I’m starting a new Sunday morning Series August 3rd 2008. Here is the first sermon in the series.

James 5:16-18.

This morning, we are going to start a new Sunday morning series entitled, “Prayer – it does the body good.”

We’ve all seen the commercials and ads in magazines about milk doing the body good. Well, in our own life as well as the life of the church we can honestly say that prayer does the body (the local church) good.

In this series, we are going to look at New Testament prayers and how we can follow their example and use those prayer passages as prayer points in our own prayer lives. It is my desire that by the time we are done with this series that your prayer life would be richer by what is proclaimed concerning prayer.

In my own life, I’ve had to be honest with myself and ask this question, “How important is prayer to my everyday life?” “Do I really expect the hand of God to move when I pray, or is prayer just some sort of religious exercise that I perform because I am supposed too?” I don’t struggle with reading Scripture. I’m very disciplined in doing this. In fact, I haven’t missed a day in about 4 years now. Not one single day. But prayer, to be honest with you, I sometimes struggle with. I have to slow myself down, get away from my schedule that I’ve made for myself and spend some alone time with the Lord. Sometimes it can be difficult, quite honestly.

Let me ask you the same question that I’ve had to ask myself: How important is prayer to each of you this morning? Do you expect the hand of God to move when you pray? Is prayer a relationship with God, or is it just a religious exercise?

Well, during this series it is my prayer that this next phrase spurs you own in your prayer life. Ordinary people praying to an extraordinary God produces powerful results.

This morning, as we begin digging into our Scripture text in this series, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to give us insight into what He wants to say to us.

James 5:16-18 ESV – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (17) Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. (18) Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

1. How is your relationship with other believers?

James 5:16a ESV – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

Let’s look at this cross pulpit for just a few moments. Notice you have one long piece that is vertical, you have the shorter piece that is horizontal. Imagine that this cross represents our relationship with God and other believers. In our relationship with God we have the vertical piece. We’ve been reconciled through the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The horizontal piece represents our relationship with one another. As humans we will have personality issues, theological differences, and sometimes, we will just offend one another, or something might be said or done that was understood wrong – these create conflict.

This passage is talking about sinning against one another and conflict, it is not talking about sinning against God. The Greek word for “sins” in this text means, “To slip up into error, to offend, to sin against, a misdeed.” When we sin against God, we confess that sin to Him.

1 John 1:9 ESV – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But when we sin against one another and offend, thereby bringing conflict and division, not only do we need to confess it to God, but we must also confess it to the person we’ve sinned against and offended.

God’s desire for our church is that we’d be whole and complete in Him. But if we walk around offending one another or having unforgiveness in our hearts, that desire of God’s for us is hindered. We’ve become an obstacle to one another. We must make the wrongs we’ve done right by confessing them to the one’s we’ve offended, forgiving, and praying for one another. Something happens when this occurs. Our Scripture says, “That you may be healed.” God will heal those scars and the pain when we seek forgiveness and give out forgiveness.

Here are a few things that Jesus had to say on the subject. I will not elaborate on what He said. I will just let His words speak to us.

Matthew 5:21-24 ESV – 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Luke 17:3-4 ESV – 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

When we begin walking Biblically with one another it produces a wonderful result.

2. Our prayers are powerful.

James 5:16b ESV – The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Remember, the proper interpretation of our text this morning is making sure our walk with one another is right before God.

When our horizontal walk matches our vertical walk with God – watch out – prayer begins to produce wonderful results.

Now allow me to say something here. Some people really desire that God would answer their prayers. There is nothing really wrong with having this desire. But I think the greater desire we should have is that we should truly walk with each other the way that Christ wants When this happens, then God will start to answer our prayers in ways we couldn’t even imagine.

God has given us a great example of an ordinary person seeing results when they pray.

3. An Old Testament example – Elijah.

James 5:17-18 ESV – Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. (18) Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Notice that James says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” James does not put Elijah on a pedestal. He is a man with a nature like ours. He had struggles, he had difficulties, he had conflicts with people as well. In fact, this passage is talking about one example of conflict. James is referring to 1 Kings 17:1-19:10.

Here is the story. Ahab was king of Israel. Through his wife Jezebel, he be came a worshiper of Baal, and led the people into this vile form of idolatry. “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (16:33). It was a direct result of sin that drought came upon Israel for three and a half years. Then Elijah had the famous contest with the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel. When the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the altar, and the water, the people were convinced, and they turned back to the Lord. Elijah prayed again and the drought ended. The example of Elijah is given as an encouragement to us to pray for those who have sinned and wandered away from fellowship with God. You see, God had conflict with the people who turned away, and so did Elijah, but when they repented and were reconciled with God, they were also reconciled with Elijah and He prayed and the drought was over. Fellowship had been restored. In fact, look what the remainder of James 5 goes on to say.

James 5:19-20 ESV – My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, (20) let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

When we wrong our brother and sister and bring offense, it not only hinders our prayers, but the offender has wandered from the truth. Not only this, but I feel that those offended as well, if they do not let go of the hurts, are wandering from the truth as well. Confession to the one we’ve wronged and offended and praying for them and asking them to pray for you is the first step in reconciliation and getting back on the right track.

I know this message has made some here uncomfortable. That is understandable this morning. If we were to be completely honest with each other and God, we would realize that all of us struggle with conflicts with people both in and out of church. Do we dare believe the passages we’ve read and studied and put them into practice?

What would happen in our community and those relationships we have with others, both believers and non-believers alike outside of church, if they saw people with broken relationships and hurts restored because we simply obeyed God’s Word?

This morning, I’m not asking us to make this a confession service. But I want each of you to consider, pray, and read over the Scriptures that I’ve preached. If you need too, read over my sermon notes in my blog, or listen online a few times once the sermon is posted, or get a CD. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anyone you’ve wronged, then in Christ-like love, go to them and confess your wrong to them. Ask for their forgiveness and that they would pray for you, then you pray for them.

Let’s walk in love and unity together, for the gospel’s sake.