What happens when you are in trouble? When someone comes to you in need, what do you do? Ignore them, add to their misery or extend the hand of help and support?
When you see someone going off the rails physically and spiritually do you leave them to God to get sorted out? Do you shrug your shoulders, thank God that you are not like that, and remind yourself that it’s His job to do it?
If there is one thing we can learn from the New Testament, it’s this: our responsibility as believers extends beyond ourselves - and our actions and our attitudes have a significant impact on the life of the church as a whole. Our calling as members of the body of Christ is to share the burdens, to enjoy the triumphs and to celebrate the joys of one another within the church community.
Finally, James reminds us, once again, that unless all we do is backed by consistent Christian behaviour, attitudes and, above all, the continued presence of prayer, then what we do will be useless, self focused and fruitless.
To think about
"The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer." (F.B. Meyer - founder of the Keswick Convention)
"Do not make prayer a monologue-make it a conversation." (Author unknown)
Worship and intercession must go together, the one is impossible without the other. Intercession means that we rouse ourselves up to get the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray. (Oswald Chambers)
To discuss: Prayer in perspective
- How would you describe “prayer” to someone who’s never been to church before?
- Please re read Oswald Chambers’ words above. How can we put this into practice?
- What does it mean to make prayer an informed and “real” conversation?
Please read James 5 verses 13 to 20
The human circumstances mentioned here reflect where we might be at certain times in our lives: perhaps you can identify with one or more of those particular experiences right now. There will be struggles as well as times when everything is going well; we’ll be sick or we’ll let God down.
The important thing now is to work it through with God’s help. This is where prayer becomes vital: it enables us to put all our concerns and joys before God in a spirit of dependency but also with a sense of expectation of His response.
PUSH – pray until something happens
- James focuses on the importance of having a relationship: with God (faith) which is expressed through all we do (works). How does prayer fit into this?
- What do verses 15 and 16 teach us about faith and God’s will?
- How do we cope when prayer is not answered?
- Is anyone to blame when God is apparently silent? Explain your answer
- In what ways might we apply James’ teaching in verse 14? Where does our personal responsibility for (and joy in) prayer come into this?
James’ letter is very relevant for the church today. In the affluent west, our fragmented society appears to value and prioritise the demands of the individual over and above the needs of the community. What is most striking about James’ writings is his emphasis on responsibility: we are part of a body and in living out our faith (expressing it through works which includes developing our Christian disciplines like prayer), we can be the means of support to others
We can also bring a wider community to embrace faith for themselves. It is a challenge that we pick up through Beacon, Bridge, Build, Belong, Body, Knowing Jesus that we might make Him known.
- James recognises our mutual responsibility to support one another (verses 19 to 20). How do we deal with this when we all lead essentially private lives?
- How can we avoid appearing holier than thou?
- In what ways might we help others become whole - spiritually, physically and emotionally?
- What can we do to make prayer a greater priority both personally and as a church?
- How do these verses help us to understand how prayer can be a means of developing relationships within the church?