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Posts Tagged ‘James’

Last Sermon of the Summer

The sermon I preached at the Harbor a few weeks ago is available here.  I promise my next post will be actual written content, rather than another sermon link :)

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A few years back I read a passing comment that the Epistle of James has a lot of similarities with Jesus’ teaching, specifically the Sermon on the Mount.  I started to make a list of connections, only to find that Donald Guthrie had already done it.  Not only that, but Dan Wallace posted Guthrie’s table in his introduction to James’ letter.  I thought I’d post it below for those who are interested.   

1:2

Joy in the midst of trials Matt. 5:10-12
1:4 Exhortation to perfection Matt. 5:48
1:5 Asking for good gifts Matt. 7:7ff.
1:20 Against anger

Matt. 5:22

1:22 Hearers and doers of the Word Matt. 7:24ff.
2:10 The whole law to be kept Matt. 5:19
2:13 Blessings of mercifulness Matt. 5:7
3:18 Blessings of peacemakers Matt. 5:9
4:4 Friendship of the world as enmity against God Matt. 6:24
4:11-12 Against judging others Matt. 7:1-5
5:2ff. Moth and rust spoiling riches Matt. 6:19
5:10 The prophets as examples Matt. 5:12
5:12 Against oaths

Matt. 5:33-37

There are more connections between James’ letter and Jesus’ teachings, but there is a particularly strong connection with the Sermon on the Mount.  I’ve said multiple times that James’ letters sounds the most like Jesus of all the NT writers, and this chart provides some strong evidence of this.  Any guesses why this is so?

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On Praying Well

Many years ago, a friend told me that it is impossible to pray incorrectly.  From God knowing our requests before we request them (Mt. 6:8), to the Holy Spirit’s intercession (Rom. 8:26-27), it is a valid point.  We might also note that, by definition, prayer is fundamentally an attempt to communicate with God.  In this way, I can’t pray incorrectly any more than I can communicate  incorrectly to another person.  There are, of course, a multitude of ways we might refine this thought.  For example, while I cannot express myself incorrectly, I can express myself inappropriately.  “Hey daddy-o, howz about wording up some mad blessings on this grub, dig?”  would not be an appropriate prayer to bless a meal, because it is not how we should address our Creator and Savior.  Reverence, respect, and humility should characterize our prayers.  We should also bring to bear texts like Jas. 1:5-8; 4:3, Mt. 6:5-15, Php. 4:6, and 1 Thess. 5:17, to name a few.   The Bible is filled with examples and commands regarding prayer; indeed, its largest book (Psalms) is a collection of prayers!

During a recent bout of late night introspection, I started to read through older entries in my journal.  Said journal is often neglected, but when it is put to use, its primary function is to hold my written prayers to God (side note: this is an excellent help for those of us who struggle with a wandering mind during prayer).  I was struck by how much my prayers revealed about my walk with God.  It gave me solid evidence for evaluating what I think of Him, how I relate to Him, and what the priorities are in my life.

From time to time it may be helpful to examine our own prayers.  After all, if I were to reflect on my relationship with my wife, one of the first places I’d look is at our communication.  How do I talk to her?  How often?  What’s my tone?  Do I speak to her respectfully and lovingly?  What do I usually talk about?  Do I spend most of my words on requests – or demands! – or do I frequently praise her for the blessing she is in my life?  Do I speak to her only when something important comes up, or do I also share my thoughts on smaller matters?  Are all of our conversations focussed on me?  How often do I listen?  How important is it to me?  Do I miss it when we don’t talk to each other?  Is my speech filled with vague platitudes, or clear sincerity?

Honest answers to these types of questions can show us aspects of our walk with the Lord that we might not otherwise see.  An examination of our prayers might reveal attitudes, patterns and behaviors that require repentance, and are no help to our relationship with God.

While it may not be possible to pray incorrectly, I do believe it is possible to pray well.  I do not mean this in the sense that we can learn to say the right words with the right inflection at the right times, but rather in the sense that prayers are a crucial component to our walk with God.  Praying well is tantamount to following God well.  The former is really little more than an evidence of the latter.  I would even go so far as to take a cue from James, and adapt his (in?)famous words on faith and works:  Do you love God?  Then show me your prayers (c.f., Jas. 2:14-18).

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