The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle

Reflections from Catherine Wilson 

Sunday - 26 September 2021

Gathering into the presence of God.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

 

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Dear friends in Crail and St Ayle,

As I grow older, I become more forgetful, especially if I fail to write down things that I need to do.  So I confess that with many other matters on my mind, I forgot that I had agreed to write this week’s reflection.  When I looked at the possible readings for this Sunday in the lectionary, the text of James Chapter 5 jumped out of the page.  This is a letter which starts and finishes with exhortations to the readers to pray – to pray as individuals and to pray with each other.  Why did this jump out of the page?  It was because this morning I experienced the joy and blessing of taking part in the Thursday morning prayer gathering in St Ayle Church.  These meetings are open to all and are truly uplifting, so I commend them to you.

Catherine

 

The Word of God

James, the brother of Jesus and a leader in the Jerusalem Church, addressed his letter to the first century Jewish Christians living in Gentile communities outside Palestine.  It focuses on practical action in the life of faith, encouraging God’s people to act like God’s people.

James Chapter 5 verses 13 – 20   The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let them pray. Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise.  14 Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.  If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

 

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

 

Reflection

 

Some points to be drawn out from this passage relate to the power of prayer and power in prayer.  In verse 13, James exhorts us as individuals to ‘pray’ and to ‘praise’.  Both are acts of prayer because prayer is ultimately about entering God’s presence.  If we want to pray powerful prayers, we need to start by regularly and personally entering into God’s presence, setting aside time for God, both in good times and bad times.

From verse 13 to 14, there is a shift from the singular to the plural.  We are now urged not only to pray by ourselves, but also to pray with other people, with other Christians, the point being that when we join in prayer with other people, our prayers often become more powerful.  Certainly, they can appear to those gathered, to be more powerful because one person praying will be voicing the thoughts and hopes that many are feeling, and so the prayer is reinforced in our hearts.

In verses 15 – 20, we are told that we must pray with faith and righteousness.  There are several features of life which can affect the power of our prayers and having faith is one.  If we want to pray powerful prayers, we must believe God can and will answer us.  To have power in prayer we must have faith and believe that God is all powerful and that our God can do only good.

Another feature of our lives that can affect our prayers, in this case adversely, is a feeling of guilt.  We can feel too guilty to ask big things of God because we feel that we don’t deserve to be heard, even though the message of the gospel is of grace.  We feel guilty because we are aware of our sins.  James writes that just as we are to pray alone, with others and for others, we should also confess and repent alone, but also confess and repent with others, and gently help others confess and repent, confident in the knowledge of God’s grace and forgiveness.

To pray with power, we must pray often; we must also pray with others and for others; and we must pray with righteousness and faith, all through the grace of Jesus Christ.

Prayer

 

Lord God and Heavenly Father, we want to pray, and we want to pray with power but sometimes we do not know how to start.  There are so many people for whom we need to pray, so many situations about which to pray, so much that is wrong in your world which needs to be put right, and we experience so many blessings in our lives for which we need to thank you. 

 

Loving Father, help us to recognise that there are no ‘right words’ and that we can talk to you and pray to you at any time and in any way.  Help us to develop better spiritual discipline, praying more often, praying with others, praying with faith.  Help us to too, Lord to recognise that prayer is not just about talking to you but equally importantly it is about listening to you and being willing to do what you ask of us.  Help us not to allow the busyness of life and the distractions of social media to drown out your still small voice.

 

Help us to be guided by you in all things.  Give us the strength and courage to live our lives as you would have us live them, loving and serving You, loving and serving our neighbours, proclaiming the good news of your kingdom, challenging injustice and violence and being good stewards of your creation. 

 

Lord, we ask all these things in the name of your Son who came to this world to show us how to live and who died that we might be saved.

Amen.

 

Remember

 

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

James 1:19

 

Blessing

 

May the love of Jesus Christ, bring us wholeness; the grace of God the Father grant us peace; the breath of Holy Spirit instil passion and the unity between them give us strength, this and every day.

Amen