Saturday, March 31, 2012

40 Days with James ~ Day 39 ~ Prayer and Healing

Day 39 ~ Prayer and Healing
James 5:15-18   And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
These are hard verses to believe.  Are God's promises to answer prayer as good as James makes them sound?  Will our cries of faith really move God to heal us and forgive us?  Yes!  As we said yesterday, it is not because our faith is so strong or because our prayers are so inspiring.  It is  because He is so gracious that God will answer our prayers!

We must be careful when we read these passages, however. Too often they are read with a "fast-food order" mentality.  We live in a fast-food culture where we want our food to be given to us within minutes of making the order.  We  sometimes bring this mentality to our prayers.  "Lord, I am sick.  Please heal me...NOW!" Or, "Lord, my loved one is dying.  Please restore their life...NOW!"  When we pray these prayers we don't necessarily say "now" or "immediately," but we certainly imply it.  We've made our order to God for the healing, now we simply need to pull forward to the second window and have Him give it to us in a timely fashion.

But then our prayers seemingly go unanswered.  Prolonged sickness, suffering, and death do their best to convince us that God is, at best, not listening or, at worst, not keeping His promises.  James words to us today seem almost insulting.  We worry that perhaps our faith isn't strong enough and that is why God has not answered us immediately.  Our culture of immediate gratification struggles with the patience required by prayer.  It is often surprising to us when we realize one of the most popular prayers we find in the Bible is, "How long, O Lord?"

God's timing seems slow to us, especially in difficult times.  Prayer can often be a hard lesson in patience.  But, as we saw a few days ago with Job, God's answer to the "how long?" question is full of great hope.  For, though we will endure much pain and hardship in this life, Christ will return to grant the very healing we have prayed for.  Forgiven sins will be abolished, bodily ailments will be healed, and dead loved ones who died in the faith will be raised to everlasting life with Christ.  Our short time of suffering will lead to an eternity of joy in Christ.  Our prayers will be answered.

Jesus himself knew such suffering as He sweat blood in the garden at the prospect of the cross.  God called Christ to endure the cross and often He will have us face hardships which drive us to prayer.  But the worst such hardships can do is drive us to death in Christ, which is actually victory since death was conquered by Christ when He rose on Easter morning.  The answer to your prayers is found on Easter morning at the empty tomb, where Christ has promised to meet you when He returns.  The promise is true: "Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).  So, with the church we cry, "Come Lord Jesus! AMEN!"      

Confession:  Father of all mercies, I praise you that you hear my prayers and answer them in love.  Forgive me for my impatience and lack of trust in your will.  Help me to look to Jesus' empty tomb with great anticipation knowing that, when He returns and raises me up, all my prayers will be answered.  AMEN

Challenge:  In your prayer time, learn to pray the Lord's Prayer.  Use each petition as a guiding outline for your whole prayer.  (If you need to know what the different petitions are, pick up a Small Catechism.)

Pastor Bob

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