Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Prayer Primer That Broke My Heart

One of the verses I memorized as a child is, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105 

If you've spent much time reading Scripture, you know it's true. The Word of God gives direction and much-needed guidance, but it also shines light on the dark places in our hearts. Convicts of sin. Leads us to righteousness.

That's how James has been for me. I've been preparing for months. Writing for weeks. Weeping all the way through. The gentle light of God's word has been a search light, pouring light into dark places. 

I have not liked it one bit.

It's the most agonizing thing I've ever written, because it's the most convicting.  

I don't see this in the commentaries I've read on James, but I believe James, AKA Camel Knees, wrote a primer on prayer. The key verse (to my intercessor heart) is this:

"Therefore, 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." James 5:16 nasb

Everything else James has written leads up to those precious words. We can pray prayers that are as effective as Elijah. There's no doubt about it. The problem is that we often miss the "therefore". 

All that goes before in James deals with getting the sin out of our lives. We want powerful lives of faith, therefore, we must get the sin out.

James doesn't pull any punches. We must stop using our tongues to slash people to shreds. 

We must quit whining our way through every trial and allow God to use them in our lives. 

We must abandon our foolish pride and embrace humility. 

We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. 

We must stop trying to "learn" our way into heaven and start using what we've learned to do what God has commanded.

When we get our being and our doing right, we'll be ready to pray. When we pray, we will pray God's will, and He will do it. It will be the most exciting thing we've ever done.

It's hard work, this getting rid of sin and keeping it gone. Frankly, sinning is easier than not. But those answered prayers... oh, dear brothers and sisters, those answered prayers make the struggle to become sinless totally worth it.

I find it hard to let go of all my sin. 

The temptation to sin is pervasive, and as stealthy as a chameleon, finding its way into every crack, changing its appearance to be more attractive every time.

And yet, there are those marvelously answered prayers that are addicting. I long to see God's power. I crave it like a drug. 

It's taken decades to reach this point, but I'd rather have answered prayers than sin. So I continue to struggle against sin and repent as fast as I can recognize my error, and beg God to help me be more like Him.

I haven't wept over my sin every day I've written this study, but I have more days than not. I'll be glad to be through with it. I'm glad I've done it.

The James study will be live on January 15th. I hope you'll participate. It's free, as always. You can make a donation to defray costs, but you don't have to. I believe that's how God works. The best He has to give is free. 

You'll get out of it what you put into it. This is different from Hosea. There's not a ton of history to learn. Instead, we're looking at our hearts through God's eyes. Most days, the lessons are short, but the soul-searching is long.

I hope you'll join me for six weeks of study. Repentance. Change. At the end, if we do the hard work God requires of us, we should be closer to the point of Elijah. Flawed but faithful. Ready to pray with the power only God can give.

Today, let's stop long enough to ask ourselves a hard question. How serious am I about doing what God says? What do I need to do about it?

Let's make the change that changes everything. 
The James study will be live on January 15th. You can access it at www.lessonsindiscipleship.blogspot.com (Hosea will be up until then.) You don't have to sign up, but if you do, I'll tag you when it's live. 
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: How to Make God Laugh
If you'd like to help support this ministry, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global OutreachPO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802