Monday, November 5, 2012

P5 - Traits of the Strong Christian - Prayer life

James 4:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.

In recent days we have been blogging on the subject of what traits comprise a strong Christian.  We have been examining the life of James, the author of the Epistle of James and Jesus' biological half-brother.  We have noted the following four traits of a strong Christian:

1. Personal Testimony
2. Prioritizes Spiritual Maturity
3. Passion for Jesus
4. Persistent Application of God's Word

Todays blog will conclude this particular series on "Traits of the Strong Christian", noting how the strong Christian aims to have a prayer life. 

Every Christian can be a strong Christian
My point in these series of blogs has been to demonstrate that any Christian can be a strong Christian.  For starters, every Christian has a Personal testimony of what their life was like before Christ, how Christ brought them to the point of conversion and what their life has been like since. 

Every Christian has been given the indwelling Holy Spirit through whom they can cultivate a desire to mature in their faith.  They have also been given the beginning of a new nature that is inherently inclined to desire Jesus Christ - giving them the base to excercise themselves in focusing their mind, emotions and will upon Him.  Then finally if you have a Bible, you have opportunity to know it, meditate upon it and apply it. 

Immaturity is our doing alone, maturity is both God's doing and our doing
So why do we see so many Christian's struggling in spiritual immaturity?  All the things I just listed in the above two paragraphs are graces given by God.  Now salvation is all of God's doing.  He brought you the grace and gifting of faith and repentance, whereby you simply received and believed on Jesus. (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18)  However your growth in Jesus Christ following conversion  - called sanctification - is both God's doing and your doing. (Philippians 2:12-13)  God has done His part, however where we see the break down is due to the fact that we're not doing ours.  Prayer, like the other four traits, is a grace given by God whereby the Christian is given the capacity to hear and talk to God.  However, as with all sanctifying graces, the Christian must excercise themselves in it if they are expected to be strong in their faith.

A Strong Christian will pray according to the scriptures
James was related to Jesus biologically through Mary, making Jesus his half brother.  However we also know that he had other brothers and sisters who, along with himself, were born after Jesus and who were naturally conceived by both Mary and Joseph.  Among those, Jude is noteworthy, since he is the only other half-brother of Jesus who is also the author of a New Testament book bearing his name - the Book of Jude. (see Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3)

Both James and Jude write about prayer, since it was such a cornerstone of their lives as strong Christians.  I will give you James' statements on prayer, followed by Jude's:

1. James 1:5-7 (Prayer for Wisdom) But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.

2. James 4:3 (Why your prayers may not be answered) You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

3. James 4:6-7 (The warfare and triumph in prayer) But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

4. James 4:15 (The submission in prayer) "Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

5. James 4:13-18 (Praying for healing) Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit."

6. Jude 20 (Prayer as a means of strengthening faith) "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit"

From those six scriptures in both James and Jude, we can glean much about prayer that is based upon the Word of God.  Both men tie together prayer and the Word.  James begins and ends his letter with statements about prayer, with fertile discussion about scripture throughout his letter.  Jude begins his letter with the intent to urge his readers to embrace God's Word, with a powerful exhortation to persevere in prayer. 

A Strong Christian prays like Jesus prayed
Why did James and Jude emphasize prayer so much?  They both linked prayer with the written word - the Bible.  However they both emphasized prayer because of its link to the Living Word - Jesus Christ. Remarkably, both men's teaching on prayer mirrors much of what Jesus' taught on prayer in the Gospels.  Over a dozen places in the Gospels record our Lord's teaching on the subject, with parallels  found in James' and Jude's writings.  Please note the chart below that compares Jesus, James' and Jude's teaching on prayer:

Prayer Topic                Jesus teaching       James            Jude
Wisdom                         Matt 7:7                   1:5-8               
Gifts                               Matt 7:11, 21:21      1:16-18
Promise of Kingdom      Matt 6:13; Lk 11       2:5                  14-15
Worry                             Matt 7                      4:13-17
Wealth                           Luke 18:13               5:1-4
Oaths                             Mt 5:34                    5:7-11
Anointing w/ oil/healing  Mk 6:14                    5:14
God centered prayer      Mt 7:7;21:21             1:5-8
Promise based prayer    Matt 7, John 14        2:5, 20-27       24-25
Motives in prayer            Mt 6:14; 18:34-35    4:2
Corporate prayer            Mt 21:13                  3:14                 20

Since Jesus emphasized prayer, and the Biblical authors emphasized prayer (some 600 times) and since James and Jude along with them emphasized it - why shouldn't we? Prayer is to the strong Christian like oxygen is to the lungs.  Without prayer, the faith-life suffocates.  May we take to heart these considerations of what it means to be a strong Christian, namely:

1. Personal Testimony
2. Prioritizing Spiritual Maturity
3. Passion for Jesus
4. Persistent Application of God's Word
5. Prayer

No comments:

Post a Comment