Steadfast – Week 7

Steadfast Prayer: Trusting Our Faithful God (pages 191-220)
James 5:13-20

Steadfast Prayer, James 5:13-20 and trusting our faithful God.

I think it is funny I was assigned this passage on prayer because it one of my least favorite things to talk about. From my observation it is difficult for people to understand and balance what it is to have a beautiful, healthy prayer life. I equate this feeling to watching people learn to work out. A lot of times when we feel like we aren’t doing something right, when we go to engage in that behavior it becomes an all or nothing experience. In that process it becomes a battle for worthiness or understanding and it becomes all-consuming and an identity. When I watch people in this journey of working out (I mean watch because I have not endeavored into this journey yet in a healthy way) I see a battle for this and there are a lot of feelings going into it. I think it is the same for many people in their prayer life. Even the Bible can be a little spinning in what it wants from us in our prayer lives. There is a concept that we are not to be striving – but it is so tempting to put on our big girl panties and start striving. There is the persistent widow in Luke, and in this passage Elijah was fervent in his prayer, and these are admirable qualities in prayer. But what that often becomes for so many people is a striving, a working, an obtaining. “God can you see me? Should I try harder? Can I make a connection? All for His glory!” It almost creates an anxiety in prayer. I also see people play out their anxiety and their obsessive compulsive thoughts in prayer in a way that does not seem like the correct motivation for prayer. It is not the gospel going on. So many women have a sense that they are failing at prayer and have a shameful burden they are carrying.

On pg 195-196 Courtney addresses we are not to be obtaining favor by the work we are doing in praying. “God’s actions are not dependent on the amount of faith we have, nor does our faith obligate God to do something outside of his sovereign and good will. It’s not as if God’s plan became subservient to our wishes if only we can attain a certain amount of faith. As one commentary says, “Healing is a gift, not a reward…..It is a mistake to congratulate ourselves for strong faith when God grants a request and a mistake to blame ourselves when he refuses one.” “

The last time we were together (me and you) we were talking about in James about how good works are to flow from our faith. It is not that we are earning our faith or getting more faith or getting closer to God by our good works but they are an expression, celebration, act of worship flowing from our faith. It is the same with prayer. So many times it seems that is missed. It is almost as if when a person is praying and it is not going how they wanted, then that person feels like they are failing by how many people they are getting to pray and the good they are doing in their prayer. That is not the gospel being displayed in our prayer lives. That is not what James is hoping for in our steadfast prayer.

Romans 12 – “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

So anywhere there is condemnation, failure, or sense of unworthiness, or unbelonging, or “not doing it right” come into our picture – that is not the gospel coming into our picture. What I believe James is giving us is an opportunity and invitation to work out our faith. The motivation behind all of this is connection. Connection is the grounds for building something beautiful inside of us. For building something intimate between one another. It grounds us. It builds trust between two people. It allows us to submit to someone when we don’t understand their ideas because we have built their trust. It brings delight. It brings attachment. So much of the beauty and growth in our own stories comes from deep attachment with others. In our so whats we are going to break apart what those connections look like – God and people. Courtney does a great job in days 1-3 of this chapter breaking apart what it is to pray and what James is talking about. We are to approach prayer in worship whether it is in the hard, rejoicing, sadness, helpless, completely desperate. She invites the elders into the situation. That we would invite them, see them as someone who is able to come to the throne with us in community as we connect to God. I got to witness someone coming to the elders for prayer for a current situation this week. That seems sometimes as difficult and without hope. Watching the elders respond and prayer brought me to tears. Seeing their heart, love, encouragement, and encouragement from the word in this anointing process. I don’t want us to take this lightly. I want this to be on our minds as this might be our next step if we are needing healing, breaking free. Courtney talks so well about this internal healing too.

As we look at this concept of steadfast prayer that it is not a concept that James made up but these words are linked together continually used in the old testament and new testament. James is highlighting steadfast prayers in our lows and highs – he is giving it to us at the end of this book as a tool to remain steadfast. A tool for connection. Attach ourselves to God’s will and deep longing for what He wants and use this tool to connect with God in prayer. A prayer of faith. Faith is an unwavering gift by the Holy Spirit given to some. But to others, faith is a choice to lean into and remain steadfast.

James 1:3 – “For you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

When we are looking at this process that produces – what produces steadfastness – it is the trial. At the end of the book it is a tool he is giving us (a coping mechanism almost) that will walk us through the trial that we will be connecting with God and connecting with each other. This is one of our forever resources to be able to lean in and move toward our next step of growth in enduring the trial.
No transition – v 19 – 20 – steadfast community. Pray in community and shed light and be connected and helps against loneliness and isolation when going through a trial.
The book of James has been such practical advice. It has been a delight to watch the women of Village Church process this.

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

If this is the purpose of steadfastness then when we look around our community and see a brother or sister that is not obtaining this crown of life because their trial has become too much for them or it becomes too weighty and they are wandering -”prone to wander Lord I feel it.” We are all prone to wander. This is one of the most beautiful gifts God gives us in our pursuit of steadfastness. This gift of community. This is a capstone. He ends with when your brother is wandering – you go find him and bring him back. Although we do not have control, we have a responsibility and influence to call them back to the gospel so they may understand God’s love for them and obtain the crown of life. It has been a joy to journey in this book with you. May it be known that we are women that love the production of steadfastness.

So whats –

Pursue connection.
We desire for our theology to infuse and inform our prayer.

Breanne: Format I use for prayer. Continual – feel a weight, excitement and bring it to the Lord.
1. Who is God in this?
2. Talk to God about what I am thinking and feeling. If we believe God is with us then we don’t have to tell Him all the details of the experience. He is seeing more than I am seeing. Process my feelings with Him. – not just talking about what is going on but the experience. What is my experience?
3. God gives me guidance and wisdom.
Pursue connection with God in prayer.

As a verbal processor, that will influence my prayer life. We don’t have to mimic someone else’s system. Bringing things in my mind out loud to the Lord. Sometimes when I pray silently in my head it is really just overthinking. Stop and be intentional to not just dwell and sit but give it to the Lord. Finding spaces that are quiet is hard but pursue that. Choosing prayer over podcasts – especially in shower or in the car. If choosing to take in content, I can’t use that for prayer. Connecting with God is to give pause to listen to change my perspective to the Lord’s. Release it to God.

Breanne: When you know you are engaged in prayer you know it is moving you forward. When you aren’t connecting with God is robs yourself of this opportunity,

Second so what – Connection in community – confession and communal prayer

Lisa: What I have observed in my life is how helpful it is to have people in my life for confession. When there are people who know what is going on, that is a safe place that they love me and love the Lord and confession happens there. It can be hurtful to be in a community to hear later about a trial someone was walking through and they didn’t share. You would have wanted to walk that trial with them but they didn’t share. There is a sense of vulnerability and pride with this. Twice this week I had someone humbly shared that they messed up and it was wrong. If we don’t live in humility we won’t confess our sins because of pride and presenting something different than reality. Willingness to say I was wrong. Speaking this truth actually gives growth to relationships and it can withstand more because you have walked this. When this layer of confession is there it makes the relationship deeper vs staying at surface, safe level. It draws us to the Lord. One of the goals of community groups is prayer and this is about sharing something for people to go before the Lord. Come with me before the Lord. This is not sharing details about our life that our community group should know and the best time to share it is prayer time. But we do it this way. I want to know these things but it isn’t necessarily for prayer but rather about life and just care for them.

Breanne: Confession is an awkward skill to have. This general concept of confessing is opening ourselves up and it is healthy but we haven’t developed it. I wish we all were great at it. It is authenticity . That is how connection truly happens and grows.

Third so what – we are all prone to wander. Exhaustion from the trial. We wander around, away, and off. Can we be people aware of others. How do we detect wandering?

Pg 215 – “Do you know anyone that has stopped going to church or is living contrary to the gospel?”

Lisa: Eyes off yourself. When we think our faith journey is between just us and God and not the faith community we have decided to be a part of – then we will miss it. Sunday mornings – there are times I have light, easy conversations but other times there is just this burden to chase someone down in the foyer. Take that opportunity to have the conversation.

So first – know who you are even supposed to be looking for.

Second – the conversation.

  1. The person offers up the information. You are a safe person and they told you. They gifted you this intimate information and you need to care for them or help them get the care they need. Walk through this. Check in on them. They have trusted you with this.
  2. You are connecting dots and making observations. They are missing, changing the subject, or something is off. Jesus asked questions to draw people out. Don’t make them feel like the spotlight is on them. Don’t start with motives in your questions. Give them space so they tell you what is going on. Tension between you can’t control them and you aren’t the Holy Spirit but you can influence them. If I am not in the right relationship with God, then going after this person won’t go well. My own desires and plans. I want it to be God pursuing and God’s plan. I am a supporting actress in this story – I am not a main character. Let it be God’s story in this person’s life.

Breanne: No one in this situation “loves” it, but it is a holy burden. In counseling, in the observation stage you don’t make a judgment but you check in on the “here and now.” Genuine authentic check-in and observations. It is a beautiful opportunity in hopes to bring them back.

I love this general emphasis of connection that James gives us in this passage. I love this structure and ideas to equip us for these moments.

Steadfast prayer is a gift God has given us to stay connected to him in the midst of trials.

Links From This Week:

In This Week’s Video:

Breanne Fuelling
Breanne Fuelling
Lisa Lewis
Lisa Lewis