Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.
~James 5:23, NLT
James uses two words that are rare in the N.T. The only other writer to use them is Paul. The first is kakopatheō, to suffer hardship or affliction. It can refer to physical suffering but not necessarily. It can refer to difficult circumstances.
Paul uses this same word twice in 2 Timothy. In 2:9, Paul said, “Because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained.” Then again in 4:5, You should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. I love the Good News Translation of this verse…But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God.
The Second key word in verse 13 is euthymeō, to make cheerful, to gladden, to be joyful and of good courage. You can tell by looking that his is the root word for enthusiasm. We will deal with it next week, LORD willing.
Tonight we are going to focus on James 5:13a, Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray.
James has spoken previously about the sins of the tongue and over reacting to adversity. When we, believers, encounter hardship, we should pray, not curse, no blame or judge but pray. Prayer should be our first response not our last resort.
I. EVERY BELIEVER SHOULD CULTIVATE THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER.
Prayer for the believer should be as natural as breathing. We should pray until prayer becomes a habit. This is a distinguishing mark between the believer and the world. It is natural for the world to blame, to point fingers, to make excuses, to curse, swear, pitch fits when things don’t go their way but Christian should immediately turn to God in prayer. Prayer should become such a habit that we do it without thinking about options.
- Sometimes we try to fix the problem ourselves.
- Sometimes we turn to the world.
- Sometimes we throw money at the problem.
- Sometimes we rely on education–books, tapes, etc.
God is the last resort for the world: they will pray but its only we they feel like they have no other options. We pray when we experience a 9/11. There are no atheist in a fox hole. In John’s revelation of Jesus Christ, in the last days, the rebellious, the unrepentant will prayer: they will pray for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them. They will pray but only as a last resort.
Looking at several translations, I have put together a montage that is very encouraging–In any among you are in trouble, afflicted, suffering, enduring hardship, sorrowful, hurting, sick, or sad let him pray. The bible is an amazing book: none of these translations are wrong: the Greek literally means to endure hardships of all kinds. So when TROUBLE, SICKNESS, SORROW, HEARTACHE, HARDSHIP, AFFLICTION or ADVERISTY of any sort come…PRAY!
II. EVERY BELIEVER SHOULD APPRECIATE THE PRIVILEDGE OF PRAYER.
Do I have an open door to the Governor or to the White House? No! I am totally blocked. I can’t even talk to my local congressman. They will not personally respond to my mail. There are people who have an open door. They are not peers. They are lobbyist or billionaires: either way, they represent big money. Money talks to politicians which is why all of them leave Washington rich. They are there to serve us supposedly, but they serve themselves.
What I am saying is you could get access to congress or the White House if you had enough money. This open access that we are talking about comes with a very high price tag. I am fairly certain that the president would open his door to you if you made a 50 million dollar contribution to his library. Of course none of us have that kind of money and we will never have access. The point is, access is costly.
Have you considered the price that Jesus paid so that we could have access to the Throne of Grace. Jesus opened the way for us by suffering a humiliating and agonizing death in our behalf on the cross. The price He paid was His blood.
What kind of change would come over us if we could grasp this one truth. You can talk to your Heavenly Father 24/7/365 because Jesus opened the way by His death on the cross. This makes Joseph Scriven’s hymn come to life….
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
The natural man does not have this privilege. The question is: to we appreciate this privilege or do we abuse this privilege?
III. EVERY BELIEVER SHOULD BE AWARE OF THE PUPROSE OF PRAYER.
I confess that prayer has many purposes just as there are many kinds of prayers. But I want to talk about the one alluded to here in James. When you practice prayer as a discipline, it becomes a habit–then over time, it becomes a passion. A passion is something you do from your heart, something you love.
There are not many but there are a few in every generation: people who are passionate about prayer…people who love to prayer. They don’t have to discipline themselves to do it, they are drawn to it. Does an Auburn or Alabama fan have to discipline themselves to see the game on Saturday? No sir, they are drawn by a mysterious power to a TV set or stadium somewhere.
We all do what we love and we do it with enthusiasm, same word used in James 5:13, Are any of you enthusiastic? You should sing praises.
We will say more about enthusiasm next week but do you see the sequence. We discipline ourselves to pray, maybe a minute a day or five minutes. Then prayer becomes habit…then it becomes a passion and we feel drawn to prayer…we want to pray…we love to pray. Then prayer becomes or knee jerk reaction to everything. In good times we pray, in difficult time we pray because that is what we do, it is what we love. Then we become enthusiastic and cheerful, even in difficult times.
Someone came up to me after a COLS recently and said, “I want to thank you for all you did,” and then I said something stupid, “I really didn’t do anything other than pray.” Dr. Jack Taylor quote on prayer changed my life. Dr. Taylor said, “We Baptist want to pray and get on with the business: we don’t understand that prayer is the business.”
Paul had some type of mysterious ailment, no one can’t identify this thorn in the flesh but whatever it was, Paul wanted to be rid of it. Paul, the great Apostle, Missionary and Prayer warrior prayed three times and ask God to remove the thorn. Each time, God said no! Paul was praying for his circumstances to change but God had something else in mind, He wanted to change Paul. God put the circumstance in place that would help Paul grow spiritually and bear much fruit.
You are probably familiar with the cute little adage: God answers every prayer: yes, no, and you must be kidding. I like the adage and I believe it bears some truth but there is a deeper truth. No prayer or prayer time is a waste: God indeed answers every prayer…
- After it is interpreted by the two Priest–the Holy Spirit in our life and Jesus in Heaven…in other words after deciphered by the Holy Trinity.
- Thus God’s answer rarely matches our expectations. What we ask for could be bad for us or even good but not necessarily the best. Sometimes God’s withholds so He can give us something better.
- Time in prayer is never a waste of time. You insult the Father with such thoughts. I don’t do commercials so my wife records the Hallmark Christmas movies and then we watch them together. It is a special hour that we look forward to what if she heard me tell some one that an hour with her is a waste of time. Do you think she would be hurt?