August 14, 2022
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
This summer has been filled with yards with dead grass, shrinking ground, exposed foundations, low lake levels, water conservation, burn bans and livestock struggling to survive among other things. Many prayers were answered this past week with the rain we got, but there are still prayers going up for more rain. With the rain we did get though, there was an opportunity for prayers of thanks to God.
Prayer is speaking to God. Prayer can be praising God, thanking him or asking him for help. Prayer is different from the other communication in your life because it is communication directed only to God, so the who you are communicating with makes prayer unique. In our Old Testament reading from Genesis 18, Abraham was communicating with God. God had come in the form of a man to speak with Abraham. God revealed to Abraham that he planned to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, which God wanted Abraham to know because Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family lived in Sodom. Getting this insider information would give Abraham the chance to ask God to spare his loved ones.
23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham was bold to ask God because he trusted in God to do right and spare the righteous. Abraham also knew how wicked the city was, so he asked if there were only 45, then 40, 30, 20 and 10 would the city be destroyed. Each time, God said that he would not destroy it for the sake of the righteous people in the city.
God wants you to pray to him. Your prayers to God are heard as clear as Abraham’s words to him face to face. In our New Testament reading from James 5, James gave the clear call to believers to pray. He wrote, 13 “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” James directed believers to communicate with God when things were bad and when things were good. He also directed believers to ask others to pray for them, 14 “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” James encourages believers to involve others when they are sick. He encourages believers, especially leaders in the church to pray for one another, and not to pray alone, but also allow for medical care to be given. James references oil here not as something spiritual or miraculous, but something that made sense at the time to accompany prayer perhaps like a cold compress or pain reliever today. It was not the oil that would bring healing, but the power was in the prayer. And the power was in the prayer as James explained,
15 “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
James makes it clear that prayer is powerful because the Lord is listening to our prayers and he has the power to heal, even to forgive. Thus, the prayers of a righteous person, a person with faith in the one true God, will accomplish something, even great things.
Your prayers seem useless when they are not answered. God wants you to pray. James encourages you to pray because God is the power behind prayer, but there are times when your prayers are not answered with a “Yes.” There are also times when you must pray a long time before an answer is given. With Abraham, God answered his prayer quickly, but not the way he expected. Abraham prayed to prevent the destruction of Sodom because his nephew, Lot, and his family were there. Yet, Sodom was destroyed for its wickedness, but two angels got Lot, his wife and his two daughters out of the city before it was destroyed. However, Lot’s wife looked back while God was destroying the city and she was turned into a pillar of salt. Abraham’s prayer may not have been answered how he expected, but God did spare Lot and his daughters. When your prayers seem useless, the problem is not with God’s power, but your expectations.
God does hear your prayers. God also answers your prayers with what is best for you and his greater plan. When your prayers are not answered how you want them to be, remember to give thanks to God for answering them how they need to be. Your confidence in prayer does not come because you ask for all the right things. Your confidence in prayer comes because you are asking the one true God to hear you. Pray because you know the name of the one, true God as we hear in Isaiah 42, 8 “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.” Pray because God does not change as we hear in Revelation 1, 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Pray because of who God is as we hear in 1 Timothy 6,
15 … “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”
Pray because you know Jesus as we hear in John 14, 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Pray because he has the power to heal you, body and soul, as we heard in our New Testament reading from James 5, 15 “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” Pray because you are forgiven, which means you are one of God’s people, a citizen of heaven, where you will one day have all you need praising God in his presence.
Finally, pray as Jesus taught you to pray. In our gospel reading from Luke 11, we read, 1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus then gave the disciples what we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ prayer directed the disciples to pray to God for both spiritual and physical needs, but mostly spiritual. The greatest needs God meets for us go beyond the physical to the spiritual, which gives us healing and many reasons to give thanks that last beyond this world and into eternity. Jesus also follows up the Lord’s Prayer with three parables. First, he teaches that we are to be persistent in our prayer life, not giving up, but praying often to God. As with a neighbor who comes at night to ask a fellow neighbor for something is persistent. Second, pray because God answers and gives. God wants you to ask, seek and knock. Third, God gives you the Holy Spirit, who gives all spiritual blessings. If evil earthly fathers know not to give a scorpion, but an egg to their child, our good Heavenly Father will give us all good things. Pray that God’s will be done and be confident in his power to carry your words.
Once all the people of city decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer, all the people gathered, but only one boy came with an umbrella. That is faith. Carrying an umbrella with you during the hot Texas summer because you prayed for rain is faith. Your prayers work because who you pray to is real. God wants you to pray. He wants you to pray that his will be done because there are many good possibilities within his will, many good things for you and for those you pray for that he is ready to give. If you are in trouble, happy, sick, in need of forgiveness, etc. with faith in the Lord, pray. Amen.