Pray BIG Prayers – Wisdom

How often have you found yourself wondering what to do in any given situation? Maybe it’s parenting, or when you’re at work, or just trying to navigate all that life has to offer.

We read in James 1.5 that if we are lacking in wisdom, let us ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given [to] him. Great, so we’ve got some wisdom-from-above. This should help us make wise decisions, shrewd moves, and successful choices. Right?

I’m convinced that the wisdom that God gives generously to all without reproach is the first step in the process of being wise. 

Yes, Scripture clearly says that if we ask for wisdom in faith it will be given, but what do we do with it? How do we learn to apply it? Is it just downloaded to our brains and off we go? 

Some people won’t like this, but, Scripture also says that we are to think. Some may say ‘Well, I just pray about it.’, and that is good. Prayer is good. That’s not an incorrect statement to make, but it is a little incomplete. 

We read in Scripture that we are to think over what is given to us (2 Timothy 2.7) and then, after the thinking, the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 

What has been given to us, what are we thinking deeply about in order to best apply our prayer-given wisdom? The Word of God. The Word of God, useful for every possible situation we may find ourselves in (2 Timothy 3.16-17).

So, a process emerges:

  1. Encounter something difficult 
  2. Pray for wisdom (James 1.5)
  3. Search Scripture for similar circumstance (2 Timothy 3.16-17)
  4. Think over everything (2 Timothy 2.7a)
  5. Put it into action (2 Timothy 2.7b)

Today’s BIG prayer is the second step in this.

Father, I thank you that your Word teaches that Divine wisdom is available to me. As I am struggling to work through …… would you please help me to see this situation from your perspective, in the light of your revealed Word, and would you empower me to think over all of this so that I may know what to do. 

I pray, and know, that whatever course of action you direct me to take will glorify you and be the best possible outcome for me, and even if I don’t see it initially I trust you to guide me with your wisdom. 

Pray BIG Prayers – Location

In James 4.13-17 we see a strong word of counsel on our location and occupation as believers. Let’s read it and pray a BIG prayer after it.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

James 4.13-17

Most of us have grown up in a country or culture that highlights the fact that you need a life plan. Maybe when you were in high school this was really emphasised; what will you be, who will you be, where will you be, and how will you be? As a result, we’ve been conditioned to think that we are responsible for planning and guiding and bringing to fruition our own future and plans. 

But, as a believer, as someone who has declared that you are not living for yourself anymore, as someone who has declared that you are living for the glory of God (BIG prayer #1), is this right?

Can you live for God’s glory yet still retain exclusive planning rights on your own life?

James says not. Rather than planning your own future, we ought to think  “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that“. James is pretty clear that this is arrogant and sinful. If you are bold enough to pray today’s BIG prayer, be prepared to obey and submit to the guidance you receive. Think carefully before praying this one. You know you should, you know you want to, but as Jesus teaches in Luke 14.28-33, think deeply and count the cost because if you pray this, you could be on the move!

Lord, I know that anything I can plan for my life will be so insignificantly small and dull compared to the abundant life you want me to live. For my arrogant and sinful self-centredness in planning my own life I ask forgiveness.

I pray today that you would begin to show me what you want me to be, who you want me to be, where you want me to be, and how you want me to be.

I want to follow the example of Jesus and say “Your will be done, not mine”. 

Living a Life of Restoration

James concludes his letter with the exhortation in 5.19-20 as, simply, a nutshell summary of the entire teaching – to confront those who have wandered from a living faith.

James is trying to move us beyond the intellectual agreement which many call faith, to move us beyond the mind-only understanding that many call Christianity, to a real, active, living, loving, giving, serving faith. 

Rather than read 5.19-20 and think; let’s go and bring a load of people back. Let’s go restore people, redeem people and be the hero. Rather than try and be the hero, we ought to read 5.19-20 and see that WE are the restored, not the restorer, we are in daily need of restoration. We ought to go and tell people about the great Restorer, the great Redeemer.

The book of James ends pretty abruptly and pretty suddenly, there is no blessing, no prayer, no long and luscious goodbyes…it’s almost like look “I’ve told you what you need to know, so, off you go and do it“.

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.

James 5.19-20

In this text, we are the sinner brought back from wandering, our souls have been saved from death, a multitude of our own sins has been covered.

Let us live in this truth, live a life of living faith, and tell others about the Great Restorer!

Living a Life of Prayer

In James 5.13-18 we read of prayer. There is a when, a why, and a who. At the end of the passage there is a real-life example with a real person, Elijah.

Elijah was a man with a human nature, so we read, and you are a man or lady with a human nature, are you not? The same Spirit that was available to Elijah, then, is available to you. But, is Elijah the ultimate example of a human natured person praying in all situations because they knew the power of it? 

Is Elijah the hero of this story?

The same Spirit that was available to Elijah is available to you, so, are you the hero of this story?

Who is the real hero of this story?

In John 11, Jesus finds out that His friend Lazarus has died. He cries. He is deeply moved. He shows emotion. What does He do?

Jesus lifted up his eyes and said…

Feeling low in Spirit, He prayed (James 5.13).

In Luke 10, cheerful about the success of the mission of the 72 He sent out, 

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…

Cheerful, He prayed and praised (James 5.13b).

He is, right now, at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us, praying for us, that you may be healed (James 5.15).

So, the when, the why, and the who, all find their ultimate fulfilment in Jesus.

At the centre of your life of prayer, then, is Jesus. 

Living a Life of Truth

In Judaism, in the mind and the culture of the day in which James lived and wrote, truth was the basis of the law. Reading James 5.12 it would be very easy to hyper-moralise and say something like, 

You need to be so careful to tell the truth
so you don’t fall under condemnation.
Be a better, more truthful you.

The law-minded person would simply see this as a law to keep.

What about when we look at this through the lens of Jesus? We see that our character is lacking so we feel the need to make oaths, we feel we need to substantiate our claims by saying something like ‘I swear to God I will…I swear I didn’t…’

The fact that James is saying this at all is proof it was happening, isn’t it, you don’t teach about situations that don’t exist, do you? If we are honest, this is still happening; we feel the need to make stronger our own words, our own claims than with a simple yes or no.

Jesus, on other hand, didn’t.

Jesus spoke only truth in love. We fail, He succeeds. You will never be that more truthful you until you are a born again believer in Jesus with the Spirit of God living in you. How is that possible? 

Faith in Jesus makes this possible.

Truth, Biblical truth, Christian truth, Jesus-emanating truth is authenticity, Divine reality. John in particular in his account of the life, ministry, death, resurrection of Jesus uses this word ‘truth‘ to describe the fact that this reality, this authentic, Divine reality is actually possible for you and me as humans, but in our natural state, it’s out of reach. We are out of touch, out of step with it, but, through the revelation of the Word of God, the incarnation and work of and faith in the Word of God, it is reachable. 

So, with James writing about yes be yes and no be no, in our natural state, sadly, nobody is ever going to be able to get to that standard. No motivational speech, no self help, no self improvement, no amount of burden that you put on yourself will ever get you there. There is only one way to be able to live this life, there is only one way to practice truthfulness as God Himself is truthful and that is through the authenticity, the Divine revelation, the Word become flesh, through Jesus. 

Everything that we want, everything that we need to live a life of truth, true, actual, authentic, real truth, is available to us in Jesus, and nowhere else.

So, simply, your life of truth has to be rooted in, has to stem from, to grow out of, Jesus.