Act of Worship at Home
Invitation to worship
“Our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”
Let us pray
Almighty God, who made heaven and earth, thank you for your presence in our lives, for your comfort and strength. Thank you for the life, death and resurrection of your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for the message he brings and his gift of new life. Loving God, we know you call us to be imitators of you, as beloved children; to live in love as your Son loved us and gave himself up for us. Oh God, we try, we really do and yet our intentions come to nothing or, worse, we make a mess of things. Forgive us for the times we fail. We know that, despite all the things we get wrong, you are always there in our lives to help us on our way. We give you thanks in humility for your forgiveness, given in love through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
One of the lectionary readings for today is from the Letter of James, chapter 5, verses 13-20.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another,you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’ssoul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
The letter of James is the first of a group of letters addressed to Christians in general, rather than to a particular church; specifically, written to Jewish Christians who had dispersed around the Mediterranean. It is not entirely clear who wrote it though it seems accepted that it was written by James, a half-brother of Jesus, who became a Christian after the risen Jesus had appeared to him and others. He went on to become a leader in the church at Jerusalem. Like many Christians he was murdered by the authorities: thrown off a building, then stoned and clubbed to death. It is said that, when his fellow Christians came to pick up his body to give him a decent burial, they were astonished because, for the first time, they saw his knees, which looked like the knees of a camel. He had spent more time on his knees than on his feet. He was a true advocate of the power of prayer.
James’s letter is extremely practical – preaching Christianity for daily life in a no-nonsense sort of way. In the words of David Pawson who wrote the book “Unlocking the Bible”, James challenges us “to be ‘doers of the word’, not just hearers of it”.
In this last part of his letter, James takes Elijah as an example of the power of prayer. He reminds us that Christian lives must be centred on God in prayer: if we are in trouble, we should pray; if we are happy then we should sing songs of praise. James says: “the prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise them up and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven”.
Perhaps we are not so dissimilar to the dispersed Jewish Christians that James wrote to. We have been dispersed by Covid 19; we have experienced isolation and indeed some are still having to stay apart; life is not what it was; we cannot worship in the way we used to and there are some aspects of our lives that may never be the same again. But, in some ways, nothing has changed – Christians live and work in the everyday world and it is tempting to be assimilated into the world and adopt its moral standards. But we know that, not only are we in this world, but also, we are part of God’s kingdom which is not of this world. We are on the outside. Worldly motives and morals are a challenge to us and we have to rely on the power of prayer to live up that challenge. That is how we can follow the guidance offered by James and the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our hymn is number 518 in Singing the Faith: ‘Father, hear the prayer we offer’
1 Father, hear the prayer we offer:
not for ease that prayer shall be,
but for strength that we may ever
live our lives courageously.
2 Not for ever in green pastures
do we ask our way to be;
but the steep and rugged pathway
may we tread rejoicingly.
3 Not for ever by still waters
would we idly rest and stay;
but would strike the living fountains
from the rocks along our way.
4 Be our strength in hours of weakness,
in our wanderings be our guide;
through endeavour, failure, danger,
Father, be there at our side.
And now our prayers of intercession:
Loving God, how good it is to be able to pray to you and to share our burdens and concerns with you. We bring to you our world. We pray for the leaders of all nations that they may lead their people with honest openness and fairness. We pray for the leaders of the countries who are preparing for the United Nations Cop26, climate summit in November. May world leaders embrace change and act unselfishly; may they collaborate with wisdom and compassion. We pray, too, that Covid vaccines will be provided to all the people in the world as soon as possible and that the wealthy nations will be generous to those in need of support.
Saving God, we bring before you those who find themselves in the midst of climatic disasters: people suffering the results of soaring temperatures, forest fires, storms, flooding and earthquakes.
Righteous God, help us to cry out against the oppressive and destructive rulers in this world and against those who demonise those who are different. In particular, we bring before you the peoples of Afghanistan and Belarus. And to those who seek asylum and refuge, may we be welcoming and kind.
Caring God, we pray for our fellowship at Christ Church. We bring before you those in our church and the wider community and others known to us personally, who need our prayers: the bereaved, the sick, the lonely and those facing personal crises. We remember them as we pause now….
Loving God, keep us and our families and friends united in loyalty and in love and always in your care.
And finally, Lord God, we pray for ourselves. You know our needs, our weaknesses, our concerns. Help us to hear you as you speak to us in daily life. Grant us the assurance of your love and peace. For we bring our prayers in the name of your son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Finally, a blessing:
May the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to himself; may the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen us in his service; may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our souls. Amen