Two men were talking together. The first challenged the other, “If you are so religious, let’s hear you quote the Lord’s Prayer. I bet you $10.00 you can’t.” The second responded, “Now I lay my down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” The first pulled out his wallet and fished out a ten-dollar bill, muttering, “I didn’t think you could do it!”
Our sermon series is titled “Old Preacher Advice” as we look at, and glean from, James’ words of wisdom that we sometimes forget and need to be reminded of as we strive to live holy lives in the ways we act, think and speak every day. So far, we’ve looked at James’ reminder that mercy always wins, his call to tame our tongues and his instruction to come nearer to God. Today let’s conclude our series with James’ call to keep on praying.
Prayer. This word can bring incredibly diverse feelings and emotions: peace, pain, frustration, hope, joy, confusion, strength or renewed strength, guilt, and so on. Within the Christian faith journey, nothing is more comforting and nothing can be more frustrating than prayer. Prayer is something so simple – yet so profound. Prayer is personal and private yet it is also public and corporate. Prayer can make us feel as close to God as our breath against the back of our hand. It can also make us feel so disconnected and far from God as well. Prayer was the strength of Jesus and his ministry. It is the same for us. There once was a sign on the front of a church that said: No Prayer = No Power. Know Prayer = Know Power.
How would you rank your prayer life and prayer power these days? Very High, Somewhat High, Mediocre, Low, Very Low, Non-Existent? Because of Pentecost, the level of our prayer life need never dip below High. Why, because the gift of God to all believers at Pentecost includes prayer help. The presence of the Holy Spirit empowers us to pray – even when we can’t and even when we don’t know what to say. Romans 8:26: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” The Holy Spirit knows what we ought to pray even when we don’t know what to pray for.
A little boy had been sent to his room by Mom because he had been bad. A short time later he came out and said to his mother, “I’ve been thinking about what I did and I said a prayer.” “That’s fine,” she said, “if you ask God to make you good, He will help you.” “Oh, I didn’t ask Him to help me be good,” replied the boy. “I asked Him to help you put up with me.”
What would happen if we made prayer the first thing we do in the morning and the last thing we do at night? This will establish a pattern – or habit of prayer in our lives. Some find that keeping a prayer journal – a list of prayer requests and answers help organize thoughts and help us to remember who or what to pray for. (Have you ever done that – forgotten who or what it was you needed to pray for?) Sometimes our red traffic light can be an open door to prayer rather than a pause to be frustrated. All of the other times that we “wait” like in line at the store, restaurant, Doctor’s office, etc. can be opportunities for prayer and an opportunity to be open to the presence of God in our life and in the lives of those around us. Have you ever prayed for someone in your line? Or perhaps prayed for the cashier?
Those first disciples of Jesus devoted themselves to prayer after Pentecost. As Pentecost People, we are inspired by the Holy Spirit to joyfully fold our hands and to eagerly build a personal – one-on-one relationship with Jesus. Ephesians 6:18 invites us to pray in the spirit at all times which means that we can have a lively, honest discussion with our God. (Have you ever wanted to give God a piece of your mind when things weren’t going well?)
A.C. Dixon once wrote that when we rely upon an organization, we get what an organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do, and so on. But when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.
James tells us to keep on praying. Don’t stop, don’t ever stop. When we pray, remember these truths that prayer brings:
- The love of God that wants the best for us.
2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.
3. The power of God that can accomplish it.
Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where they would pour out their heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.” What about your prayer path – is there grass growing, or is there a well-worn prayer path with the Master of our life?
Keep on praying, don’t stop, even when you want to, don’t stop. Even when it appears God isn’t listening, don’t stop. Even when the news is bad, don’t stop. Especially when you don’t feel like praying, don’t stop. Even when everyone else has given up, don’t stop praying! Whatever happens, don’t stop praying…today…tomorrow…next week…forever! Don’t ever stop praying!