(James 1:2- 8, 5:13- 18) Prayer is a means of communicating with God. Prayer is very important in the life of a Christian. It is the means of interacting with God and it also serves as a weapon of defence against the evil ones. This was the reason why Christ, during his earthly ministry, emphasized much on prayer. He told his disciples that they should watch and pray and even taught his disciples how to pray. (Matthew 6:1-14) ST. JAMES TEACHING ON EFFECTIVE PRAYERS (James 1:2-8, 5:13-18) Conditions for effective prayers: Some of the conditions for effective prayers are steadfastness, perseverance and faith. St. James said: “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effects, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith without doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways will receive anything from the Lord. ” (James 1:2-8). St. James is saying in effect that Christians should pray, believing God that He would surely do what they ask Him. No matter the temptation, no matter the suffering; Christians must persevere. They must not doubt because if they doubt, they may likely not receive answers to their prayers. The bible says in Hebrew 11:6; ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Another condition for effective prayer is that Christians must not ask wrongly. They must pray according to the will of God and with right motive. For this reason, they should ask for God’s wisdom to direct them in the right thing to ask God. Again, Christians must confess their sins before God and take decision to forsake them so that God can hear their prayers. For the bible says that the fervent prayer of the righteous has great power in its effects. So, to make prayer effective, Christians should endeavour to live a righteous life. TYPES OF PRAYER St. James further mention various types of prayer as he said: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him Sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your Sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in it effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves 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 brought forth its fruits”. (James 5:13-18) James, in his teaching, mentioned various types of prayers that ought to be prayed at various times and conditions. These are: When people are cheerful, they should sing praises to God and appreciate God. This is prayer of adoration to God. When one is sick, elders of the church would pray for him; in this case, it is intersession prayer. The person cannot pray effectively for himself, others have to pray for him. A Christian that is in need should pray by himself asking God to meet his various needs; this is the prayer of supplication and petition to God. Dedication prayer is where people commit themselves anew to God to remain His children. Confessional prayer is said when people perceive they have sinned against God and so they confess their sins with strong determination to forsake such sin. Factors that may Hinder Effectiveness of Prayer Lack of faith on the part of the person praying. Unforgiving spirit on the part of the person praying. Repetition of the same words. Lack of repentance from personal sins. Lack of concentration. Lack of consistency. Asking wrongly, God knows what is best for us as His children.
(James 1:22-27, 2:14-26) ST. JAMES TEACHING ON FAITH AND WORK Faith means trust or belief. St. James, in his epistle, admonished Christians who genuinely believe in Jesus Christ to reflect their belief and faith in their lifestyle. This means that Christians in their daily life should practice the gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of God which is love, honesty, forgiveness, humility, faithfulness and charity. Any Christian who does not practice these virtues is not regarded as a faithful Christian. According to James, Christians must combine their faith with work. This means that any Christian who does not practice the moral principles of Christianity is not a good Christian. St. James puts it this way; “But be the doers of the word, and not the hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:22 – 24) A doer of the word is one who looks into the perfect law of Jesus Christ which is the law of liberty; and with perseverance, does not forget easily but acts on it. Such a person receives God’s blessings. James went further to say that a truly religious man (the doer of the word) controls his tongue. Anyone who does not control his tongue deceives himself and his religion is in vain. For one to practice an acceptable religion before God, one should be able to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions and keep oneself undefiled by the world. St. James went further to buttress his argument that faith without work is dead (James 2:14 – 17). He said it is useless for any man to say he has faith whereas he is not doing any work to show for his faith; such faith, St. James said, is dead. He gave an analogy of one who needed food and clothing and approached his fellow Christian for help. Instead of giving him what he wanted, the Christian said, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”. St. James said such faith is useless. Faith must be combined with practical Christian work to produce the desired result. St. James remarked that those who have the belief in God without expressing action to justify their faith are not different from the devil because the devil also believes in God but does not do the work of God. To support his points, he cited the case of Abraham and Rahab. Abraham, he said was justified by his work when he offered Isaac on the altar. In this instance, faith was active with his works. For this reason it was written, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” and he was equally called the friend of God. A man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, Rahab, the harlot, was justified by her work when she received and protected the messengers sent to spy Jericho. James concluded by saying that just as the physical body without spirit is dead, so also faith without work is dead. Ways by which Christians can demonstrate their Faith based on the Teaching of St. James Christians should help unemployed to be employed by establishing vocational/technical institute for training of the unemployed. They should ensure good governance by participating in government and putting their faith to practice. They should help the poor and the needy around them within and outside the church. All Christians are expected to participate in church activities in accordance with the level of ability God has given them. Wealthy Christians should establish orphanages, mental homes and vocational institutions to take care of less privileged. A good Christian should make the work of charity and justice his/ her watch word. Behaviours not Expected of a Christian According to St. James’ Teaching A good Christian is expected to control his/her tongue. Christians must not involve themselves in slanderous remarks, lying, perjury, speaking in indecent and abusive languages to others.
(Galatians 5:19 – 25, Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9-10) Fruit in the biblical concept refers to human conducts. Fruit of the spirit are godly conducts and those of the flesh are ungodly. THE FRUIT OF THE FLESH (Galatians 5:19 – 21) Apostle Paul admonished the Galatians Christians to walk in the spirit so as not to fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lust against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. The flesh is contrary to the spirit. The works of the flesh are against the law of God. He listed the works of the flesh as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murderers, drunkenness, reveling and so on. Anyone that does any of these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (Galatians 5:22 – 25) The fruit of the spirit are those conducts that are godly. Every Christian attached to Jesus produces good fruits (conducts) such as love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. The fruits of the spirit encompassed the Ten Commandments. Christians are expected to bear good fruits as they have been crucified with Jesus. The flesh with the affection and lust are already crucified, they should learn to live in the spirit and also walk in the spirit. HOW TO BEAR THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9-10) The following are steps to bearing of the fruit of the spirit Repentance from Sin. Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism in the name of Jesus. Gift of the Holy Spirit. Abiding in Jesus Christ. Lessons to Learn The bible is clear on the conduct God wants from His children, they are clearly listed. As Christians, we should not allow the pressure of peer group make us to indulge in the works of the flesh which lead to hell. Rather, we should strive to have and manifest the fruits of the spirit that brings peace from God and inheritance of His kingdom.
Different Types of Spiritual Gifts 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 Spiritual gifts are the special spiritual endowments given by the Holy Spirit upon the various members of the church for the common good of the church community. Essentially, the Church of Christ is a single spiritual community with it members having special individual abilities or gifts to serve God. All spiritual gifts are from one Spirit (God). The purpose is for enhancing the churches’ growth and well-being. Such spiritual gifts are as follows: The utterance of Wisdom. The utterance of Knowledge. Faith. Gifts of Healing. The gift of Working Miracles. The gift of Prophecy. The gift to distinguish between spirits. The gift to speak in tongues. The gift to interpret tongues. However, Paul admonishes each recipient to be humble. According to.him, the Church is like a human body made up of different parts, each performing a definite function and yet integrally united with other parts. Hence, when one part does not function, the rest feel the impact. The Church is also like that: made up of many members, each having a particular spiritual gift to be used to the glory of God. No one is more superior in terms of his own gift. Each gift is as important as the other. All these gifts are for the edification of the church. According to Paul, if there are parts of the body which are supposed to be considered as honourable, they are the so-called inferior parts to avoid discord: “On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable and those parts of the body which we think less honourable we invest with the greater honour and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that members may have the same care for one another”. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25) What the above passage points at is the fact that God so arranged parts of the body that there cannot be any disagreement over inferiority or superiority. As in the body, the Church is the body of Christ, though made up of different individual members. Each member must perform a specific duty to the growth of the church. In a church we may have apostles, miracle workers or healers, helpers or administrators, or those speaking in various kinds of tongues. As a body, each member is unique both in person and in the role he performs. Christians should relate with each other well and most importantly, any member that is gifted should use his or her gift for the edification of the church. Making Use of Individual Talents- Romans 12:3-8 Talents are natural abilities or acquired skill to use for the good of all: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith, if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation, he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness”. (Romans 12:6-8) Real Grace does not lie in having a spiritual gift or the superiority of one gift over the other, but in how much one is able to make use of such a gift. The way one makes use of his or her talent shows how much grace such person has received. To make the best use of one’s spiritual gift one has to identify his talent. Secondly, one should now go further by practising the talent thereby developing it. Christians should make use of their talents to the best of their ability, using all resources at their disposal. This is the point Paul stresses in the above passage. How do you, the reader use your talent? Some Spiritual Gifts Seen in Today’s Churches and How They Are Used 1) Faith – Achieved through Evangelism. Reaching out to remote areas assisting in cash and kind. Building of new churches. Preaching charity. 2) Speaking in Tongues and Interpretation This is more common with Pentecostal churches more than in orthodox churches. The church interprets tongues when used for God’s glory and people’s edification not for personal glory. 3) Prophecy God has warded off dangers from so many believers through prophecies which are backed up with intensive prayers and fasting. Our leaders have fulfilled prophetic roles by leading the congregation on the path of truth. By doing this, social menaces are cautioned like juvenile delinquency, fore-telling etc. 4) Utterance of Knowledge In today’s churches, many are teachers, teaching in different activities in the church e.g. Sunday school. Pastors, evangelists are also teachers. 5) Working Miracles and Healing This is an essential characteristic of today’s pentecostal churches. The lame walk, sick people are healed, the blind see etc. There are medical doctors who have contributed to the upkeep of the church. They own hospitals and maternities where medicine is available for everybody. Significance of Spiritual Gifts to the Church Since the human body is one, the church should act and see itself as one body united in the Spirit. No one is supposed to claim superiority over others in terms of talent in the church. Each person’s contribution is as important as another’s. There should be no discrimination in the church, neither should there be class distinction for in Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek. Even racial discrimination in the church is unbiblical. Each recipient should use his own talent for the well-being of the church and to the glory of God. Lessons To Learn The unity of the church or the community brings strength just as the healthy members of a body. We should co-operate with one another in order to bring about our desired result. Summary There are nine spiritual gifts given to members of Christ’s church for the common good of all. These gifts work supernaturally because they are given by God. Every member of the church of Jesus is important just as parts of the body are important to the body. Talents are natural abilities or acquired skill to use for the good of all. The church of Jesus needs the spiritual gifts for her growth, expansion and upliftment of members. Everyone of the nine gifts works supernaturally as different from the talents which are natural.
Philemon 1 Forgiveness literally, implies having no more wish to punish someone for an offence earlier committed; or simply, to show mercy to someone, no longer having ill-feelings towards him. In the New Testament of the Holy Bible, forgiveness is used to show God’s initiative by which He restored man, full of sin to His fellowship. The offender must have shown a sign of remorse and must have decided for Christ to live a new life. Paul began by congratulating Philemon on his creditable role in the service of the church and for his love and faith in Jesus. In Paul’s Epistle to his friend, Philemon, he appeals to him most passionately to forgive his erstwhile runaway slave, called Onesimus, whom Paul had met elsewhere and converted him. Paul appeals to Philemon therefore, in a heart-touching manner, to accept Onesimus back and forgive him of whatever offence he must have committed (Paul did not know Onesimus’ offence) and restore him to his relationship, as a brother, no longer as a slave. This plea for mercy is contained in Philemon Chapter 1 verse 10-18. Although Paul could have commanded Philemon to have Onesimus back, but he would not, for the sake of love: “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus whose father I have become in my imprisonment. (Formerly, he was useless to you, but now, he is indeed useful to you and to me). I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart … that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, as a beloved brother … ‘ As beneficiaries of the mercy and forgiveness of God, christians, as a matter of God’s commandment, should forgive one another. Indeed, there should not be any limit as to how often christians should forgive their offenders individually. Matthew 6:14-15 points out the very essence or reason why christians must forgive their offenders: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you; but, if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” It is therefore clear that if one does not forgive, he cannot receive forgiveness from God. It therefore behoves on every christian to strive to show in his everyday living the same spirit which made God to forgive them their sins. At any point, therefore, christians ought to reconcile with their offenders and forgive them so as to be sure of God’s forgiveness each time they pray. Lessons To Learn From Forgiveness and Why Christians Should Forgive One Another If we must be forgiven by God, then we must forgive others. The act of forgiveness should extend to rehabilitation and reconciliation. There should not be any limit to forgiveness. We should forgive as many times as we are offended. Christians should intercede for others as Paul interceded for Onesimus. By forgiving, we are obeying God. Forgiveness restores peace, love, unity among brothers. Summary Forgiveness is no more counting or holding of offence against someone. As such, no more to punish the person. This is a pardon granted to the offender as a result of his repentance. It is a God-type pardon that comes from the heart due to God’s love. Paul wrote to Philemon to forgive his slave Onesimus and accept him back with love. Christians are to forgive one another on a countless number of seventy times seven which is forgiveness without number. For it we fail to forgive others, God will not forgive us.