Humility


    e) Servanthood (works)

PRAYER PAUSE:
The first question we need to answer as we look at the discipline of praying for protection from the schemes of the devil is so basic we often overlook it.

Do we want to resist sin or not?

If what we want is to remain as sinless as possible, the first step is to make the choice to resist the devil with intention. Let’s do that now, and write our prayer of confession, repentance, and commitment.

Review the battle gear we are to wear for spiritual warfare. How well have you clothed yourself?

Consider the girdle of truth. How much time do you spend studying Scripture in order to know and plant truth in your heart? 

Is it time for change?

If our faith is made evident by our works, how evident is your shield of faith? 

What changes are needed?

Consider your prayer life. How much of prayer time is spent asking for “wants”? 

For needs? 

For protection from the evil one? 

How much time is spent asking for blessings for your children versus asking for them to be made more like Christ?


DAY FOUR: PRAYING AND PRAISING
James 5:13

Suffering will drive us to our knees. If you’ve ever suffered, you know the truth of that statement. Whether the suffering is from physical pain or emotional distress, none of us are exempt. At some point, we will all experience a difficulty that kicks us in the teeth and knocks us nearly out from the shock and agony of it. Illness. Death. Wayward children. Unfaithful spouse. Financial reversals. Betrayal. Hunger. Abuse. Poverty. There’s no end to the opportunity, nor the occasion, of suffering.
James has a simple solution. Are you suffering? Then pray.

1)  The word translated as “ pray” is proseuchomai. This is not a quick prayer on the run. Follow the link to find out more about this specific word usage. (Check Thayer’s, mid-way down)


2)  This same word is used in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Write this three-word verse here.


3)  Our response to suffering should be unceasing prayer and a recollection of the examples of the prophets. What other kind of suffering should cause us to pray? (See Matthew 5:12)

4)  There’s an odd juxtaposition of suffering and cheerfulness in this verse, and it’s not done by accident. Why might James combine these two directives?

5)  Follow the links to learn more about the praise response to a cheerful heart. 

a) cheerful

b) sing praises
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6) James does not say that we should be cheerful and to sing praises only if we have marvelously favorable circumstances. How might prayer in the midst of suffering lead to a cheerful heart and singing of praises?

PRAYER PAUSE:

I’ve suffered before. It drove me to my knees. You probably know the truth of that, too. If you don’t, one day you will. It’s easy to pray when we’re desperate. When we’re filled with joy and everything’s going our way, however, we’re less inclined to prayer. Desperation drives us. Peace, harmony, and prosperity seldom do.

In this verse, neither the prayer nor the singing of praises are accidental. They are, instead, intentional. If we want to be prayer warriors, we must choose to pray. If we want to be worshippers, we must choose to praise and worship our Lord.

The life of a disciple is a choice we make, every single day. What disciple-choice did you make to day?

What disciple-choice do you make most days?

In what ways have you demonstrated a choice concerning prayer?


In what ways have you demonstrated a choice concerning praise?

DAY FIVE: PRAYING FOR HEALING

“...and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise Him up...” James 5:15 nasb

Years ago, a patient came in my office with a rash on her leg. “I had the elders pray over me, but God didn’t heal me yet. The elders said I needed to come see you,” she told me.

I was caught off guard. Did she think God still healed? Yes. She did. So did the members of her church, as it turned out. They “thought” that, because it was true. Most of the time, God healed the problem. Sometimes, He used a doctor to help.

He used a doctor that time, too. Her leg healed with treatment, and stayed healed. I thought it was good medical care. After I spent a few years as a wound doctor, I understood it was more than medicine. It was a miracle.

God still heals in response to prayers of faith, and with surprising regularity. Since I became a prayer-missionary in August 2016, missionaries have reported scores of people healed of illness, sight restored to the blind, hearing restored to the deaf. Even function restored to a paralyzed limb.
He is still a wonder-working, healing God. But I wonder... are we still a praying-for-healing people?

Our focus verses today are James 5:14-15.

1) James asks an interesting question. “Is anyone sick?” He offers a surprising solution. “Call for the elders.” If you’re wondering what he means, it’s pretty simple. If you’re sick, call the elders and let them pray over you. Just to be sure, let’s explore this verse a little more fully. (“Pray” in this verse is just a little different from the preceding verse, so be sure to check Thayer’s.)

a) sick


b) elders


c) pray


d) anointing
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2)  Compare the anointing described in this verse with that of Luke 7:38 and John 12:3. (The same word is used in all three verses.)


3)  It’s clear that James expected those who are sick to invite the elders to lay hands on them, pray for healing, and anoint them with oil. Let’s look closer at verse 15 to see what he expected to happen.

a) offered in faith 

b) restore

c) raise him up 

d) forgiven


4)  This faith with which the elders are to offer their prayers is mustard-seed faith. It’s the same word used in the following verses, so take a look and be encouraged. If the one offering the prayer has even a smidgen of faith, it’s enough.

a) Matthew 9:2 

b) Matthew 17:20 

c) Romans 5:1

d) James 1:6

5)  The healing James expects is not a temporary improvement in discomfort. The phrase, “raise him up” implies that the sick person is unable to get up on his own and requires the intervention of God. How complete is the healing James expects?
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PRAYER PAUSE:

Nearly twenty years ago, I had migraine headaches. Eighteen a month. Some days, I’d lie on the floor and cry between patients. Some days, my head hurt so badly that I’d leave a patient room, vomit, then go back and see more patients. Every day, I’d think about these verses in James. Could God heal me? Would He?

I didn’t have the faith to ask. I went to a Baptist church. I didn’t think we believed in healing.

Finally, the headaches were so debilitating that God left me no choice. I had to take a chance on faith. That’s how I saw it back then, before I understood the love, grace, and power of our Father.

That day, the one when I couldn’t take it any more, I emailed a friend who would hold me accountable, and my pastor. There was no turning back.

Deacons were assembled and, on the eventful day that changed my life, I sat in a chair as the deacons laid on hands, my pastor prayed, and anointed me with oil. A white-hot bolt of fire shot through me. I nearly fainted. For a brief instant, I thought the house had erupted in flames. It hadn’t. The fire of God had pulsed through me and I was healed.

I’ve never doubted the power of God again. I haven’t had migraines, either.

In case you’ve wondered, I serve a God who still heals the sick. Even for sinners like me.


When’s the last time you saw someone healed by the power of God?

When’s the last time you took your illness to God first, rather than to physicians?


Today, let’s examine our hearts. Do we believe in a healing God or not? 

If not, why not?

In third-world countries around the world, they lack the excellent health care we have in this country. As a result, they rely on their Wonder-Working God. When they’re sick, the elders are summoned, prayers are lifted, and God heals as He chooses.

I believe we could see more of the healing power of God if we trusted Him enough to ask Him to heal us. Maybe we don’t think He’s up to it. Maybe we don’t think He cares enough about us. Maybe we don’t want to clean up our lives enough to approach Him. I don’t know why, but, for some reason, God is not the first one we consult.

As a physician, I have to admit that I believe in the abilities of my fellow physicians. I believe we have much to offer in the way of health care. I believe in the power of surgery to remove diseased flesh. I would not want anyone to avoid health care or discontinue medicine because of what I’m writing. Take your medicine. See your doctor. Follow medical advice.

BUT...

With that said, what I want to communicate clearly is that Our Lord is the Great Physician. Why not give him a mustard seed of faith and see what He will do?

DAY SIX: PRAYING FOR FORGIVENESS

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed...” James 5:16

Here it is again...Sin.

We can’t get away from the need to deal with our sin. In verse 15, James encourages us to seek the counsel and prayers of our ministers as we pray for forgiveness. If sin is in any way related to the sickness, we certainly need to confess it and seek forgiveness. When we confess our sin and seek forgiveness, they will be forgiven, not because we confessed them to a minister, but because we confessed and sought forgiveness from God.

In the same way, James encourages us to confess our sins to “one another”, i.e. a friend/fellow believer. What he’s describing is, in the vernacular of our day, an accountability partner or mentoring partner.

What James describes is a blanket of prayer that surrounds us. Personal prayer (verse 11). Ministerial prayer (verse 14). Laity prayer (verse 16).

1) Just to be sure we have the essence of this verse, let’s look at it in a little more detail. 

a) confess

b) sins


c) one another 

d) pray


e) healed

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PRAYER PAUSE:

The “one another” described in this verse implies mutual confession. It’s the sharing of equals. Of partners.

I’ve had an accountability partner for years. An iron-sharpens-iron friend who will not overlook your excuses or denials is a wonderful gift, straight from God. If you don’t have one, I encourage you to ask God to provide it.

There are multiple opportunities for mutual prayer and support. I’m involved in a prayer group by text, several email prayer groups, a secret Facebook group, and even a WhatsApp group. If you want accountability, it’s easier than ever to arrange.

In what ways are you accountable to other believers?

With whom do you mutually confess your sin and discuss your struggles?

James doesn’t mention this specifically, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this. Prayer partnerships are not created to provide fodder for the rumor mill. Prayer partnerships are for mutual benefit and trust. What is said must remain confidential, except in the most dire of circumstances. (If your prayer partner threatens suicide, don’t keep that to yourself.)

If you are willing to enter into an accountability partnership with a fellow believer, write a prayer asking God to provide His choice of partner for you.


DAY SEVEN: PRAYING LIKE A PROPHET

James 5:17-19

Elijah was just a man. His nature was just like ours. Frail and weak and whiny. BUT Elijah prayed and God moved in a big way. Even though he was so much like me. So much like you.
Ponder that for a few minutes and see if you can grasp the magnitude of it.


Elijah was just like us.


Get ready for this big truth: We are just like Elijah, and we could pray like Elijah if we would.

You know this story. Elijah prayed that there wouldn’t be any rain and it didn’t rain. For three long, dry, and dusty years. Then, he prayed again, and rain poured down, and the earth was refreshed.
Scripture doesn’t tell us this specifically, but, having had a few answered prayers of my own, I’m fairly sure God put the prayer in Elijah’s heart before he prayed it. He put the fire of God in Elijah before he announced his prayer to King Ahab. If not, he’d have never dared to approach the king.
That’s the kind of amazing transformation our God can accomplish in someone willing to be used. Like Elijah. Like you and me.

1)  Read the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1-19:18 and take notes on what stands out to you.

2)  Elijah grew weary and grumpy. He felt alone and forgotten. After a while, he began to think all his obedience had amounted to nothing. He thought he was the last faithful man standing, but he was wrong.

a) God hadn’t forgotten him. (1 Kings 19:11)

b) God wasn’t through with him yet. (1 Kings 19:15-16) 

c) Elijah wasn’t the only faithful one. (1 Kings 19:18)

3) He sounds so much like us, doesn’t he? There was one thing Elijah did that we don’t always do, but we should. When God spoke, he listened, and answered. See 1 Kings 19:12-14.

PRAYER PAUSE:

The difference between us and Elijah is that he recognized the still, small Voice of God, no louder than a gentle blowing. When God spoke, Elijah answered. When God directed, Elijah obeyed. Because he obeyed in little things, God gave him bigger things to do.

Elijah didn’t face off with the prophets of Baal and call down fire from heaven at the start. He began by speaking one sentence in an unlikely place, simply because God told him to do it.

Each little obedience led to a greater opportunity for obedience. Each little victory led to a greater one. Every little answered prayer led to a bolder one. Before he knew it, Elijah was praying like a prophet.

We can pray like prophets, too. If we will.

IF we’ll listen to the still, small Voice and obey in the little things, pray the little prayers He give us, He’ll give us bigger. If we obey in the bigger, He’ll give us more.

Before we know it, He’ll give us prophet-sized prayers and, when we pray what He says, He’ll give us prophet-sized results.

This might be hard to believe, but it’s true.

Today is decision time. Do you have a mustard seed of faith to invest in the tiniest of obedience? 

Enough to pray whatever God puts in your heart and trust Him for the answers? Even when you don’t understand? When you don’t know what He’ll do?

God’s not the one keeping us from praying like a prophet. We are. But we don’t have to be.

Here’s the question for today. Are you willing to let God train you to pray like a prophet? 

If so, write your prayer of commitment to obedience and prayer now.







1https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jam/Jam_001.cfm. Accessed 1/11/17
2https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jam/Jam_001.cfm Accessed 1/11/17
3https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jam/Jam_001.cfm accessed 1/11/17
4https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2570&t=NASB Accessed
1/12/17
5https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jam/Jam_005.cfm Accessed 1/13/17 6http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21710771-new-analysis-how-worlds-
wealth-distributed-you-may-be-higher-up Accessed 1/13/17
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#James