Prayer is such a vital aspect of Christian discipleship. A critical link between us and God. In James’ final words to us we find a link between prayer and the call to action that is central to James’ understanding of our faith. Prayer to James is active and alive. A key component to our life of discipleship and service.
Text: James 5: 13-20
If you will recall during the first sermon on our series on James I related to you a quote by Martin Luther. That the letter of James was a right strawy epistle, for it has no gospel in it. I hope that over these past few weeks you have come to see the gospel that is embedded in this book. How what James writes challenges us in our living.
This morning we take a look at the end of this letter at James’ final instructions to us. I find it fitting that James ends his letter by speaking about prayer. His letter does not end as many of Paul’s letters end, with a final farewell. Instead James leaves us with a word on prayer.
“Are any among you suffering? They should pray.” Continually, throughout this passage James urges us to pray for ourselves and to pray for one another. He writes “…Pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”
Sometimes I think we discount the power of prayer in our lives. We might wonder if it is effective, we have doubts. We might pray for something and be disappointed when our prayer isn’t answered. We might wonder our faith is strong enough. What James tells us is that our prayer is important and that it does have an effect.
You see friends we are active agents in prayer. When we pray we are not taking part in a passive activity. Our prayer compels us and moves us forward. We take responsibility for what we have prayed for. Prayer becomes less about something we need and more about something we do.
Through prayer we support one another. We support the community of faith and through prayer we help usher in the Kingdom. If we understand prayer through the lens of James’ letter then we see that prayer is a part of the work we do through faith. James writes a lot about practical faith. That is how our faith is apparent and seen in the world. How the work that we do is a result of a faith which is active and alive.
When we consider our faith as James describes it, then we begin to see our prayer as part of our work as Christians. That as followers of Christ prayer is not just about communicating and petitioning God. It is part of our work to establish God’s Kingdom.
It is at this point that James shifts gears and closes out his letter with a final word on what as followers of Christ we are called to do. It is a thought which summarizes the gospel. That we are called to bring back the lost. We recognize that we don’t make this journey alone. God calls us to be in community, by that very fact we know that we will need to lean on and depend on others.
James writes, “…if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul…” With these words James reminds us that within a community, within a family we need to rely on one another to care for and look out for each other.
Each of us can think of one member of the family who is the black sheep. That brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin who know one really sees very often. We think of them from time to time, but there is little or no engagement. The same is true with our church family.
Right now, each of you sitting here can think of and name one person that you haven’t seen for a few weeks, months or years. They used to be a vibrant and faithful member of this church, but they just haven’t been out much. Take a moment, think about that person. Who they are, their hobbies, family. Think about what excites them.
Now I want you to take a brief quiet moment right now and I would like you to pray for that person. Go ahead.
There was a church once and a little boy was assigned to light the Christ candle, but at the last minute he balked. Frozen by fear half way down the aisle, he said, loud enough for the entire church to hear, “I’m scared.” But his dad got up, took him by the hand, and led him to the front of church where he proudly lit the Christ candle. He needed someone he trusted to lead him down the aisle. So it is with God’s wandering children. It won’t be easy. We’ll have to be persistent, because without a relationship of trust forged over years of caring presence, it will be all but impossible to lead the wanders home (reference).
We are called to establish that relationship of trust. In Christian fellowship part of how we develop this bond is through prayer. What James is writing about echoes the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We are called to invite people back and to welcome them in a way that says, you never left. It is everyone’s responsibility to take care of the lost. We can do this through prayer and we can do this through action.
My ask of you think week is to invite someone back. We all know someone who with a gentle ask and some prayer may one day be among again as part of our family of faith. Friends, let’s reach out together and invite people back into our community of faith. Amen.