James 5: 13-18
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? 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. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
1 Now it came to pass, as He was
praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to
pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”
9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.
For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
As you may have gathered from our Bible readings, the topic for today is “prayer.” God wants us to rely on Him for everything. He does not want us to function independently from Him, acting as though we can do anything we want without God.
God has promised to be there for us, and if we need help, assistance or advice, all we have to do is to call on Him. The way we do that is through prayer. Our first reading from James 5 clearly shows the effectiveness of prayer. His statement “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” says a lot.
The first part of Luke 11 gives us a “model prayer,” and teaches us that the best way to pray is to state specifically what is on our minds. There are no magic words that need to be included, just say what you mean. Talk to God in prayer as if He was sitting across from you and you were having a conversation.
The second reading from Luke 11 assures us that God is willing to answer our prayers. If you ask, you will receive! Many people could use God’s help many times every day, but they are afraid to ask for help. Verse 9 makes God’s position quite clear: “Ask, and it will be given to you!” But don’t expect an immediate response. I have found, through experience, that God is willing to give us what we ask for, but it’s going to happen when God feels the time is right. Many people are impatient and give up too easily when they don’t immediately get what they ask for. Remember, God is not an ATM machine where you can walk up and immediately get money dispensed!
Once again, let me remind you that God wants you to trust Him to run your life. Most of us want to do everything on our own, and we often fail. When you are having some troubles in your life and could use some help, turn it over to God through prayer. Thank God for taking an interest in your well being and wanting to help, and then ask His help in solving your problems. I have many friends who pray every time there is an important decision to be made. The trust only God to know the right answer, so they ask for a sign to indicate what path they should take, and then keep praying on a regular basis until they have an answer. So far, Gad has never let them down, always pointing them in the right direction!
When you pray, it is a private conversation between you and God. Just say what is on your mind, as if God was in the room with you. The final reading today from Matthew 6 cautions against vain and repetitious praying. Verse 5 admonishes us against praying in public, saying that there are those who simply want to “show off” their righteousness in front of others. Verse 6 suggests that we pray in private, in our room, with the door shut. Prayer offered “in secret” will be rewarded openly.
Verses 7 and 8 tells us not to “read from a script” when we pray. Perhaps some of you went to Bible school, Sunday school or Catechism as a child, and you were taught several popular prayers. What was not explained to you at the time was that these prayers are “model prayers,” such as the one Jesus taught His disciples in Luke 11:2-4. They show you “how” to pray to God and give you a format that can be used as an example when you pray. Many people, when they say their prayers each night, just recite these model prayers and that is the extent of their prayer session.
Matthew 6, verse 7 warns against this sort of repetitive praying, and goes on to explain that it is not just the “many words” that count, but rather the content and the honesty in those words. Verse 8 reminds us that our “Father” knows the things we have need of before we ask Him, so don’t be bashful – go ahead and ask!
Don’t make your prayer a “one-way” session – all take and no give. Use the time to offer things to God – not in return for the gifts He has given you – God’s favors cannot be “bought” – but because of your love for God. Pray that He will soften the heart of those who do not believe in God so that they might change their beliefs and discover the mercy and the love of God. Pray for your friends who need the Holy Spirit to lead them back on to the path of righteousness. Pray for people you know who are ill, suffering, distraught or are experiencing a personal hardship. Pray for the safe passage of those you know who will be traveling this week. In other words, ask God to help others as well.
There are certain “public prayers” that are popular in our society, such as saying grace, asking God’s blessing before a meal. According to the Bible, it would be more correct for everyone to offer a private prayer in silence. Still, as a recognized Christian, you might be asked to “say grace” at some point when you sit down to eat with your friends or family, so think about this possibility ahead of time and have a prayer ready so that you don’t stumble and embarrass yourself when the time comes.
If you need more suggestions and “model” prayers to look at, there are many prayer collections and books available at your local bookstore or Bible study store.