Prayer is the Breath of the Spiritual Man

S (Scripture) – James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering?  Then he must pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  He is to sing praises.  Is anyone among you sick?  Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

O (Observation) – Lord, prayer is one of the least understood disciplines of the spiritual life.  As people come to know You, and have a desire to pray, they usually do not know how to even begin, other than by casually asking for things that they want.  Prayer is not something we sit down and do, it is an overflow of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts.

Here is an excerpt from the John Gills exposition of the Bible regarding this topic:

“…not any prayer of a righteous man is of avail, but that which is ‘effectual, fervent’; that has power, and energy, and life in it; which is with the Spirit, and with the understanding, with the heart, even with a true heart, and in faith; and which is put up with fervency, and not in a cold, lukewarm, lifeless, formal, and customary way: it is but one word in the original text; and the Vulgate Latin version renders it, ‘daily’; that prayer which is constant and continual, and without ceasing, and is importunate (persistent); this prevails and succeeds…Some translate the word ‘inspired’: the Spirit of God breathes into men the breath of spiritual life, and they live, and being quickened by him, they breathe; and prayer is the breath of the spiritual man, and is no other than the reverberation of the Spirit of God in him; and such prayer cannot fail of success: it may be rendered “inwrought”; true prayer is not what is written in a book, but what is wrought in the heart, by the Spirit of God; who is the enditer of prayer, who impresses the minds of his people with a sense of their wants, and fills their mouths with arguments, and puts strength into them to plead with God, and makes intercession for them according to the will of God; and such prayer is always heard, and regarded by him: this has great power with God; whatever is asked, believing, is received; God can deny nothing prayed for in this manner.”

A (Application) – For newer Christians, this should not be intimidating, but encouraging!  We don’t have to try and come up with what to say in our prayer life, because the words are actually originating from the Spirit within us.  It is our responsibility to draw closer to You through spending time with You in Your word, worship, serving others, and leading a disciplined life with You being first in all that we do.  If we are truly living this kind of kingdom-focused life, the prayer emanating from our hearts will not be something we have to try and think of on our own.  It will flow out of us effortlessly because it is, in fact, an overflow of the Spirit within us.

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, thank You for Your presence in our lives.  Thank You that we are not expected to walk through this life alone.  Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly; He delights in every detail of their lives.”  You are with us always, and prayer is the way of communing with You each and every moment of the day.  We are so thankful that Your Holy Spirit draws us into that fellowship with You, and intercedes for us when we are at a point where there are no words.  Help us to draw closer to You and to continuously keep You first in everything.

Purify Your Hearts

S (Scripture) – James 4:6-10 “And he gives grace generously.  As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’  So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come close to God, and God will come close to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.  Let there be tears for what you have done.  Let there be sorrow and deep grief.  Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” NLT

“And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find.  It’s common knowledge that ‘God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.’  So let God work his will in you.  Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.  Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time.  Quit dabbling in sin.  Purify your inner life.  Quit playing the field.  Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out.  The fun and games are over.  Get serious, really serious.  Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.The Message

O (Observation) – Lord, You are not just something to think about throughout the week.  You don’t want us to talk about You like You’re not in the room, and live our lives for our own pleasures without accomplishing Your kingdom work.  You have not called us to a life of brokenness, either, but rather a life of victory.  How we walk in that victory each and every day is by humbling ourselves under Your mighty Name and yielding to Your authority over every area of our lives.  It is not until we hit bottom, look up, see You reaching down into the pit and setting our feet upon a rock (Psalm 40:2) that we experience Your life-transforming love and power at work in us.

A (Application) – Now is the time; if we have not proclaimed the Name of Jesus over our lives, and are coming closer to Him each and every day, we are missing out on the very purpose for our existence.  Lord, You tell us we are to humble ourselves before You, resist the Devil so that he will flee from us, and then to come closer to You, and You will come closer to us.  This is something we must consciously choose to do each and every moment of the day.  The battle for our minds and thoughts rages within a world of clashing ideologies.  It’s time for us to realize that not one moment of our time on this earth should be wasted.  When we dabble in sin, we are moving further away from God by our own rebellious choices.  Thankfully, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  The purpose of confession and subsequent forgiveness is to restore fellowship – to bring us back to a right relationship with the Lord.  He desires a closeness with us that cannot be hindered by sin that we coddle and refuse to acknowledge as sin.  We just need to let it go.

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, thank You for Your patience with us.  Thank You for Your forgiveness and love – there is no one too far from You that Your grace cannot cover.  If we would only humble ourselves under Your authority, call out our sin for what it is, and have a desire that is stronger for You than for our sin, we would be able to watch You at work in our lives.  Draw us closer to You, Jesus.  We want to move past the casual conversations we’ve had with You in the past, and dive in wholeheartedly to the intimate relationship You’ve called us to with You.

Without Wisdom from Above = Disorder

S (Scripture) – James 3:14-18 “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.  This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.  And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” NASB

“But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.  For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom.  Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.  For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure.  It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others.  It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds.  It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.  And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” NLT

O (Observation) – Lord, I see that You are telling us that there is Your way (the wisdom from above), and then there is everything else (“wisdom” that is earthly, natural, and demonic).  When we choose to ignore what You have to say about a matter, and instead consult with our own emotions (how we feel about a matter), our friends and family (earthly, natural), or anyone else (the media, our culture), we are going to experience “disorder” in our lives, and open our hearts up to “every evil thing.”  You are a God of order, and there is a reason for everything You say about how we are to live our lives.  You designed the world and everything in it to perfectly function in a harmonious way if we would only heed Your wisdom.

A (Application) – Your wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy.  The problem is that there are so many people that are claiming the name of Christ over their lives, but are living completely out of alignment with Your word.  Those on the outside looking in don’t see anything different about Christians versus non-Christians, and therefore don’t see any need to “participate in organized religion.”  When someone is truly living by the power of the word of God and seeing heaven intervene in his or her daily circumstances, that person is markedly different from the world.  That is being the salt and light that You have called us to be, living a life of order, peace, transparency, and victory.

P (Prayer) – Lord, thank You for Your word.  Your precious word that is more than a book and pages to be studied and talked about.  It is meant to penetrate the deepest parts of our hearts and souls, it is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12) and at work in the lives of those who desperately pursue Your truth and wisdom.  May You let our eyes see Your kingdom shine all around, may our hearts overflow with passion for Your name, may our lives be a song revealing who You are (Lauren Daigle – Salt & Light).  We cannot possibly live that kind of life led by our selfish ambition.  Draw our hearts ever closer to You, Jesus.  May Your perfect wisdom be what we seek each and every moment of the day.  Let it transform and renew our minds (Romans 12:2), and empower us to live a life full of peace, unwavering, and without hypocrisy.

Evidence of Transformation = Fruit and Good Deeds

S (Scripture) – James 2:14-17 “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’  You believe that God is one.  You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” NASB

“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything?  Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?…Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?The Message

O (Observation) – Lord, I see you telling us that despite your free gift of grace that we could do nothing to earn (Ephesians 2:8-10), if a person has truly trusted You as Lord of his or her life, there will be evidence of that transformation by the fruit they bear (how they live their lives).  We are not able to earn our way into a right relationship with You by our good deeds, but You have told us that the reason for our very existence and why we were made a new creation “in Christ Jesus is for good works, which You prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  You say in the Gospel of Matthew that we should “beware of false prophets, who come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  You tell us that we shall know them by their fruits.  In other words, what do they actually do versus what they just speak, will reveal to us what is in their hearts.

A (Application) – We are in no position to judge whether or not another person has truly committed his or her life to You.  That is a decision each person must be individually responsible for; we are, however, to be careful of whom we trust for godly wisdom and those we are allowing to shape our way of thinking.  After first examining our own lives and asking You to reveal anything that is not of You so that we can continue to pursue a life set apart for You, we must then carefully decide whose words and actions line up with Your word of truth if we are to trust them enough to have them speak life into our circumstances.  This doesn’t mean that we only ever talk to Christians – how else are we going to share Your goodness with the world?!  What this does mean is that we are not easily swayed by those that claim to know You, but are really far from You.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace.  Your freedom may be free for us, but it cost You everything.  I am so thankful that You see the depths of my heart and love me anyway.  There is nothing that can separate me from Your love.  How can anyone truly experience Your love, forgiveness, promises, blessings, and truth yet continue to live the same as they always have before as if nothing had ever happened?  It is impossible.  You send Your Holy Spirit to indwell those that have crossed the line of faith, and He begins a life-long journey of transformation within that person so that they become more and more like You.  What a precious gift!

Enduring Trials, Established Faith

S (Scripture) – James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” NASB

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” The Message

O (Observation) – It’s a nice thing to say that we have faith in Jesus.  It’s a different thing altogether when others can see our faith demonstrated in the midst of adversity without us uttering a word.  This life is going to bring us circumstances that will shake our very foundations to the core of who we are, and what is remaining will be revealed.  God promises us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us.  I believe the reason this promise is explicitly given to us is because there are going to be times in our lives when, from the world’s perspective, it may seem like He has, and we need to know that no matter what we are enduring, we are not alone.

A (Application) – The definition of endurance is “the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.”  If our faith can be compared to an athlete, it is interesting to note how much training and effort go into making an athlete ready for competition.  They don’t just show up on game day and expect to be useful to the team and the coach.  They have intentionally prepared themselves for the task at hand, and their bodies are able to endure the fight.  Likewise, we as Christians cannot expect to develop a strong faith merely by living a comfortable life without trials and occasionally attending a church service.  The definition of “strong” led me to the word “established.”  “Established” is defined as “to put beyond doubt.”  Trials and testing situations are opportunities for God to show Himself faithful to us, and to have our faith develop in such a way to “put beyond doubt” that His promises are true.

P (Prayer) – Father in Heaven, You love us so much.  You want so desperately for us to know this truth in the depths of our heart.  Though we may encounter pain, suffering, tragedy, and loss in this life, you are able to work together all things for the good of those who love you and are called according to Your purpose (Romans 8:28).  Just like the various ingredients of a cake that are not to be enjoyed individually (e.g. butter, baking soda, sugar, etc.), our trials may seem as if they have no useful purpose.  When all of the ingredients of our lives are mixed together with Your grace and tested under fire, at just the right moment and in Your perfect timing, a cake comes out of the oven smelling sweetly and able to be used by You.  Increase our faith, Lord.  May we grow closer to You in times of trials.  It’s been said that “You will never give us more than we can handle,” and this is simply not true!  You always give us more than we can handle, so that we need to rely on You and cling to You in order to get through it.  Thank You for Your faithfulness.