Greg Laurie - It's Time To Pray
How many of you believe in the power of prayer? Raise your hand up. How many of you don't pray as much as you ought to? Raise your hand up. Yeah, I'm with you, I'm with you. Why don't we pray more? I don't know the answer. Sometimes we offer up what we think are reasons, but in reality are excuses. We might say, "Well, I don't pray more because I just don't have the time. I'm so busy". Of course, the response to that is, how much time do you spend on social media, right? I mean, think about that. Local researchers say people check their Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, et cetera, other media accounts, 17 times per day. Pretty much every waking hour, teenagers spend nine hours every day consuming media.
You've had it happen, haven't you? You start flipping through those little videos and next thing you know 45 minutes are gone, even an hour is gone. But we say, "I don't have time to pray". What if you prayed 17 times a day as much as you check social media? One of the biggest lessons from social media will prove that in the last day, prayerlessness was not from a lack of time. And then some people will say, "Well, I don't pray more because, well, I don't really know that prayer is all that important".
Now, we probably wouldn't verbalize it, but in a way maybe it's true because we don't really think it matters that much. But of course we should pray and we should pray often. Jesus himself prayed, and Jesus was God incarnate walking among us, and yet how often do we read in the gospels of Jesus spending the night in prayer or retreating by himself to pray? Here's another excuse we offer as to why we don't pray, we don't really believe that prayer works. We don't really believe it works, but in fact it does. In fact, the Bible even says in James 4:2, "You have not because you ask not". Try this thought on for size.
I believe that there are certain things God wants to do for you and in you, certain things that God wants to give to you, they may not be yours because you have simply failed to pray about it. Again, "You have not because you ask not". You might say, "Well, I'm having problems with my family and I just don't know what to do anymore". Have you prayed about it? Have you specifically brought that need before the Lord? You have not because you ask not. "Well, we are struggling right now financially, it's hard to make ends meet".
Okay, hold on, have you prayed about that specifically? Could it be that God will provide for you supernaturally and he's just waiting for you to ask? "You have not because you ask not". "Well, I'm sick and the doctor hasn't given me any real hope". Have you prayed about that? Could it be that God wants to touch and heal you and he's just waiting for you to ask? Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given; seek and ye shall find; knock and the door shall be opened". But in the original language, it's implied to do it continuously. So keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. "You have not because you ask not".
Now, let's read about what James says about prayer. James 5 verse 13. "Is any among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is any 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 and their prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well and the Lord will raise them up. If they've sinned, their sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective". James gives us four specific and practical areas in which prayer is vital.
Number one, you should pray when you're in trouble, verse 13. You should pray when you're sick, verses 14 to 15 of James 5. When you have sinned, you should pray, James 5:15. And finally, when specific needs arrive, again, James 5:15, you should pray. So, let's start with the first one, you should pray when you're facing trouble. Am I talking to someone right now that's facing trouble? Another translation says, "When you're afflicted". Are you afflicted right now? Are you facing a severe hardship? Are you looking at what looks to be an insurmountable obstacle? What should you do?
We should pray. The temptation is to get angry at God for allowing this to happen when in reality we should pray. Every trouble is a call to pray. So you should turn your panic into prayer, you should turn your worry into worship. As Paul writes in Philippians, "In everything, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God". So go to him in your time of trouble. Sometimes God may send the affliction himself.
Let's be honest, we don't pray as much when things are going well as we do when they aren't going well, is that true for you? When things are going great we say, "Oh, fantastic. Hey, you know, I don't need to pray". But when you're in trouble, you pray. The Lord may allow affliction to get your attention. The psalmist wrote, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray but now I have kept your Word". And sometimes God will allow it. He will allow that and maybe the devil bringing it in your direction, but God has allowed it for his purposes. But the main thing is pray about it. There's nothing wrong with asking God to remove your affliction.
So if you're facing trouble, whatever kind it is, it's okay to go to the Lord and say, "Lord, would you remove this from me"? And maybe the Lord will say, yes, I will. And maybe the Lord will say, "No, I have a purpose in it, so you need to be patient and wait on me". But I think the best model for prayer in times like that is following the example of Jesus. In the garden of Gethsemane as he contemplated what was ahead with the crucifixion, he said, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done". So you can say, "Lord, if there's a way out of this, if you might remove this problem, I would really appreciate it, but you may have a greater purpose therefore, I say to you, Father, not my will, but yours be done".
Which brings me to point number two, when things are going well, we should praise God. Verse 13, "Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise". You know, we call on the Lord when things aren't going well, do we give thanks to God when they are? You know, you get up one morning and there's no real problem to speak of and you say, "Lord, thank you for a beautiful day. Thank you for my health, thank you for my family, thank you for my job. Thank you for everything, Lord, thank you for saving me. Thank you for changing me, Lord, thank you that you're in control of my life". That can really lift your mood, I'll tell you that. When you just start giving thanks for all that God has done. We all remember the story of the 10 lepers who are healed by Jesus but only one returned to give thanks. And Jesus said to him, "Hey, I thought I healed ten, where are the other nine"? Remember to give thanks to God for what he has done.
Number three, we should pray when we are sick. We should pray when we're sick. Verse 14, "Is there anyone among you who is sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them, and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord and their prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well".
Question, does God still heal people today? I believe he does. As I've said before, God is still in the healing business, have we asked him to heal us? I do believe there's a promise of physical healing in scripture there in Isaiah 53:5 and quoted again in the New Testament, "By his stripes we are healed". So what should we do when we are sick? The answer is, call for the elders of the church to pray over the person. And verse 15 says, "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well". That doesn't mean there's some special prayer that you pray, it just means with as much faith as you can muster you ask God to heal you, but then you go to the leaders of the church to pray for you. So we pray and we bring it to the Lord.
Number four, when we pray, we should confess our sin. Verse 15, "If they have sin, they will be forgiven". Now this verse appears to suggest that one sin could contribute to sickness. Now, let me explain this carefully. In a broad sense, all sickness is a result of sin. I don't mean personal sin, I mean sin in general. If Adam and Eve had not eaten of the forbidden fruit, we would've never gotten sick, if Adam and Eve had not eaten of the forbidden fruit, we would've never aged. If Adam and Eve had not eaten of the forbidden fruit, I would've a full head of hair. But because they sinned, sin and death entered the world.
Romans 5:12 says, "When Adam sinned, sin entered the world, Adam's sin brought death and death spread to everyone for everyone has sin". But sometimes, sometimes, I underline that word, there can be a connection between personal sin and an affliction. There's a story in John 5:14 where there was a paralytic that Jesus healed. And then Jesus said to him, "See you are well again, stop sinning or something worse may happen to you". And so that doesn't mean if you have a disability it's because you've sinned, what it does mean is there can be a connection. But having said that, there are some people that are afflicted who are godly men and women, and it has nothing to do with their sin.
Remember the story of Job again? Job was a perfect and upright man, one that feared God and shunned evil, and yet the Lord allowed physical calamity to come upon his servant. So we don't know that, so the best thing to do is just confess your sin to God. Verse 16 says, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other". This means we do this with believers. This is why a small group can be great because it's harder in a large group, but when you develop a close circle of friends who you trust and will keep your confidence, you can say, "Hey, I'm struggling with this, or I need your help there". But also I would add, if you have sinned against someone, you should go to that person and ask them to forgive you, because unconfessed sin can bring your prayer life to a screeching halt.
The psalmist says, no, yeah, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me". So if you're holding onto some sin and you need to ask someone to forgive you, that could hinder your prayers. In Matthew 5:23, Jesus says, "If you're presenting a sacrifice at the altar and you suddenly remember someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar and be reconciled to that person, then offer your sacrifice to God". Sometimes it's just going to someone and saying, "I'm sorry that I said that to you, or I'm sorry I said that about you. I'm sorry for this thing that I did that was wrong, will you forgive me"?
Point number five, you are a righteous child of God, so pray like one. You are a righteous child of God, so pray like one. Look at verse 16. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective". You might say, "Well, Greg, I'm not a righteous man or woman". Excuse me, are you a Christian? If you are, then you are a righteous person. I didn't say you always act like a righteous person, but positionally you are a righteous person. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, "Christ has made us righteous, he's made us pure and holy, and he's freed us from sin".
So you're a member of God's family, behave like that. Don't come, you know, with timidity to God. "Father, I just pray this". No, come boldly, you're his child. "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace that we might find mercy in time of need". Boldly. "Lord, it's your son, Lord, it's your daughter. Father, I'm your child and I come to you now with this need or with this petition or whatever it is". When you're a member of the family of God, you have access. Use it boldly, isn't that great to know? It's not based on what you've done, it's based on what he's done for you. It's through the blood of Jesus, through a new and living way Hebrews says, that I have access to the throne of God.
Bringing me to point number six, despite your flaws, God hears and will answer your prayers. Despite your flaws, God will hear and answer your prayers. Verse 17, "Elijah was as human as we are, yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years. Then when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops". I love that. Interesting Elijah is used as an example. What a prophet he was. He did miracles on another level. This is Elijah who outran chariots, raised the dead, called fire down from heaven, and stopped the rain. He was so powerfully used of God, you can almost think of him as a superhero, especially when you see him stand boldly on Mount Carmel and face off of the prophets of Baal and say, "Let whoever of us is serving the real God, let that God answer by fire. You guys go first".
So the prophets of Baal scream and yell and cut themselves and it goes on for hours and there's no fire that comes from heaven. Elijah says, "Now it's my turn". And then he said, "I want you to take water and douse the altar". Which water was very scarce at that point because of the drought. So they pour water over the altar, they do it again, they do it again. And then he calls out to the Lord to answer by fire. And fire comes from heaven and consumes the altar, and Elijah gives the order, "Have all of these false prophets put to death". This is some prophet, I'll tell you. But then we read that Jezebel is so upset, she's the queen. She puts a contract out on Elijah, says, "He's gonna die". And you would think he would blow this off. "Are you kidding me? I don't care about what she says". No, he ran for his life and was depressed and so filled with despair, he wanted to die.
Wait, what? How could he go from Mount Carmel to some cave where he wants to die? Here's the answer, he was as human as you and I are. Another translation puts it, he had feelings just like us. So I bring this up, really, James brings it up. And see Elijah was flawed, he was as human as we are. Yet he prayed and things happened, so you can do the same. You just pray in faith with as much faith as you have. Sometimes people will say, "The reason you're sick still is you don't have enough faith". That's wrong. You can come and say, "Lord, with as much faith as I have, I pray". And like that man in scripture said, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief". You see? So you just pray. That's what Elijah did.
Final point number seven, prayerful people are compassionate people. Prayerful people are compassionate people. Look at verse 19, "My dear brothers and sisters, as someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings that sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins". Wow! What an interesting way to end this great epistle. James is concerned with the person who has walked away from the Lord. By the way, not someone who has just slipped up, but someone who has deliberately turned their back on God.
The phrase here for "Wandered away" has the same Greek word as the word planet. The idea is of someone who like a planet has left their orbit, someone that maybe has left something they once knew in an intimate way. And we know people like this, we worshiped with them, we prayed with them, we heard the Word of God with them, we served alongside of them and one day they walk away. We're thinking, what's that all about? You hear this expression today, people are deconstructing their faith. I'm deconstructing. Hey, maybe you never constructed to start with. Did you really have faith? If you had real faith in a real God, that is a faith that's gonna sustain you through thick and thin. "Well, I saw hypocrisy".
Okay, I'm sorry. Listen, I've been a pastor almost 50 years. I've seen hypocrisy. I've seen people fall short. I have seen things that disappoint me deeply among my fellow believers and I've seen great stories of faith and trust in God and people that have honored the Lord, far more of those than the other. Having said all that, Jesus Christ has never disappointed me. Jesus Christ has never let me down, put your eyes on him. "Yeah, but Greg, you don't understand. My parents, they say they're Christians, and they're hypocrites".
Yeah, grow up, and move outta your house, you're 40 now, stop living off your parents. Get a job. So what if they are hypocrites? I'm sorry, pray for them. You're accountable to God for what Christ has said to you. And there are people that do fall away, but here's the thing, I believe if a person is a true believer, even if they have a lapse of faith or they fall away for a time, they'll always return to God. And if they don't return to God, I suggest to you they were never a believer to begin with. Because John says, "Hey, these people left us and if they were with us, they would've stayed with us but they left us, and it shows they never really were part of us".
That's a loose paraphrase, but that's what he said. But a prodigal will always make his way home. So what should we do when a fellow believer falls? Should we confront them? Should we ostracize them? Should we leave them alone? Should we call 'em out on social media? That's a popular thing to do. I'm gonna post a lot of stuff about them. Do you have all of your facts straight? Have you had a conversation with that person? Are you sure what you're saying is actually true? What should you do if you know someone that has stumbled and has fallen? Paul gives us some insight in Galatians 6. He says, "Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by sin, you who are godly should kick them when they're down and tell everyone about their sin".
Have you read that verse? No, you haven't 'cause it's not in the Bible. Here's what he actually says. "Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by sin, you who are godly," listen, "Should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path and be careful to not fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other's burdens, and in this way, you will obey the law of Christ". If you think you're too important to help someone, you're only fooling yourself, you're not that important.
So when I see someone fall, what do I do? With humility I go to them, "Let me help you up," why? 'Cause it could be you sometime. You could be that person who falls. You could be that person that stumbles, I could be. We all have the propensity to sin. Hebrews 2:1 says, "We must listen carefully to the truth we've heard, or we may drift away from it". And our job is to reconcile people with God. That's our job, reconcile people with God. 2 Corinthians 5:18 says, "God has given us this task of reconciling people to him". Listen, we're Jesus people. You understand what I'm saying? This church was founded in revival.
We started around 1972 as the Jesus movement was happening. And we started out as a little Bible study, and we were called Jesus people. And sometimes we were derisively called Jesus freaks. I was fine with all of it. Anything with the word Jesus in it, I'm good. We need to be Jesus people. The problem is, often Christians are far more known for what they're against than what they're for. They know we're against this, we're against that, okay, there's a place for all those things, but I want people to know I'm for Jesus and I'm a Jesus person.
And my big focus is I want you to be reconciled to God. I want you to be in a relationship with God. And if you've stumbled and fallen, I wanna help you get up again and get back into alignment with God. That's what I'm called to do, that's what you're called to do, that's what we're called to do, and that's what we're doing. That's what we're all about. Our message to our culture is God loves you, he'll change you, and then we wanna lead them into Christ and disciple them. So are you in trouble or in distress? Then pray. Are you sick? Then pray. Is there a sin to confess? Then confess it and turn from it.