Today we are finishing up our study of the book of James by looking at a life principle that ultimately gives fuel to our faith and provides the power to follow all the practices – or life hacks – that James has given us. What helps us in times of trials, gives us the energy to be doers of God’s word, helps us treat all people with dignity and respect, tames our tongue, tempers our temptations, and leads us to wisdom is prayer. James begins and ends his book by talking about the power of prayer, and so today we are going to end our series by looking at how prayer is the key to a stronger faith, and healthier relationships and a more vital life.
While I know we have all been learning from the life hacks provided by James, the other life hacks we have shared have been fun too, and I can now say that I am a fan of frozen potato chips. So here are the final life hacks I have to offer.
Back to prayer, prayer has been at the foundation of James principles and practices and we are going to define prayer as simply keeping company with God. Prayer is spending time with God. It is both listening to God and talking with God. It is sharing our hearts and desires with God, and allowing God to shape our hearts and desires. Many people have asked why we should pray if God already knows everything. We don’t pray to inform God, we pray to be formed by God, and we pray because God wants to spend time with us. We pray because God enjoys our company. We pray because God loves us.
So here is the first principle about prayer, pray every day – because God enjoys our company. We don’t pray to just tell God what we want, or what we are sorry for, or even what we are thankful for, we pray to simply be with God. Prayer is an intentional time where we open ourselves up to the presence of God and it is a reminder that God enjoys the time with us. This time with God is not only important to God but it is vital our lives and faith.
Prayer has not only been a part of all the major people we see in the Bible, it has been time in prayer that shaped these people. Abraham prayed. Moses prayed. David prayed. The prophets Elijah and Elisha prayed. Mary and Joseph prayed. Peter and Paul prayed. Jesus prayed. Think about that, Jesus prayed, and his prayer life was so powerful that it was the one thing that the disciples specifically asked Jesus to teach them. They didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to multiply fish and bread, turn water into wine, or even how to heal the sick, they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray because they understood that prayer was the foundation of Jesus’ life and the fuel for his own faith and connection with God the father. They wanted to pray like Jesus.
One of the most important things during any time of prayer is for us to hear God’s message of love. There are two times we hear God speak during Jesus’ life, and in both situations God says the same thing. At Jesus’ baptism, a dove descended on Jesus, and the voice of God said, this is my son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased. And then later in Jesus’ life God spoke again and said, this is my son, whom I love. With him I well pleased. Listen to him.
Twice it is recorded that Jesus heard God’s words of love. Twice we know that Jesus heard the affirmation of his father, but I don’t think these were the only two times Jesus heard this message. Jesus often went off by himself to pray and during those times of prayer Jesus heard again and again that he was loved by God the father. Again and again Jesus heard that he was chosen, and anointed, and connected to God the father. If Jesus needed to hear that God loved him, if he needed the affirmation of his heavenly father, how much more do we?
So one of the most important things for us to hear in any time of prayer is that we are loved and affirmed by God. We need this reminder daily, so we need to pray every day and allow God’s love to rest upon us. We need to hear the kind of message that came through the prophet Zephaniah who said…
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. While this sounds a bit strange to us, God truly does want to rejoice over us with singing. God delights in our presence. This is how much God longs for our company and desires us to pray – every day.
The second life principles is this, pray about everything – because God cares about us. Let’s look at James 3:13-18.
James says we are to pray when we are in trouble, when we are happy, when we are sick, when we are wrapped up in sin, and when we are experiencing the gift of righteousness. In all the circumstances of life we are to pray, and we really are to pray about everything because God cares about everything.
When I was in college, the fellowship I was part of had a Daily Prayer Meeting. We met in an empty classroom in one of the main buildings on campus and we would pray about everything. One day a girl in our group came in and said she needed a bike to help her get to classes and work, and so we prayed that God would provide a bike. I’ll be honest, I was somewhat new to the whole prayer thing and I thought, really? We are praying for a bike? But we did and a week later Tracy came to the prayer meeting and said she had gotten a bike. I’m not saying God will give us everything we ask for when we pray, I am saying we need to pray about everything because if it matters to us – it matters to God.
You would think that I would have learned from that situation to pray for everything, but I forget to pray for things like bikes. When the sump pump at my parsonage in Lewisburg stopped working one Saturday night – when it was raining hard – I had to set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes so I could go down and trigger the pump to start so my basement wouldn’t flood. I shared that story in Sunday School the next morning to explain why I was so tired and someone asked me if I prayed for the sump pump. I laughed and said, no. They said, why not. I said, it was a sump pump. And then I thought about Tracy’s bike. If it matters to me – it matters to God.
I should have prayed for my sump pump. I should have shared with God that situation and prayed. The sump pump may have started to work, or God could have given me the knowledge about how to get it working, or maybe God would have just blessed me with a sense of peace that I needed for Sunday morning.
What matters to you right now? What is important to you today? Whatever it is, big or small, it matters to God and we need to share it with God. It may not miraculously get fixed, or be provided, but if it matters to you – it matters to God and we need to share our lives with God. We need to pray every day because God enjoys our company, and we need to pray about everything because God cares about us.
Now here’s the thing, most of us know we should pray more often, we even understand that there is power in prayer, but we just don’t do it, so here are three life hacks to help us pray more faithfully.
Did you know that there is an app we all have on our phones that can help us pray? Let me show you… (Power button)
1. Power Off. We need to power off to turn on and tune in to God. Sometimes all that is needed for us to turn to God in prayer is to turn off the world. Phones, tablets, computers, and TVs make it very easy for us to start our day tuning into the world instead of tuning into God. What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Sometimes before I am even out of bed I have checked my email, scanned the news, and seen what has been posted on facebook. I’ve tuned into the world before I have tuned into God. I’m working to try and turn this around so I don’t tune into the world until after I have tuned into God. I’m trying to power off my devices so I can focus on prayer.
To remain focused and tuned into God during prayer we can also keep a prayer list or a prayer journal. Sometimes writing down what I share with God helps me stay focused on what matters and it reminds me from day to day what I have and what I want to share with God.
Setting aside a specific time and place for prayer can also be helpful. A few years ago I decided to not turn on the TV in the morning to watch the news but to take the time while I was eating breakfast to read the Bible and pray. So now every morning I am able to sit at a table where I can keep company with God through his word and prayer.
2. Invite In. James 5:14. We not only need to invite God into our lives when we pray, but there is value in inviting others into our prayers as well. There is power when we pray together. Jesus said where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there, and when Jesus is there, the power of Jesus is there.
Praying with others not only brings the power of Jesus, but it can keep us diligent in praying, and it can shape our prayers. Prayer partners can be a good way to help us be intentional in our times of prayer and keep us going. Whether we actually meet with someone to pray, or just ask someone to check in with us about our prayer life, the support and accountability in prayer can be powerful.
Praying with others can also teach us how to pray. It was praying one on one with the guys in my bible study in college that taught be more about prayer than any class or workshop ever did. The disciples grew in their desire to pray by simply being with Jesus when he prayed. .
I hope in your marriages and in your families you are praying together. If not, introduce it as a practice. Pray at meal time. Pray at bedtime with your children. Pray for your children in the morning or at the start of the day. Invite God into your lives and invite others into your times of prayer.
3. Envision Change. James says, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. In other words, prayer changes things, so what are the changes we want to see in our lives, our relationships, our jobs, our community, and our world? What change are we looking for? Can we see it? Can we name it?
Envisioning change can be helpful for several reasons. It can help us check our motives to make sure what we are seeing and wanting is right and pure. It can also help us see what might need to change in us to bring about a change in others, or the world. Sometimes the change that comes in prayer is going to take place in us, and so we need to see that, and be willing to accept that.
Jesus had a strong vision of what he prayed for. When he taught his disciples to pray he told them to pray, thy kingdom come, and Jesus could clearly see what the kingdom of God was to look like and how he could be part of bringing it in. Seeing what he was praying for gave direction to Jesus’ life and it can give direction to our lives as well.
To help us pray we need to power off, invite in, and envision change, but the most important thing is to just pray. Spend time with God. Begin a conversation with God. Listen for God to speak and share and sing over you and know that God enjoys your company. Prayer is so important because it is the fuel that ignites our faith, it forgives our sin, it helps heals our souls, it restores our relationships, and it fundamentally changes our lives.
Life Hacks – Prayer
Prayer – keeping company with God.
- Pray every day – because God enjoys your company.
- Pray about everything – because God cares about you.
1. Power Off – to turn on and tune in to God
- What time of the day can you turn off the world (phone, tablet, computers, TV) and tune into God? Pick a time and place to pray every day.
- Share with God what matters most to you today.
- Listen to what matters most to God.
2. Invite In.
- Ask God to enter into your schedule, your relationships, and your heart.
- Join a small group where others can pray for you, and where you can pray for others.
- In your small groups, being a prayer partner ministry.
- Pray together in your marriage or family. Start by praying before meals, or at the beginning of your day.
3. Envision Change.
- What one change are you praying for today?
- Write down what it would look like for God to answer your prayer.
- What one change might God want in your life?
- Write down what it would look like for God to answer His prayer.