Today we are back to the Book of James as he teaches us the place of prayer and faith and how they help edify the body of Christ, the church. As believers we are invited to pray when suffering, sick or making any request before God.
The early church was know to have four major functions that it was known by:
- It was a singing church: this characteristic is also experienced in the early Methodism where it was nicknamed a singing church. Songs formed a big part of who they were as Methodists. Through singing we are able to minister to our souls. A song is an expression of happiness and could also be a medium of meditation. It might be a centering moment before being engaged in a deeper worship of God. A song brings delight to the heart of the singer and a moving message to the listener. The birds of the air have a way of singing that touches the nature around them, including we humans.
- It was a healing church: This was practiced among the believers, even among the Jewish. When one was sick they were brought to the rabbis for anointing and prayer before they could even think of taking them to a doctor. This practice is continued today, but it takes a different format. People have come to believe that God can use and the medicine they give away as a way of healing. But as people of faith we can’t ignore the role that prayer acts in the life of the soul. Healing can take different dimensions. Prayer is able to restore us to health. In prayer we can experience forgiveness. In prayer as believers we can achieve many things that we couldn’t achieve in other ways.
- It was a praying church: This characteristic of the church has continued but different denominations will have different emphases. It is, therefore, on these three above functions of the church that I would like us to focus on the prayer of faith.
- It was a sharing church: They believed in the welfare of one another. If one had food they would share with the one with none. If you had two coats you shared with the one with nothing. In many ways they were putting the words of Jesus in practice. The writer of the Book of Acts puts it this way, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer…All the believers were and had everything in common…”(Acts 2:42ff).
The importance of prayer can be traced in many parts of the Old Testament. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
We have other prayer references that I may not be able to go in depth though I will highlight a few as we continue (John 15:7; 1 John 5:14-15; Psalm 66:19; 116:1; 118:21; 1 Samuel 1:27; Matthew 7:7; Mark 11:24) just to mention a few. Prayer is a big component of the life of the church and therefore an important part of a believer. Let me start by saying that there is power in the prayer that we offer everyday. It is through prayers that many things happen, even those we do not talk about. Through prayers God is able to connect us with himself and others. Faith, according to the writer of Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Where do we get this faith? Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Prayer is our communication with God. If we, therefore, combine the two, I think the prayer of faith brings us to four conclusions that I would like to share with you today.
1 A prayer of faith always gets answered: A prayer of faith is a prayer of assurance, hope, conviction, and spirit-led. We can truly experience God in our prayers. Look back and thank God. Look forward and trust God. Look around and serve God. Look within and find God. When prayer is based on our faith it means that even those results we may not have seen in our eyes are there. The answer that God gives may be different from what we had anticipated but sure enough is the answer. In answering our prayers God takes into account what the prayers might mean and, therefore, respond accordingly. When we pray, we take God at his word, “until not you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.”John 16:24. It is the writer of Matthew who takes us to the next level of prayer, “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you, for everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7. It is Paul who also reminds us that our prayers will always be answered. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests before God.” Philippians 4:6. In Mark 11:24: “Therefore, I tell you whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received and it will be yours.” This is a power promise for us as we try to engage in the prayer of faith. When Hannah was faced with difficulties of not having a baby she spent a lot of time in prayer in the temple and finally her prayers were answered by the coming of Samuel and she said, “I prayed for this child and the LORD has given me what I asked him,” (1 Samuel 1:27).
2. A prayer of faith must always be according to God’s will: Very often we don’t understand the will of God at each given time, but we can surely trust that his will is the best. We can see this aspect when Paul was struggling with his illness. Even though we may never know what exactly the illness was he surely wanted to be cured. A classic example is what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take away from me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God, who is all knowing, will answer according to his divine wisdom. His timing is always the best for us, even when we may not fully understand. People pray before leaving for a vacation for God’s protection and yet they are involved in an accident. Why, I don’t know. What we struggle with in our everyday journey is to know what the will of God is. But not knowing the will of God does not stop us from praying a prayer of faith.
3. Prayer of faith grow the body of Christ: What binds the believers together is what the early believers practiced very well. They gathered together, broke bread together, prayed together and shared together. We read that the numbers were increased day by day. Choosing to live a prayerless life is like thinking that you can drive your car forever without putting oil in it. You may have a tank full of gas, but before long you will need some oil. There are many moving parts that need to keep moving without breaking. In the world we live in it is like that. We have to seek God to help us deal with moving parts. These moving parts could be our family, employer, even church members. It is through prayers that we are able to stay connected. In John 15:7 we read: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The key word here is to stay connected and the one thing that connects with God more than anything else is prayer.