The Possibilities of Prayer
Text: James 5:13-18
Rev. Garry E. McCaffery
Just by reading the passage from James it is evident there are many marvelous things that can happen through prayer. If you are suffering, then pray. Why? Because there is strength in prayer to alleviate suffering. As Christians, instead of grumbling, our suffering moves us to prayer, seeking God’s Spirit to wash over us and give strength.
Then, James wrote, if you are cheerful, then sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. Singing songs when you’re feeling good just boosts the mood to an even higher level. Think of times you’ve sung songs of joy in your car, singing your heart out to the steering wheel, not realizing people in the car next to you are looking at you as though you’ve gone mad. Even when we are sad, singing songs to the Lord is a way to express the depths of our pain and sorrow while acknowledging God is our source of comfort and strength. Many of you may have heard the old saying, “when you sing, you pray twice.”
Next, he tells us if you are you sick, then call for the elders of the church to pray over you anointing you with oil. The church is a God-planned human support on which we may lean in times of sickness and distress. Anointing with oil was common medical practice in Palestine. If the anointing commanded here was the use of a natural means of healing, it also had a spiritual significance as it was administered in the name of the Lord. Thus, showing we are partners with God in His work in the world.
Going on we read that if we have committed sins, then we are to pray to be forgiven. If there is sin in our life, whether we are healthy or sick, we must pray and ask forgiveness. This makes sense. The beautiful thing about this is, when we pray and ask forgiveness, we are forgiven.
One other thing James mentions, for those who may not like snow and cold temperatures, we see that if we want to influence weather patterns we can pray. After all, look what Elijah did through prayer.
In this passage from James we see the possibilities of prayer both small and great. We see the possibilities of prayer are truly limitless. When we observe the ministry of Jesus, we see the effects of prayer. We see the importance of prayer as Jesus took time to separate from the crowds in order to pray. We see the miraculous things that occurred as a result of Jesus’ time in prayer. Throughout his whole life Jesus demonstrated the necessity and power of prayer. Jesus showed us the many possibilities of prayer.
The possibilities of prayer always point to the promises God has given us in His word. Prayers and promises are interdependent. God gives us promises as an encouragement, and as an enticement to pray. Promises of answered prayer are God’s praying incentives for us as His people. Think about it. We need incentives to do things sometimes, don’t we? Children certainly do when it comes to doing certain chores. Not just negative incentives, such as, if you don’t pick up your toys you’ll lose your x-box privileges. But, positive incentives, such as, you clean up your room and you can have ice cream, or stay up an extra hour.
As adults, we need incentives too. If we didn’t need incentives for things, then companies would not have to spend so much money advertising their products. Car companies would not have to wave 0% financing in front of us to get us to buy or lease a new car if we did not need incentives for things.
The promises of God are incentives for us to pray. This is why I say prayers and promises are interdependent. God’s promises cover all things that pertain to life and godliness. They relate to the body and the soul. Consider it this way, promises are God’s golden fruit to be plucked by the hand of prayer. E.M. Bounds said, “The promise is like the blessed rain falling in full showers, but prayer, like the pipes which transmit, preserve and direct the rain, localizes and precipitates the promises, until they become local and personal, and bless, refresh, and fertilize.”
Prayer takes hold of the promise and brings it to its marvelous ends, removes obstacles, and makes a highway for its fulfillment. Consider the promise of salvation. This promise is given for all people. We know from scripture that God doesn’t want anyone to perish. God doesn’t want any person to be separated from Him for all of eternity. We know Jesus died for the sins of all people. Therefore, the promise of salvation is for all. However, the promise can only be received by those who pray to receive it. The promise isn’t received by default. Just because we are human beings, made in the image of God, does not automatically save us from sin and death. Until we pray the prayer of salvation, receiving, by faith, Jesus as our Lord and Savior, salvation remains only a possibility. Something that could happen, but only if a person asks or prays, to receive it.
The same is true when it comes to receiving healing, or anything else we would ask for. These things remain only a possibility until we pray. Prayer moves God to do what God would not otherwise do if prayer was not offered. Remember, God is not going to force himself on us. God is not going to force us to receive blessings or answers if we do not want them. Oh, there are some blessing we receive regardless because of God’s prevenient grace. But, there are other things we will not receive if we do not ask.
The possibilities of prayer are numerous, and those possibilities are all connected to promises which encourage us to pray. When we pray many opportunities are open. Prayer opens opportunities for healing, for influencing God and molding us to His will, and for developing our relationship with God. Prayer
also opens opportunities for proclaiming the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. And boy, do we need more opportunities to proclaim the gospel of Christ. It is evident our world is a mess. Sin seems to be running rampant with no check or balance against it. Our lack of respect for each other, our inability to listen to each other, our lack of appreciation for the sacredness of life from conception to old age. All these things open us to the great possibilities in prayer. The opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world in desperate need of new life.
In Colossians 4:3 the Apostle Paul wrote, “meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word…” He was asking for people to pray that God would offer other opportunities to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ so others would
be saved. God answered that prayer for Paul and He will answer that prayer for us. There are as many possibilities to pray as there are people to pray for. The possibility that a person would repent of their sin, and give their life to Christ, this is an opportunity that is opened by prayer, that people would receive Jesus and have their life transformed.
The possibilities for spreading the gospel are great! But, unless we pray, they remain only possibilities. Sadly, most of the promises of God remain only possibilities because we have not been willing to pray, or, at the very least, we have been unwilling to believe God can do what we are asking Him to do.
We have talked about the influence God allows us to have on Him through prayer. We’ve looked at
numerous examples over the past few weeks. And His promise to answer and to do and to give, “all things,” “anything,” “whatsoever,” “and “all things whatsoever,” is so large, so great, so exceedingly broad, that we stand back in amazement and give ourselves to questioning and doubt. We stagger to think God has given us that much power in prayer. Yet, He has!
We see this exemplified time and time again throughout scripture. God wants us to pray. God wants us to depend upon His promises. Remember, God’s promises are His own word. His truthfulness is at stake in them. God cannot afford to prove faithless to His word. God’s promises are for plain people, you and me, and he means to do for all who pray, just what he says he will do. Prayers and promises are interconnected. When we fail to pray, we fail to offer God an opportunity to unleash his promises, both on us and through us. Failure to pray hinders God from doing the great work He desires to do among us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, God wants to do great things in our midst. God wants to draw us closer to Him in order to transform us more and more into His image and likeness. God wants us to be open to Him so He can use us, use our gifts, talents, and abilities to draw others into a relationship with Him. God wants to expand the ministries we are doing as well as envisioning even greater things. How will these things happen? In Jeremiah 33:3 God says, “Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.” This is one of the many promises given in God’s word to encourage us to see all the possibilities in prayer.
Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
God, who did not spare his only Son, Jesus Christ, for our sakes, will he not also answer our prayers?
The possibilities of prayer are before us. The possibilities are always great because God always answers prayer! Focus on the possibilities. Pray. Pray believing you will receive what you ask for in prayer. Pray for the sake of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs to hear it. Pray, for the world, and the move of God, depends on it. Amen.