Sunday, July 30, 2017

Devotion 10: July 30 - Aug. 5

Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.
Prayer and Praise
What is the first thing you do when you begin facing difficult situations or you feel as though everything around you is crashing in on you? Often many of us begin to crumble, cry, and/or complain. The verses we will look at this week will guide to us pray, give praise, seek spiritual nurturing, and provide spiritual encouragement and guidance to others who are struggling.
Sunday: Read James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”  Today our verse tells us if anyone is suffering, he should pray. It does not matter the cause of our suffering. It could be an illness, a disease, a situation, or a person causing us to suffer. Regardless of what it is we are to immediately turn to God in prayer. We are to pray in the name of Jesus, who serves as our intercessor. Although God already knows about our suffering, He wants us to have communication with Him and talk to Him about the situation and how we are feeling. He is there for us in times of trouble and distress, and He wants to comfort and guide us through.

We also see in this scripture that we are to sing praises if we are feeling cheerful. We are usually really good at going to God with our troubles and sufferings, but too often we neglect to go to Him during the good times. It seems that once God has gotten us through a difficult situation, we get busy with our lives and forget to spend time with Him. It is really sad that we only seem to go to Him and need Him when we are struggling. He also wants our communication during the peaceful and smooth times in our lives. In fact, not only does He want it, but also He deserves it. We are to give Him praise and sing praises to His name for His greatness in our lives.

In your journal today make two lists. One will be a list of the sufferings you are facing right now. You may only have one, or you may have several. These sufferings may be physical (health related) or difficult situations, or the list could consist of both types of sufferings. The second list will be a list of praises to God for the good and positive things in your life. The praises on this list could be anything from your health, your family, your job, etc., Hopefully, your praise list will be much longer than your sufferings lists.

Once both lists are made, pray for God’s help, healing, strength, and guidance for the sufferings you are facing. Then, begin praising God for all the positive things you have in your life. This part of your prayer time may take a while, so be prepared to give God lots of praise today. All day today, reflect on the positive things for which God has blessed you.

Monday: Focus on James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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.” Today let’s see what the scripture says about those who are really sick or have been suffering from an ailment for quite some time. The practice laid out in today’s passage is not practiced very much anymore, but it was important enough for James to include it in his book of instructions guiding us in how we are to live a Godly life. I have witnessed this practice being implemented a couple of times in my life, and I promise the effects afterward were positive. One occasion in which this practice was implemented was in regards to a man who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Our church came together with the elders to pray and anoint this man. We prayed fervently that God would do the miraculous and heal this man. At his next doctor’s appointment later that week, his doctor said the cancer spot was diminishing and the it was in remission. Over the period of the next several weeks, the cancer continued to shrink until it was completely gone. The doctor said the only time he has ever witnessed this type of cancer doing that on its own was a direct result of prayers and an act of God. This healing process involved no human influence whatsoever. What is this practice?

This practice involves the one who is really sick calling upon the elders of the church to come together and pray over the sick one and anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The key for this practice to be effective lies in the depth of faith of all participants. Of course, this is done only in the name of the Lord.  This type of prayer certainly requires complete trust and faith in the power of the Almighty God. The person seeking this kind of healing cannot go into such an act with doubt or even a slight wavering in faith.

Do you have that kind of faith? Have you ever seen or experienced for yourself God’s miraculous healing in this manner? In your journal today, either reflect on the incident you have witnessed or been involved, or discuss your lack of faith and why you might be reluctant to demonstrating such strong faith. This reflection time should open your eyes to the mighty power of God and strengthen your faith in who He is.

Tuesday: Focus on James 5:15-16 “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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.” Today, we will go deeper into the meaning and the power of our faith. As we reflect on this passage and the depth of our faith, let’s think about the woman who had been having problems with a bleeding issues for twelve years. She merely reached touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed (Matthew 9:20). Was it the garment of clothing that had the power to heal this woman? No, of course it wasn’t. The thing that healed her was her faith in who Christ was (and still is) that if she could just get close enough to Him to touch the bottom edge of his clothing, she would be healed. Her faith was so strong, that she only needed to be close enough to reach out and barely touch His clothing. It was her faith in the powerful God that healed her.

The verse today tells us the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. How strong is your faith? Do you have the same kind of faith as the woman in Matthew 9:20? Do you have a tendency to be weak in your faith? Often, we tend to think of the miracles as being something that was done in the days of Jesus’ life on earth or through His disciples when He left earth. We don’t realize that Jesus still has the same power and will utilize it through us today just as He did in the days of His disciples ministry on earth. In order for us to experience that same kind of power, we must have strong faith.

In your journal today answer this question, “Is my faith as strong as the woman in Matthew 9:20?” If your answer no, write a prayer asking God to help you to have that same kind of faith. Ask God to help you recall moments in which situations worked out and the only answer as to how they worked out is attributed to an act of God. As God brings such an occasion or occasions to your mind, write them in your journal. Analyze the entire sitaution and discover the miraculous power of God.

Wednesday: Focus on James 5:15-16 “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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.” Today let’s continue looking at the same passage as yesterday, but let’s go a bit further in our thoughts. Yesterday, we talked about the strong faith that is required if we are to experience the miraculous healing power of God. Today, we will focus on our sins as a possible cause of our sickness. Of course, sin is not the only reason we incur sickness. There are times when God allows it for other reasons such as to prove His power and strength to others observing His children as they are suffering. Sometimes it occurs so others can begin to understand their need for such a saviour.

Today the perspective on which we will spend some time  is the sins we have in our life and how we will be forgiven for them if we confess them to God and ask forgiveness. There are times that our sin will lead to physical sickness, and there are other times when our sin merely leads to spiritual sickness. Regardless of the kind of sickness our sin has caused us, we are to handle them both in the same way. We are to confess our sin before a Holy God and ask His forgiveness. Too many times we get so busy with the routine of our life that we fail to acknowledge our sin and seek His forgiveness. We even get in the habit of suppressing our sin rather than dealing with it.

Consider some faults that you are aware that you have. Are those faults hindering your faith and possibly hindering your health? List the faults as they come to your mind. Beside each one indicate if it is hindering only your spiritual well-being or your physical health, or both. Do you need to confess any or all of these faults? If so, begin confessing, which means acknowledging they are in your life and are not pleasing to God. After confessing, ask God to help you remove them from your life.

Thursday: Read on James 5:15-16 one more time. “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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.” Today let’s look now at the sins in our life that are visible to others. There are times that our sins are a hindrance to others, and we must confess them to others as a public commitment that we are sorry and are being cleansed from them. Other times we need to confess to others as an act of accountability. When our sins are too strong for us to walk away from, we need the help of strong Christian brothers and sisters. In this case, we are to confess to them our struggles and sins and ask them to pray with us and periodically hold us accountable. God knows that some sins have such strongholds that we need a physical person in our presence to talk with us and pray with us when we delve into our weak and stumbling moments. We should never try to get through some things alone; we are designed to need each other. We are to pray for one another from a heart of love and not judgement.

Today, in your journal list the sins that you need to confess to others. Now, pray that God will guide you to a trustworthy prayer partner or team that can be a strong accountability partner or team for you. Contact that person or persons and set a definite time to meet, talk, and pray consistently (weekly or monthly). Write their names and the meeting times in your journal.

Remember, as you come together with a prayer team, you will all begin to experience the ultimate power of God at work in all of your lives.

Friday: Focus on James 5:17-18. “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. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” Today let’s look at the consistent prayers of the great saint, Elijah. Elijah fervently and consistently prayed for three and a half years for the rains to come and restore the barren land. For three and half years nothing happened. The earth remained dry, but he never gave up. Finally, one day he prayed that same prayer again just as fervently and with the same intensity of faith as before, and God answered that prayer and poured out rain upon the earth. As the rains came, the fruit began to grow and flourish.

How was Elijah able to continue praying and to continue having faith day after day for three and half years? It seems like after waiting so long, a person would have a tendency to become frustrated and even begin doubting. Remember as we have learned from previous devotions in James that doubt goes against the grain of having complete faith, resulting in God not hearing and answering our prayers. Elijah was able to continue regardless of the rains coming because he guarded his heart and kept his faith and relationship with God in check. He knew that God was hearing his prayers and would restore his land when the time was right.

In the same way as Elijah’s case, we are to continue praying in faith without wavering. We are to trust that the Almighty and All-powerful God hears our prayers, cares about our needs, and is in control. Sometimes He chooses to wait before sending His blessings, so that others will see the miraculous act was done only by Him. In these cases, He desires to prove Himself to an unbelieving world. Trust Him even when you are not getting the answers or the blessings for which you are asking.

In your journal write down something for which you have been praying that God has not yet provided the answer or the blessing. Now, pray and ask God to give you the ability to continue trusting Him and to continue to strengthen your faith regardless of the prayers being answered or not being answered.

Saturday: Read James 5:19-20. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 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.” Today is a hard one to swallow. This passage gives us instructions that we may prefer not to do more than we prefer not to do some of the other commands from this book. The first idea is to bring those into salvation that have never repented and accepted Christ. When we present Christ and explain to the lost their need for salvation, we have played a part in saving the soul of a person. That is an extremely important command that we are to follow and apply regularly.

The second idea here is when we see a fellow Christian who is living in error according to the scriptures, we are to truthfully show them the error of their ways and guide them back to a right relationship with Christ. We are not to persecute them, accuse them, or attempt to destroy them, but we are to first pray that God through the Holy Spirit will open their hearts and help them to see the error of their ways. Then, we are to approach them from a heart of love and compassion to help them to see what they are doing and how it aligns against the backdrop of Christ and the scriptures. There will be special blessings from God for those who lead the lost to a newfound relationship with Christ and for those who help restore a misguided or off track believer.

Has God been using you effectively in the lives of others as discussed in today’s devotion? In your journal list the people whom God has used you to draw them to Him or back to Him. Write down the most recent incident. Has it been a while? Have you always allowed God to use you in these ways of having the right attitude and heart of love and compassion? Do you need to surrender your personal thoughts about the actions of others who have strayed away from God? If so, write that in your journal and begin praying.

Recap of James
James is a powerful book of commands, instructions, and promises. I hope God has spoken to your heart in a powerful way and this study has strengthened your faith and walk with God. Are you still struggling in some areas? If so, that is normal. Continue praying and seeking God, and He will continue to guide you and bless with according to His will. This is the kind of study that you may need to revisit from time to time. Read through your journal periodically and see if God has completed a work in you, or if He is still working in certain areas. Journal reflections are great for keeping us on track and reminding us of where we once were and how we have grown.
Please reach out to me with any questions or struggles you are facing and need extra prayer support. I will continue to pray for those who went through this study. I will pray that God will continue to show you His ways.
Cheryl Toon

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