Julius Kim closes the book of James with an explanation of why we should pray. Kim connects the previous teachings on steadfastness by describing what James meant in his closing statements. Kim explains that what we pray about reveals the priorities of our hearts.
In his letter, James teaches us exactly what we should pray and why, listing four reasons why we should remain steadfast in prayer:
- God hears us.
- God heals us.
- God forgives us.
- God fortifies us.
Kim argues that when we pray, we are strengthened; and he calls us to steadfast prayer in the midst of suffering—just like our example, Christ Jesus.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Julius Kim: Well, it’s a delight to be here. And for all of you watching virtually, we’re so glad that you’re joining us as well. And pray that you’re being blessed. With all the wonderful speakers, someone asked me what it feels like the Tibet cleanup in this particular lineup. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to quite a few TGC conferences. And I have to say, with all due respect to all of my brothers and sisters prior, this has got to be probably one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to. I have been so blessed by the preaching and teaching and teaching, the teaching of the women here. I feel like it’s preaching because I’m so convicted. And it’s been so convicting, and so comforting, and so encouraging. And I’ve been so blessed. And so when that person asked me, What does it feel like to back clean up? I said, clean up. Are you kidding? I’m just lucky to be on the team. I’m like the last kid who’s been picked. And now I get the bat. After we’re up by like, 20 runs.
All right, let’s let Julius come in. He can bat. Let’s let him play. Thank you so much. So I’m just thankful to be here. And thank you for allowing me this time to bring God’s word to you. So if you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn to James chapter five. As we finish up this wonderful book, James chapter five, verses 13 to 20. Is the scripture reading for this morning. James chapter five, verses 13 to 20. Listen carefully, for this is the word of the Lord. Is anyone among you suffering? Let them pray? Is anyone cheerful? Let them sing praise 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. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for an up for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain.
And for three years and six months, it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain and the earth poor its fruit, my brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering, will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins. So far the reading of God’s word Let’s pray together. Gracious Father in heaven, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be pleasing in your sight? Would you not speak to us through this? You’re living an active word and would you pierce our hearts and souls with its true? For We ask this in the matchless name of Jesus. Amen. Offering friends, I have a secret from my past I’d like to share with you as we begin. I’m actually not very particularly proud of it. But I feel as a preacher and a pastor and as a leader. It’s important for me to be transparent with you. I pray that you won’t think less than me or be stumbled by what I’m about to share. I love spam.
That’s right. I am completely unabashedly smitten with spam. From the first time I tasted my first slice, I would never be the same again. Big spam barbecued spam. It didn’t matter. I wanted it all the time. Well, my mother, thank you mom. By the way, if you’re watching, to try to offset my infatuation and need for spam all the time, she used to warn me with what she said was ancient Korean wisdom. She said, Remember, Julius, you are what you eat. Now, the thought of me turning into some slab of mystery meat is completely ridiculous. But as you and I both know, especially as we grow older and have children of our own, we began I began to see the wisdom in that saying, it’s true, isn’t it? The kinds of carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, fruits, and yes, even indiscernible fats, determine how our bodies will grow and develop. True indeed you are what you eat. Now think about it. Have you ever thought that in a similar way for the Christian you are what you pray?
We pray about shows the prayer At least of our hearts, the amount and type of conversations we have with God, the communion we have with the Lord, reveal the core of who we are and what we find really important. Our prayers reveal our priorities. And so we take time, don’t we, to be still and spend time with the Lord. We pray for God’s blessings upon our families, our careers, we pray for the success of God’s kingdom, our churches, we pray for forgiveness, for healing, for justice, for mercy, for restoration, and rest. Which leads us to our passage today. Here as James concludes his letter we find what appears to be seemingly straightforward commands to pray for various needs, right? Be it suffering or sickness, repentance, or restoration. And so I suppose I can stand here for the next 3035 minutes, urging all of you to make a new vow. Let’s make a vow today, friends, to be steadfast in our prayers that from this day forward, from better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow until death do us part that we would be faithful in our prayer life.
Now, on one level, this is James’s point. He’s been reminding us to remain steadfast as we live out our Christian life. But as we’ve been learning so far, James not only tells us what to do, but he also attaches that to who’s we are, he never divorces that. Remember, Mary reminded us yesterday, Mary reminded us that remembering who we are and rejoicing in the knowledge that God is sovereign and good will help us remain steadfast in our trials. And in our temptations. Kevin reminded us that like a zipper, right, what we say and what we do have to be aligned in order to be steadfast. And then Courtney brilliantly reminded us that unlike ornamental fruit trees, true living faith that a steadfast bears fruit, as we love God and love others, Jackie reminded us that the tongue, although very small, and seemingly insignificant, can bless or curse. And so we have to be steadfast by repenting to the Father beholding the son, our Savior, and being filled by the Spirit. Paige reminded us last night that worldliness is a real and present danger in remaining steadfast, but God’s grace and the wisdom of Jesus’s love is available and ready for us.
And then Nancy, this morning beautifully reminded us of the songs of Jesus, the beautiful songs of Jesus that changed the way we think, the way we speak and the way we live, and how that needs to be the song people hear and see from our own lives. So how does James end his letter? Well, interestingly enough, he ends his letter letter exactly the way he started it doesn’t he? Remember back in chapter one, verses five and six, he said this, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, without doubting for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. And so here at the end of his letter to us and end of our time, James reminds us again of the importance of steadfast prayer, trusting in our faithful God. It’s as if he’s saying now that I’ve told you, everything else.
Let me once again remind you where I started from. I asked you to pray, because I’m going to be honest, you need it. So I’m going to remind you again, now at the end of my letter, don’t forget to pray. So I suppose one way I can inspire you to pray more, is the Korean ways to guilt you into doing it. To guilt you into its importance, and I doubt anyone here would argue with me if I said, you need to pray more. Let me give you three word words to help you pray more. Pray, pray, pray, let’s close in prayer and pass out the offering baskets. Offering people please know I think James knows that too. And so while he stresses the imperative to steadfastly pray, you, you don’t want to miss the many reasons why we should do that.
That is He tells us about our position before God before our practice. In other words, he reminds us of our status before our service, our belief before our behavior. And here in our text, he reminds us of the promises of God that will propel our steadfast prayer Did you hear that? He reminds us of the promises that we have from God that will propel our steadfast prayers. And friends, this makes all the difference is I don’t know about you. But praying is not easy. It doesn’t come naturally to me. And especially when there’s a battle, battles raging in our own hearts, and battles raging in the world around us than temptation, that fill our hearts and the trials that overwhelm our lives can be so disheartening and make us feel so hopeless and powerless to pray. It’s hard. And so James, I think, knowing that wants to just finish off his encouragement to us, his letter to us by reminding us of God’s promises, so that it will propel us to pray, especially when we want to give up.
How does he do that will encourage us with four promises. Four promises that help us to pray with steadfastness first, she hears us. Two, she heals us. Three, He forgives us. And for he fortifies us, okay. So he hears us, He heals us. He forgives us. And he fortifies us. So that’s the outline for today. So friends in the midst of the trials and temptations of life, God’s faithful promises to hear us to heal us to forgive us and to fortify us, propel us into steadfast praying. So let’s take a look at these four promises that will hopefully propel your prayer life first. Promise, number one, God hears us. As I’ve mentioned before, when we’re going through trials, it’s so easy to turn away from God in outright rebellion on the one hand, because we’re so angry, or just self despair, because we’re just so sad. James knows this. And the first thing he talks about, as he talks to those of us that are suffering is anyone suffering, verse 13. And this is actually the same word that was used before in verse 10, that Nancy talked about. It describes the suffering of the prophets. So what James is saying is you the prophets suffering, same same. He described the suffering of the prophets, and even these mighty prophets of God suffered like you and to encourage us. He says, They suffered, they prayed, you suffer you pray, why?
Because God hears. Nancy reminded us, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Stephen, let me remind you a few more and see if you can relate Jeremiah, the great Prophet, who lamented suffered through so much opposition in his life and ministry. No one liked Jeremiah. And if he was a people pleaser like me, that must have been so hard. So much opposition to his life and ministry. What about Ezekiel? He suffered through so much sorrow, and distress. And don’t forget about the marital heartache. In Jose’s life, opposition sorrow, marital heartache, relational breakdown. These are the type of sufferings that James mentioned.
Can you relate? I can. And at times like this, it’s understandable why prayer is frankly not the first thing that comes to mind. But as Nancy reminded us, we are blessed when we endure suffering with patience. And so keep praying. Now, just in case the converse is true, if everything is going really well in your life right now, which would be odd in light of everything that’s happened in 2020. Just in case though, maybe some of you really liked the pandemic. I don’t know. He says if everything going well, is anyone cheerful? Again, I think James knows how easy it is to get complacent. Right, complacent when life seems so good. I know that I don’t, I don’t consistently and instinctively turn to God and prayer and praise when everything is going well. I often chalk it up to good Providence or the result of you know, my good works.
And so like the ending of other New Testament letters, James reminds us not to lose our hope and our focus on the importance of prayer. Whatever the situation good or bad. James calls us as, as he’d been doing throughout the year to remain steadfast, whether in trial Are temptation because God hears us? Well, let’s take a look at this. Now, in our passage, you’re probably looking very carefully down, saying I don’t see where James says God hears. It’s true. In our in our passage today, there’s no explicit words that said, God hears, but I believe it’s the underlying foundation, not only of this passage, but I think the entire letter, God hears everything we say and do think about it. Back in chapter one, let me to get a drink of water here.
Back in chapter one, the assumption that James makes is like a loving and caring father, the Father of lights, hears our prayers, and wants to shower us with His blessings, right? What about in chapter two, God hears us, as he carefully watches to see if our behavior is consistent with our beliefs. In chapter three, God hears all the words we speak, do they bless, or do they curse? In chapter four, God hears our hearts to discern whether they are lined with the wisdom of God, or the wisdom of this world. And here in chapter five, God hears our prayers, as well as the prayers of the church, to provide healing and restoration. He even gives an example of God hearing the prayer of Elijah. So throughout the book, the entire book chains makes clear that God hears us. And friends, this is a good thing that we need to be reminded of again, and again, the Creator God of the universe, the Father of lights, the one who gives generously, even the crown of life hears you. Whether it’s a whimper at night, or a whale in the morning. He hears you, which means that if he’s able to hear our hearts and hear our prayers he is near. This is just one of his promises to keep us motivated to pray.
If he hears us, He is near us. And friends right about now, I need this promise more than ever before. As I think about my Auntie’s, my sisters who are beaten just because they’re Asian, I cry out to the Lord, Lord, they’re just walking to church. Why are they getting beaten, for just being Asian. And as my heart wrestles with the reality of sin in this world of sin in our hearts, I have to first say, I’m no different. First of all, Lord, help me against the sin of discrimination, racism, prejudice, of thinking, that I’m better than others, to the surface, superficial things. So I have to remind myself, God hears me. God hears the prayers of those family members who were killed that Atlanta, God hears and is near. If I didn’t know that, I would have no hope.
No ability to get up in the morning, and do what I need to do. To love God and to love others, even those who hate me. So I need this reminder, friends, and I know you do to think of all the other scriptures that tell us have this wonderful reality that God hears us when we pray. Matthew six, nine through 13, right, but the Lord’s Prayer, remember how it begins, Jesus Himself tells you and me when you pray, pray like this. Pray to your father. With a word of intimacy, and love, and tenderness, pray to your Father. He hears and his near. What about first, John 514. And this is the confidence we have toward him, that if we asked anything, according to His will, He hears us. Friends, he hears us. Let me give you one more. Romans 826 to 27 is amazing verse, Romans eight Paul tells us likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. and He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit. Because the Spirit intercedes for the saints, according to the will of God. Friends, even when our prayers sound just like groaning and I’ve been there I’m sure you have too, we have the promise that the Spirit of God helps us pray.
Did you hear that God the Father hears us when we pray in the name of God the Son, because God the Spirit helps us when we can’t even find words to pray. Did you hear that? I just have three words, in response to that, ah may zing. The Spirit himself God, the Spirit helps us to pray. You think God hears the spirit. Friends, we have this wonderful promise that God is always near, always willing and ready to hear I need this promise. Promise number two, he heals us. He heals us. Our passage, it makes clear that the promise of healing is available through our prayers and the prayers of the church. Right, the prayer of others. Whether the situation is sickness, verse 14, or sin, verse 15, whether you’re praying for yourself, verse 13, or others are praying for you, verse 14, and 16. God gives us the promise that He is able to bring his healing power to bear upon our problems. God heals. Now, before we go further, let me offer a few disclaimers or caveats to this, as it can lead to, I think, well intentioned misunderstanding. First, it’s actually my opinion that the miraculous healing.
The healing ministry described in the Bible was tied to the prophets and the apostles and their ministry of Revelation, some miraculous healing in the Bible that we find by the prophets and the apostles were tied to their ministry of giving revelation of God and they were tied together. For example, in the book of Acts, the signs and wonders of the apostles, testified to the credibility of their words, prior to the canon of Scripture being closed. So the signs and wonders were proofs that what they were speaking were true, so they work together. And now that the scriptures are closed, the canon of Scripture is closed, we normally don’t see that same type of signs and wonders, because they were used for the ministry of testifying to the credibility of prophecy and apostolic revelation. And so I think it’s important to recognize that we shouldn’t expect the same type of miracles, especially the healings that we read in the, in the books of the Gospels and acts for example. However, secondly, James makes clear that God still, God still has the power, the authority and the ability to heal people through the intercessory work of prayer. And so while there were some unique manifestations of healing in the first century that we may not see today, I believe we can and should heed James’s call here to pray for healing.
One reason we know this to be true is that he actually calls us on to call upon the elders, which is an office of the church which still exists today. And so I believe we can still pray for healing, though it might be different from what we see in the first century, or in the Bible. And then lastly, third, since James is called to pray for healing is ultimately based on God’s sovereignty. His perfect will, His providence, we cannot determine or predetermined the outcome of that prayer, though, we want to desperately would want to what happens after we pray is not based on what the outcome of our prayers not based on the right kind of prayer we give, or the right amount of prayer we offer. And what this means is that it’s though it’s um, sometimes excruciatingly painful. God may not answer our prayers to heal our loved ones suffering under the weight of physical or spiritual ailments. Unfortunately, Christians throughout the centuries, have mistakenly taken this promise of healing and turn it into some sort of magical formula that will produce what we want if we pray in a particular way, and they presume upon God’s sovereign goodness.
And his providential care for us. James is calling us to faithfully pray, trusting that God can heal but may not. And in our hearts, that’s okay. Why? Because God is in control of all things, and he is good and they work together that we may not fully understand. It’s the prayer of pilgrims. Friends, this is a wonderful promise if you think about it, that helps us persist in our prayer. This is an One promise that we must cling to in faith. Because when we are our loved ones are facing difficult disease or sickness, it can be hard to be steadfast in our prayer. And that we may not know how and when God is able and can heal us. And so our job is to just trust and pray, trust and obey. Even when it’s really hard. A few months ago, I actually had to wrestle with this myself. My family and I got COVID at the end of the year, and right around January one What a way to start the new year, I was so excited about 2021 pandemics probably going to come to a close, and I started feeling the symptoms.
My wife and my girls got over pretty quickly, clearly because they pray more than I do. But after about a week of suffering through from flu like symptoms, it went into my lungs. And then it got really bad. And I’m actually still suffering now even though he can’t really tell, because I’m a good faker. But my lungs are really messed up and got really messed up and I literally thought I was gonna die. For those who have then either had that experience or been with others, it’s a scary place to be when your prayer is okay, Lord, I’m ready. Would you please take care of my wife and my children if I go?
Then that’s when you realize what’s most important to you, when you think you’re about to die. And prayer becomes your sweetest friend, and your worst enemy. Because that’s all you have. So you just pray, trust me pray, and in your mind. Yeah, I remember what James told me. James told me I should pray when you’re sick. It’s anyone’s suffering, pray and God could heal. I know these promises. But man is it hard. But you just trust and you pray. And by God’s goodwill, and God’s good Providence, I I got out of it. And I was able to breathe a little bit better. And I’m here standing before you praise the Lord. But there are many thanks, you praise the Lord. I thank him. But I know there are many others who have suffered the loss of loved ones over this last year. And they prayed and God didn’t heal. So we have to keep trusting and praying even in those situations. It’s hard. For friends, this is a promise that is true, it is real. And we have to keep trusting this is our life of faith.
So that’s why frankly, I’m so glad James even included the command to call upon the elders of the church to pray over the sick. God hears us and heals us, not only when we pray, but also when the church prays, especially when the elders come, you’re not alone. So you need to be in a local church, you need to be under the shepherding guide and love and protection of your elders. Because one of the greatest privileges they have is to come over you and pray over you and to pray specifically for this as they anoint you with oil. Now, I wonder if some of you are asking like I do when I was studying this passage, you may be wondering now is Asian sesame oil, okay. Or does it have to be Mediterranean olive oil? Good question. Okay, maybe you didn’t think that maybe that’s just me and my craziness. But I wonder if you’re probably wondering what’s what’s with the oil and the anointing? Is that still apply? It’s great question. I don’t wanna spend too much time on this.
But it may be helpful for me to just say a few words about the anointing with oil first notice, notice that when when, when James commands us, encourages us exhorts us to call upon the elders, James prioritizes. The importance of prayer, not the oil. The emphasis is on prayer, not oil. In fact, James insists in verse 15, that the sick person is healed through the prayer of faith and not the type of oil. This means that the anointing does not convey the grace of healing power. The anointing with oil here like you would like it wasn’t the Old Testament is a physical action, symbolizing spiritual consecration. It’s a physical action, symbolizing spiritual consecration. Second, what this means is that using oil does not automatically provide healing, salvation or forgiveness. Not only does this idea go against the the teaching of Scripture regarding the gospel of grace, not the gospel of oil. This isn’t what James is emphasizing here. But lastly, it’s important so it’s important not to think too much or too little of what James is saying. I think praying for God to heal miraculously should not discount the importance of God healing through secondary means, like the use of medicine. Scripture has examples of both ways God uses to heal the sick.
Remember what James stated earlier back in chapter one, every good gift is from from above the Father of lights, and that I think includes doctors and nurses, surgeries and medicines. And so to conclude this section here, while oil doesn’t have any magical properties, there’s nothing in the text that prevents us from asking our elders of the church to pray for us while we’re sick, while they anoint us with oil as a symbolic act of setting us apart for God’s special attention and care. The image here is that the sick person who is sick cannot even make it out of bed. Can’t go to church to ask for prayer. So the elders have to come to his home, to see him and pray for him. And so the shepherds come to love and care for a member of their flock who is suffering. They pray over him or her and anoint him or her with oil. God has provided friends yet another wonderful promise to keep us steadfast in our prayer. The promise that He can heal us, according to His good and perfect will. So friends first God hears us. Secondly, God heals us. Promise number three, He forgives us hallelujah.
It almost comes away. It comes across as a throwaway phrase, doesn’t it? But it would be much to our detriment to not pause and reflect on the promise of forgiveness, stated here in verse 15. Jane’s here links sin to sickness, which seems to emphasize the interrelated connection between the body and the soul. Think for example, when Jesus healed the paralytic that was lowered through the hole in the roof, do you remember that the friends took the mat, I call them the mat men. The MAT men take their friend and need her Jesus was in town they open a hole in the roof, lower their friend. And when Jesus saw their faith, Jesus forgave the sin of the paralytic, that’s the first thing he did. Son, your sins are forgiven. And that shocked everybody. And then he healed the body in Mark chapter two. So there seems to be a connection, again, with the body and the soul. But a sickness always tied to sin, yes or no. While sickness is tied to the fall into sin of Adam and Eve, and all of their descendants, which includes you and me. The story of Job reminds us that afflictions are not necessarily tied to sin. Nonetheless, James reminds us that the sick person should use this opportunity for self reflection and self examination.
Could there be sin in my life that may be causing this physical or spiritual sickness. But the key takeaway from this verse, and you don’t want to miss this is the promise of forgiveness. And friends, the forgiveness of sins is only available because of God’s grace alone, because of the work of Christ alone. By taking our sins upon the cross the sinless substitute, Jesus Christ earns the right to not only be raised from the dead, but also also offer the forgiveness of sins that keep us alienated from God. This is a promise. First John one nine sin simply yet pointedly reminds us right? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That’s a good thing. Your slate is clean once again. And there’s unity between you and the Father. Now notice, lastly, the beauty of forgiveness when it is shared in the Christian community, in the church community. As we recognize the forgiveness that we’ve been granted by our Father, we can confess our sins to one another and delight into the forgiveness that is granted and accepted. Friends when you’re forgiven, you want to forgive is what James is saying.
Friends, what would it look like when Christians were to lead out in forgiveness in this current fractured time? With all the fracture that’s going around us, what we need is more forgiveness. Friends, the promise of forgiveness is a powerful, powerful motivation to steadfastly pray. So he hears us. He heals us. He forgives us. These are some of the great promises given to us by God to remain steadfast in prayer. Now, fourth and last God fortifies us. He fortifies us. James gives one final reason to persist in prayer. The promise that God will fortify you, when you pray to Him. Read what it says in verse 16. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Friends when you pray in faith, according to God’s will, it is powerful as it works. Prayer strengthens us. It fortifies us.
Another way of talking about the fortifying nature of prayer is that prayer is a means of grace. It’s a channel of God’s grace to us, like the faithful preaching of God’s word or the faithful administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. When when faithful preaching happens, and you receive it in faith, God uses that as a means to give grace to you, to empower you to fortify you. Same thing with the sacraments, in baptism in the Lord’s Supper when taken in faith, God uses it to strengthen you to fortify you to comfort you. Similarly, prayer works that way. When you pray, God uses it as an instrument to bless you.
When we see by faith, God promises to strengthen us when we are weak. And as Paige reminded us last night, when we struggle with worldliness, for example, like praying with the wrong heart motors, or maybe even not praying at all. God gives us the promise to what to give us more grace, upon grace, upon grace, upon grace, I wish I could do with that lovely accent of verse. James, who reminds us that Elijah was special, of course, great prophet of God was frankly no different than you and me. And when he prayed in faith, God answered, prayer for to find Elijah. And it can fortify you to keep praying, even when a friend wanders from the truth. Like in verse 19, no matter how painful that may be, when you pray, believe that God will use it to strengthen you, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Think about the early Christians in the book of Acts. The Bible records the fortifying power of these early Christians, when they that they received in their active prayer life and an X.
It reveals how the leaders of the fledgling church brand new little church devoted themselves to two primary tasks, the leaders to preaching and to prayer. Following the example set by the Rabbi Jesus, they knew that prayer was an essential part of their ministry. These early Christians remembered how Jesus would often wake up early in the morning, while it was still dark, to go off alone, and pray to his heavenly Father, before all of his ministry, because Jesus knew that prayer fortifies so these early Christian believers that included prayer as an essential part of their life together, right, and Acts chapter two, because when they did, so they were strengthened to faithfully carry on amidst all the persecution that we’re facing. Prayer fortified them to keep going. Paul, the apostle Paul went through the same thing, he understood the necessity of prayer for his ministry. All of his letters revealed a priority he placed upon prayer, not only for the growth and maturity of all of us as believers, but even for his own ministry. He knew that without the power of God, His preaching ministry would be fruitless and powerless.
And so he asked for prayer, that the gospel would transform believers that his preaching would be bold and effective. And so we can, and we must follow in this same pattern of Jesus and the apostles. And these early Christians, praying steadfastly as we engage in the ministry of Christ. And God promises to fortify us when it gets hard. Now, why am I making such a big deal about placing our steadfastness and prayer in the framework of all of these promises? Because remember, friends are steadfastness and prayer is a result of trusting God’s faithfulness, not a requirement for earning our answers to prayer or even to be seen as righteous. Did you hear that? Our prayers are a result of trusting in God’s faithfulness heart prayers is not a requirement for earning our prayer answers to prayer or to be seen as, as righteous. Our prayer is a result, not a requirement. And this is really important because James and John knew that our weakness is not laziness, though it can be that our deeper problem is our tendency for self dependence.
And this innate independence which is encouraged by the expressive individualism of this present evil age, kills prayer. And friends at the core self dependence is nothing but a byproduct of unbelief. And so James reminds us to keep praying in the present because of God’s faithful promises to us, especially the promise to fortify us through prayers. And so friends, he heals us. I mean, he hears us, He heals us, He forgives us and fortifies us. So listen to what Peter says in first 51st Peter 517, France, Cast all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you. Listen to what Paul says, When encourage us to pray, continually giving thanks in all circumstances, first, Thessalonians, five and of course, these exhortations follow what our Lord Jesus said to us, in Matthew, 1128, and 29.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle, and lowly in the heart. And you will find rest for your souls. And friends, when we don’t pray steadfastly remember this. God promises to hear you why. Because Jesus went silent for our sins, like a sheep to the slaughter, he was sacrificed for us. And when He prayed to His Father, they fell on deaf ears. For the sin of the world had to be dealt with his father turned away in silence with Jesus cried out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? God, forsake Jesus, and did not listen. Which means he will always listen to you. God promises to heal us because Jesus was paralyzed by the disease of sin that no doctor or medicine could heal. After his death on the cross, Jesus entered the tomb, and no earthly power could heal him. But as you know, everything changed after three days, and resurrection changes everything, including our bodies. God promises to heal you because of what happened to Jesus.
But God promises to forgive you. Because Jesus took our curse upon the tree. When he went to the cross, He took all our guilt and shame so that we would receive pardon and mercy. Lastly, God promises to fortify you, because Jesus became weak so we can become strong. He left his throne, took upon himself our flesh was tempted in every way yet without sin was nailed to Roman cross and died. The most powerful became power less so that the hopeless can receive hope. Friends, God hears you, God heals you. God forgives you. And God fortifies you, because of Jesus and the Gospel. Friends, the Gospel changes everything. But the key, of course, is what James says in verse 15. Our prayers must be offered in faith. Faith that He hears us and heals us, faith that He forgives us and fortifies us because of the work of Jesus.
James uses this qualifier to remind us that faith in God and a sovereign and sufficient promises ultimately fulfilled in Jesus is the key that unlocks the door to all of his blessings. Remember, when a farmer plants his seeds, he sews them with the faith that the harvest will come. But you and I both know that sometimes praying in the midst of all the heartaches of Life can be so painful that we can only cry as we saw our seeds. Let me finish with a story that illustrates this principle of praying in faith even when it’s hard. It comes from a form of missionary A in Africa he writes this. I grew up in a preacher’s home in the little towns of Minnesota and South Dakota. I spent most of my free time on the deacons with the deacons kids on John Deere tractors. I learned how to drill oats, plant corn and cultivate. But never once did I see a deacon behave like what Psalm 126 says.
Those who sow in tears will reap what songs of joy. He who goes out weeping carrying seed to sow or return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves against him. What was there to weep about at sowing time. I was always perplexed by the Scripture until I went to the cell. That fast stretch of Savanna more than 4000 miles wide, just under the Sahara desert with the climate much like the Bible lands. You see, in this a hill all the moisture comes in a four month period, May, June, July and August. After that not a drop of rain falls for eight months. The ground cracks from dryness and so do your hands and feet. The winds off the Sahara, pick up the dust and throw it 1000s of feet into the air and then come slowly drifting across West Africa as a fine grit. It gets in your mouth, it gets in your watch and stops it it even gets inside the refrigerator if you have one.
Now the years food of course must be grown. All in those four months. People grow sorghum and fields not larger than most American sanctuaries. They’re only tools are the strength of their backs, and short handle tools. No John Deere tractors here. The average annual income is between 85 and $100 per person, October and November. These are beautiful months. The granary granaries are full, the harvest has come, people sing and dance. They eat two meals a day one about 10 in the morning, after they bend to the fields a while and the after just after sundown. The sorghum is ground between two stones to make flour and then made into a mush with the consistency of yesterday’s cream of wheat.
The sticky mush is eaten hot, they roll it into little balls between their fingers, drop it into a bit of sauce and pop it into their mouths. The meal lies heavy on their stomach so they can sleep. December comes and the granary start to receive. Many families omit the morning meal. Certainly by January January, not one family and 50 is still eating two meals a day. By February evening the evening meal diminishes. People feel the clutch of hunger once again. The meal shrinks even more during March. And children’s come to sickness. You don’t stay well on half a meal a day. April is the month that haunts my memory. The African dusk is quiet you see no jet engines, no traffic noises to break the stillness. The dust filters down through the air and sounds carry for long distances.
April is the month you hear the baby’s cry in the twilight from the village over here from the village over there for their mother’s milk is now stopped. Parents go at this time of year to the bush country where they scrape bark from certain trees they dig up roots as well collect leaves and grinded all together to make a thin gruel. They may put on a chair a cooking pot or bicycle tires in order to buy a little bit more grain from those wealthy enough to have some remaining but most often the days are passed with only an evening cup of gruel. Then, inevitably, it happens. A six or seven year old boy comes running to his father one day with sudden excitement. Daddy Daddy, we’ve got grain he shouts son, you know we we haven’t had grain for weeks. Yes, we have the boy and sis out in the hardware. We keep the goats. There’s a leather sack hanging up on the wall. I reached up and put my hand in there. Daddy, there’s grain. Please give it to mommy so she can make flour and tonight our tummies can sleep. The father stands motionless. Son, we can’t do that. He softly explains. That’s next year’s grain. It’s the only thing between us and starvation. We’re waiting for the rains. And then we must use it. The rains do finally arrive in May. And when they do, the young boy watches as his father takes the sap from the wall and does the most unreasonable thing imaginable. Instead of feeding his desperately weakened family, he goes to the field and I’ve seen it with tears streaming down his face. He takes the precious seed and throws it away. He scatters it in the dirt.
Why? Why would he do such an unreasonable thing? Because he believes in to harvest the act of sowing hurt so much he cries. But as the African pastors say, when they preach on Psalm 126, brothers and sisters, this is God’s law of the harvest. Don’t expect to rejoice later on, unless you have been willing to sow in tears. Friends, we must be willing to sow in tears, because we believe in the harvest. Because we believe Christ is the first fruit of resurrection life. So friends, let’s keep steadfastly praying. No matter how hard because God can be trusted. He hears you. He heals you. He forgives you. He fortifies you, friends, God is faithful. He will surely do it. Amen. Amen.
Let’s pray. Almighty and everlasting God, the Father of lights. From whom comes every good and perfect gift. sent down to us, your people your gift of grace, oh, how we need grace upon grace. Father, we want so earnestly to pray steadfastly, but it’s hard. So that we might truly please you and all that we think, say and do especially in our prayers, would you pour out the continual do of your blessing? Oh Lord of the ages, so draw our hearts to you. And so guide our minds so that we might be utterly dedicated to you, especially in our prayer life. Help us to remember that you hear us, you heal us, You forgive us and you fortify us to the person and work of your son, our Savior and friend, our brother Jesus Christ. And then Lord, would you use us as you will, for Your glory and for the good of the people around us, as we tenaciously pray for those that are sick and suffering for those that are wandering for those that are in sin and in sorrow.
So Father, please strengthen the faithful stirrup, the careless restore the penitent, especially as remember all the glorious, glorious promises that are ours, by virtue of our union with Christ, and so grant to us low Lord, for the honor of our advocate and mediator, our creator, redeemer, Jesus Christ, even help us now as we pray all together with one voice, the prayer Our Lord Jesus taught us saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. And all God’s people said amen.