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Communicating With God

by Joyce Broyles

Somewhere I read that prayer is the key to each new day and the lock for every night.  Each morning, to unlock the new day, we should be spending time with God in prayer, and then close the night in the same way.

Many of my students have said they don't know how to pray.  Even the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  To get started, we can put our hands together, begin with the thumb pointing to our heart and pray for those closest to our heart.  The pointer is for teachers and preachers; the tall finger is for those in authority.  The ring finger is weakest, representing those who are struggling.  The pinkie is you, so pray for whatever you need.

Another suggestion is the A.C.T.S. guide.  Each letter represents a word:  Adoration or praise to God; Confession of our belief that Jesus is God's son and will forgive us; Thanksgiving in everything; and Supplication or requests for others and ourselves.

After praising and thanking God, we usually begin with our requests.  If only we would ask God to make us poor in spirit, love our enemies, mourn over those who despise us because we want Jesus, and help us forgive!  That would be wonderful, but so often we zero in on personal requests and forget about others.

If we could ask for help to forgive, then perhaps we could quote from Edwin Markham's poem, "He drew a circle that shut me out, I drew a circle that took him in," and it would set us free.

Sometimes people say "forgive and forget."  I don't know about you, but I don't forget even after I forgive.  Instead, I try to learn a lesson.  Adrian Rogers once said, "The hornet of remembering may fly again, but the sting of bitterness has been removed."   I like that.  When we truly forgive, even though we don't forget, the sting is gone.

Sometimes I sit across from an empty chair and I talk to God as though He were sitting right there!  I ask Him to point out what I need to get rid of so I can give it to Him and He gives me something so much better.

Sometimes when I answer the phone, whoever called will ask, "What ya doin'?"  I tell them I'm under the fig tree!  I do have fig trees in my backyard, but that's not where I am.   I just mean that I'm praying, just as people did in Jesus' day, where it was cool and quiet.

I don't pray because I have to as in duty or obligation.  For me, it is a pleasure, even when I'm begging God for answers.  When I'm confused and wondering if I've done the right thing, I go back "under the fig tree"!

When I ask people how often they pray, most say very seldom.  That is so sad.  Too many children memorize little poems, then "say" their prayers at night, which is just reciting those poems .  That is not praying, and may be why as adults, they don't know how.

Most of us have favorite preachers, but some of us also have favorite people to pray with.  My sister and I pray together for lots of things that some people don't believe God is interested in, but we believe He is.  Communicating with God is very important,  so we should learn how to do it.

James 5:13 to the end of the chapter tells us how.  First, he tells us what we can pray for.  The answer is anyone and anything!  If we need new elders, have a cancer diagnosis, marriage problems, financial burdens, we must pray!  Becoming a Christian will not keep us from problems, but James says we can pray about all of them.   We must teach our children and other members of the church to pray about anything and everything!

James 5:13 reads, "Is any one of you suffering or in trouble?  He should pray."  If we're suffering or  we know someone who is, we should pray for them.   When we do, God fills us with compassion like Jesus has, and He sends help.  He may even send us to help!

Verses 14-15 say "Is anyone sick?  He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and to anoint him with oil  in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well."  When we pray for the sick, God sends healing, both to them and to us.  He may heal them now or He may take them to Heaven, but our hearts are filled with caring and that leads to good health.

The anointing of oil means "setting apart this person."  In this case, it would be for healing.  The choice of being anointed should be left up to the one who wants it, but whether he asks for oil or not, we should be sure to pray for him.

Verse 16 reads, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other."  We need to pray for sinners!  We should not worry about what members will say about us if we confess, and we should not talk about those who openly confess.  We need to reveal our weaknesses so we can find real strength from God instead of hiding our faults and just acting as though we are strong.  Confessing pours out the pain of personal sin and fills us with the joy of restoration.  If we expose sin and deal with it, then we can be reconciled with God.  When we pray for sinners, God forgives, restores, and fills all of us with hope.

Verses 17-18 tell us Elijah prayed for a drought for three years.  Then, "Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."  James says we must praise God for showers of blessings.  The Israelites had received showers after years of drought.  For us, showers of blessings could include anything that makes us happy.  When we praise God in prayer and rejoice with others who have also been blessed, it fills us with joy, but most of all, it pleases God.  We need to praise Him more and spend less time asking for stuff!  Our prayers should always contain praise to God, because praise is the overflow of a joyful heart!

Finally, verses 19-20 say we should pray for the strays.  "If any of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins."  Anyone who wanders or strays from the truth is a spiritual stray.    Most of the time, we request prayers for the physically ill, but when was the last time we asked for prayer for a mother who left the faith, for a son who is struggling with belief, for someone who has left the truth?  It's good to pray for the sick, but the spiritually ill are the most important.  Sometimes, it seems we're more afraid of cancer than of eternal condemnation!

At home, on our personal prayer lists, we can write the names of those we know and love who need to give their lives to Jesus.  God doesn't need us to defend Him.  We're just to represent Him as witnesses, not judges or lawyers.  It takes time, work, restraint, and love, but we must pray for strays and let God fill us with a renewed zeal for spiritual things.  We must persist in rescuing the perishing so that our goal is "Be there!" when Jesus comes for us!

When we pray for the suffering, the sick, the sinners, the showers, and the strays, we will overflow with compassion, health, forgiveness, joy, and hope that comes from communicating with God.  After  praise and thanksgiving and prayer, we have joy and peace, trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Second, James also teaches us how to pray in verse 15.  He says to pray in faith.  Sometimes Faith is a hard thing.  Sometimes we feel like we've got holes punched in us so if we walk carefully, we can keep everything in; however, if anything jostles us, it all comes pouring out, all the ugly things about us that we don't want anyone to see.  That is why we have to let God patch up those holes and trust Him to do what is best for us.

Sometimes we pray for someone to get better but they don't.  Sometimes  they die.  That should not let waves of doubt knock us down.  Some people won't pray like that because they don't want people to blame them if the person dies or say their faith wasn't strong enough.  We must remember that the source of our faith is the Word of God!  That is why it is so important to read it!  We must pray in faith, keeping in our hearts the truth that God is able.  He is able, even if His answer is not our answer.

Jeremiah 32:17 says "Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you."  God is able and capable, but even if He does not answer with what we pray for, it is all right, so long as we pray believing that He can.

James 5:17 tells us to pray earnestly, or fervently.  Elijah was fired up!  Do we ever get passionate in our prayers, like Elijah or Jesus?  When we put our children to bed at night, we should not listen to them "say" or recite their prayers.  We should pray with them, in faith and with fervor.  We need to teach them, not from the roof of our mouths, but from the roots of our hearts.

Third, James  teaches us whom we should pray for.  We need to pray for each other, and we need to have others pray for us.  Verse 16b says to confess our sins one to another.  Perhaps the hardest three words to say are "I have sinned."  Even the apostle Paul asked his friends to pray for him, knowing that he could not make it without their prayers and help.  We must pray for each other because we need it!

Finally, James teaches us that we should know that God answers all of our prayers.  In every day talk, verse 16 says "when people pray, great things happen!"  God says yes to our prayers if our prayers are in His will; however, God loves us enough to say no when we ask for things that aren't good for us.  Sometimes God will tell us to wait because the time is not right.  It doesn't always mean He has denied our request, so we just keep praying and trusting.

At the beginning of Lamentations 3, Jeremiah was so depressed, then in verse 21 he wrote, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  And in verse 57, he says "God, you came near when I called you, and you said, 'Do not fear'."

In conclusion, James says to pray about anyone and anything, in faith and fervently, for each other, knowing that God will answer.  Eternal life begins when we let Jesus be our Savior and since we are all trying to do our best, we should learn to communicate with God so we can follow Him forever.


 Joyce Broyles is a member of the Jennings Church of Christ, Jennings Louisiana.

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10