PRAY WITHOUT CEASING – 9/30/18 – Pastor Donna Doutt
Here we are in the final chapter of James. This whole book of James has been an instruction manual on how to bring yourself back into living the way God wants.
In Chapter 1 he speaks to trials and temptations, true faith and practical obedience. We think of examples like Job who maintained faith and obedience through everything in his life.
In Chapter 2 he reminds us that to discriminate is a sin and that there should not be faith without works to go with it discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
In Chapter 3 we are admonished, as our parents would say to “watch your mouth!” And he finishes chapter 3 by telling us, “Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.”
Chapter 4 focuses on conflict with people and God. I resonate with this scripture in Chapter 4, verse 5 where he writes:…God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Come near to God and he will come next to you.
Now here we are at the end of this lesson in Chapter 5 and James is reminding us that we need to pray. The power of prayer seems to be what this last scripture that ends this book is all about. So if God wants us to pray….and He does….why don’t we? Well James makes it easy for us by giving specific instructions on HOW and WHEN to pray.
Let me ask you this…how many people here have been in a Bible study or a meeting or even at a family dinner, and someone will say, “Who wants to lead us in prayer?”
Now my next question is how many of you put up your hand and said “Me! Pick me! I want to lead prayer!”?
Now here’s my final question…how many of you avert your eyes hoping no one will ask you directly to pray?
This is just a guess, but I’ll bet 99% of the people hearing this message choose not to pray in public. But here’s the thing….this scripture we just heard, James 5:13-20 clearing instructs us to pray. He says, “13-15 Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet.”
So what do you think that means? We are to pray for one another. And we do, each week we take time in our order of worship to pray together for those who are listed in our bulletin and for those raised up during worship. How many of you know someone right now standing in the need of prayer, but you didn’t speak that name out loud?
This scripture is a clear call for us to pray for one another and to be in community solidarity in our prayer.
The Book of Common Prayer puts it this way, “Whether one is suffering or cheerful, sick or sinful, prayer is the proper response of the people of God. This is not only a call to individuals to lay their lives and circumstances before God in prayer but an expressly communal obligation to intercede for one another.”
Yes, we KNOW that we should be praying, but when it comes to prayer, here’s one of the things that I hear most from people, “I don’t know how to pray.”
How many of you have heard of this old formula for prayer: ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication)
Our first prayer that we learn, even as children, is the Lord’s Prayer. We need to remember it was written by Jesus. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he gave them the Lord’s Prayer as is example. (See Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4) He is recorded as teaching it to others on at least two different occasions, once privately with the disciples and once to the crowds during what is known as the Sermon on the Mount.
I read an article recently that says, “The prayer was revolutionary and would have made a deep impression on the disciples and on the listeners because Jesus begins by calling God ‘Our Father.’ This changes everything about prayer and how we approach God in prayer because it means that God loves us and cares for us personally and is listening when we pray. This contrasts with other ancient views on prayer where people felt unworthy of going directly to God in prayer and instead used go-betweens such as priests or offered sacrifices.”
With this prayer, Jesus follows the formula we just addressed: Jesus encourages us to request our daily needs, to ask for and receive forgiveness – and to in turn forgive others who have done things against us.
First, Oh, come let us adore Him! We begin with praise and affirmation. We open with the “ADORATION”, by 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.
THANKSGIVING: Give us this day our daily bread,
CONFESSION: …and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,
SUPPLICATION: and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
And then praise and ADORATION again: For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the glory forever, Amen.
Our founding father, John Wesley wrote about prayer. He said God commands us to pray without ceasing. But how many of us “pray without ceasing”?
In 1Thessalonians 5:17, the text says, “Pray without ceasing.” ... The Greek word for “without ceasing” is adialeiptos, which doesn't mean nonstop — but actually means constantly recurring. The Zondervan Bible Commentary tells us that Paul now gives advice about the Christian’s personal relationship to God and to problems in the church and daily life; that Christians must rejoice even when persecuted; and that unceasing prayer is the secret of continual joy. And finally that Thanksgiving will result from the realization gained in prayer that God’s purpose is behind all circumstances.
Although this is singular, it must refer to all three, prayer, rejoicing and thanksgiving. God’s will is not remote or impersonal but is revealed in Christ Jesus.
Wesley said “God's command to "pray without ceasing", is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.
Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him.All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.
Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things.In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.”
You know for all the technicality that we ASSUME is required for prayer, we’re over-thinking it. Our prayers are a conversation with God. Our prayers are praising for what God has done for us. Our prayers our humbling ourselves before Him. Our prayers are for interceding on behalf of others. There’s no required length to a prayer.
There are no secret clergy buzzwords that make one prayer more or better than others, or my prayer more important than yours. It’s a simple and pure, adoration, please and thank you.
You can certainly talk to God alone (one on one), and you should! But our obligation as a church is communal prayer and care for one another.
Pastor and author Kathy Dawson writes, “In communal prayer, we have the opportunity listen for and be God’s voice in the world. Through prayer the congregation is empowered to carry out Christ’s mission. It is a practice in which all ages can participate. Prayer changes relationships and lives. It should be our first practice as a congregation if we are truly to walk in James’s concept of godly wisdom.”
Like a loving father, God is always ready to hear and lift us up. God knows the pain on your face. God knows the grief in your heart, and the fear in the pit of your stomach. Let us show ourselves..
So let us now be a community of prayers and join our voices and lift them to God as we pray the prayer that Jesus taught to the disciples:
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
 The Book of Common Prayer (New York: Seabury Press, 1979)
 Zondervan Bible Commentary (One Volume)
 From A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, as believed and taught by the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, from the year 1725, to the year 1777.
 Feasting on the Word, John Knox Press. Louisville, KY, p. 114