Prayer: Get Plugged into the Power
This past week I've been reflecting on the Book of James. It's a quick read but packs a punch. I've particularly been reading stewing over his closing words on prayer in James 5:13-18, in which he hammers out three points – when to pray, how to pray, and why to pray.
To answer when to pray: in poetic fashion, he asks a series of three questions: Is anyone suffering? Is anyone cheerful? Is anyone sick? And he guides the reader to understand that prayer is the right course of action in any and all circumstances. We pray in times of trouble. We pray in times of happiness. We pray in times of sickness.
In verses 14-16, he offers his vision for how to pray. From here, I pulled out four principles of prayer.
- We pray in unity and in submission to our church family. We do this by praying for each other and by asking for elders to pray for us.
- We are to pray in unity and in submission to the Lord. James reminded his readers to pray “in the name of the Lord.” When we talk about the phrase “Lord willing”, this doesn’t mean we must baptize all our prayers with trite phrase “in the name of the Lord” - it is more about our inner spirits and making sure what we are praying for is in union with Christ.
- We are to pray in faith. He has spent this letter exhorting his readers about the goodness and purity of God, and asks them to pray, harnessing the power of their faith. And finally,
- We are to pray together as repentant sinners, in need of God and humbly confessing our sins to Him and to one another.
And then he went on to address why to pray, because "The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect."
Because when we get serious about praying – and I am mean serious, not just praying half-heartedly, or with genie-in-a-bottle expectations, or flippantly offering to pray for someone and never following through. I am talking about serious prayer, the kind of praying that earned James the nickname “Camel Knees” because he was kneeling before the Lord and sharing his heart cries with Him so much that his knees became callused. That kind of praying is powerful and effective. It's powerful not because it necessarily changes situations but because in the process of praying, it changes us! It shifts our hearts to align with God's heart. It shapes us, and in the process, it can touch the hearts of others.