How is Your Soul Today?

A sermon on James 5: 13-20

When I understood less about God and prayer – and this wasn’t just as a child – I thought this as an adult many times too – prayer seemed like a way to get what I wanted from God.  And we can read James that way.  I’m suffering, so let me pray to take that suffering away.  I’m in a good place, let me thank God in hopes that that Grandfather figure on the throne in the sky would keep sending the good vibes my way.  Oh, caught a cold, auntie got cancer, mom sat in her chair depressed all day and wouldn’t take her medication – let me pray with the whole church and God can make everything better.

Except sometimes things didn’t get better.  Oh, my cold did – but one winter I had 7 strep throat and ear infections and ended up with a heart murmer.  And Aunt Sandy died.  And when a colleague in ministry prayed for the demons to be removed from my mom, she died too.  I mean the demons were gone, but really God – that wasn’t what I meant.

As I spent more and more time in prayer, I began to learn that prayer wasn’t really about changing God’s mind about what was best for me, for those I loved, for the world.  I think God listens; I think it’s even possible that prayer can bring about miracles – there’s that line I live by: “Nothing is impossible with God.” But it seems to me that the more likely outcome of prayer is that WE are changed – our hearts are opened to more possibilities.  Our eyes are open to the miracles we wouldn’t otherwise see.  Our lives are strengthened to be the change we want to see in the world.

But here’s the new thing that James wants us to consider as we think about prayer – not only is prayer not really a way to get what you want from God, but it is far more than a self-improvement technique that we can master to become better people in the world.  It turns out that prayer is God’s gift to the church – the way that we are to live together in community with one another surrounded by the grace of God.

See the full sermon here.