Cuirim Prayer James #1 – Becoming Like Jesus
(All) Our Father….
Reader: How shall we live when reality isn’t going our way? Maybe our plans didn’t turn out the way we hoped. Or maybe something came in from nowhere and knocked us off course. We find ourselves in a ditch, struggling to get out. James knew this is where people really live. Life has many bumps in the road and unexpected turns.
Scripture reading: James 1:3-8
(A )Humans are forward-looking creatures.
(B) We want to know it will all work out.
(A) Dogs seem to live through their days free of such expectations.
(B) Do we know too much to just live one day at a time?
(A) Maybe we know too little,
(B) Maybe wisdom is more than knowledge.
(A) Lord grant us wisdom,
(B) Not just a drop every now and then,
(A) But waterfalls and tidal waves of wisdom splashing over us
(B) Until we are perfect and complete.
Reader: James gives us the picture of an unstable person being like a wave in the sea tossed by the wind. Do you feel like this sometimes? Health issues, job changes, auto repairs, relational discord or some other unexpected current can launch us in unforeseen directions. We feel completely off balance and out of control. James wants us to know that this is all part of God’s plan for making us like Jesus. Let’s be honest, it is difficult to sustain life that is daliy centered on becoming more and more like Jesus. Why? Because we are goal oriented people who like measurable results. How can I measure growth in Christ? It’s much easier to gauge success in my life when the steps of advancement are clearly marked. Grades and bank statements are the most obvious measurements of success. Houses and jobs are good too. Cars and computers, cell phones and furniture, these are all easy to measure. Career success and relationships don’t often stand still long enough to get a consistent measurement, but at least there is something to look at.
Say together Paul’s words:
I count all things as loss
Compared to the excellence of knowledge of Christ my Lord
I have no righteousness of my own
Save what I have because of Christ
May I know Him and the power of His resurrection
I will press on toward the prize of being like Jesus
Cuirim Prayer James #2 - Sliding Into Sin
(All) Our Father…..
Reader: Tempted….you know the feeling. You’re sliding slowly (or quickly) into a frame of mind that will cause trouble. Often times, you even know that you’re sliding, but for a period of time you just don’t care. It feels like the floor has tipped, and you’re leaning one way. You can’t stop it; not on your own anyway.
Read James 1:12-18
A) Blessed is the one who endures temptation
B) I don’t want to endure…I want to give in.
A) If you endure, you will receive a crown of life,
B) That sounds like too far in the future.
A) The Lord has promised to give us this gift,
B) I don’t care…and I’m in a dark place.
A) Let no one say “I am tempted by God”,
B) You made me this way…I want to give in.
A) God sees evil in perfect light,
B) Sometimes evil looks ok to me.
(A) Your own desires are leading you to sin.
B) But it feels like something beyond me is pulling me in.
A) It may feel like an outside force, but it comes from within.
B) Lord help me to call it out right away,
A) It must be killed off as soon as it emerges.
B) What will happen if I let it grow?
A) The desire will grow into sin.
B) Is that so bad?
A) Then the sin will grow into death.
B) Lord help me to stop this now.
Reader: Sin sneaks up on you. You see something or someone and it begins. A few thoughts creep in, then a few more come along, and you begin to consider your options. It’s a gradual thing, even it if happens in a few moments. Alone you are powerless to fight off these endless invaders. But, in Christ, you have an unending source of energy and determination. The battle does have a benefit even if you stumble. It reminds you of the war going on. It reminds you that you can’t zone out. You have to redirect your mind and get yourself on solid ground. Begin by thinking of one good thing God has given you. Then add another and another until your mind is full of what our Heavenly Father has given you. Then you will see the sin as the dirty water in a glass you’re holding and you will want to throw it out.
(All) Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Cuirim Prayer James #3 – Speaking Well
Reader: Life comes at you fast sometimes. You’re having a good day and then something goes wrong. Someone gets mad at you, you forget an important appointment, your card won’t work at the checkout or your car doesn’t pass inspection. You may have been feeling good about yourself just a moment ago. You may have thought you had grown in spiritual maturity as you sailed through your day. Then bam! It hits you. You were only happy because everything was going according to your will. And now you’re mad, really mad.
James was very practical in his advice to us. There are some deep theological truths in the one book he left us, but most of it is just direct advice for how to live well.
B) Lord, help me to shake it off and actually listen.
A) When my teeth are clenched to keep from screaming,
B) Lord help me to hold my tongue.
A) When I am so mad that I don’t care how much I’ll later regret my words,
B) Lord help me to focus on you.
(All) Sharp tongued, angry people, who do not listen never glorify God.
Reader: You don’t have to live long in this world to feel the pain of saying something you’re later ashamed of. It happens so fast…the words fly out before you even knew they had formed in your mind. It would be nice if the Bible said we were free of guilt for the things we said. But, it’s just not in there. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it on the Day of Judgment. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt 12:35-37)
All together pray:
Lord, I have spoken words in haste,
Words that caused harm,
Words I regret.
Please forgive me for my words
And the thoughts I cultivated in my mind.
Renew my mind. Cleanse my heart. Make me new again.
Cuirim Prayer James #4 – The Soul
A prayer of Reflection:
Lord, I know there is a gap between vision and reality,
Who I want to be, or even who others see me to be,
And who I really am.
What am I supposed to do with this information?
Do I need to tell other people?
Should I give up trying?
Maybe I’m thinking about it too much.
Maybe I need to focus on something else.
You called the first two humans not just good,
But very good!
Maybe you see more than my failures when you look at me.
Maybe there is hope for me yet.
Read James: 1:21-27
Reader: Humans existed before sin entered the world. Humans will exist after the curse of sin has been removed. Therefore, being a sinner is not the complete definition of a human. The freedom God gives us, combined with our constant need for something outside of ourselves, sets us up for greatness. We could satisfy ourselves with the truth of the Scriptures, or we could choose filthiness and wickedness. One way or another your soul will seek satisfaction. How are you going to satisfy your soul? Many things work, even if only for a few minutes, but what will set you up for the long run? You will be alive for a very long time. Things that satisfy but damage your soul have a long term cost. Maybe death itself is a gift from God to keep us from making ourselves any worse. Maybe death stops the downward decline. You may know someone who is older and growing in bitterness. What if he or she lived for another 100 years and then went off to live by themselves in an eternity without God? There are degrees of misery.
There are also degrees of blessing. James wants us to move beyond just staring at ourselves in the mirror. See what’s wrong and fix it. Don’t just walk away and do nothing.
Keep walking right on out the door and do something to bring God’s blessing to someone else today.
Group discussion: How can we live out pure religion in our little spheres?
Cuirim Prayer James #5 – No Partiality
Read James 2:1-13
Let us not lay up treasures here on earth
Where moth and rust destroy
Or thieves break in and steal.
Let us lay up treasures in heaven
Where moth and rust do not exist
And thieves are not allowed.
For where our treasure is,
That is where our hearts are.
Reader: Why did Jesus say it would be so hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? One would think that with riches the temptation to take what is not yours would decrease. Why steal or covet when you can just go buy? Yet in the things that really matter, wealth seems to be more of a hindrance than a help. When you interact with those who have been given more than others, consider the words of Jesus and James. Jesus would have you pray for the person hindered by wealth or success. James would have you treat him or her as you would any other person you meet.
One person pray:
Lord, help us to see people as you see them
Set us free from mistaken perspectives
about success or happiness.
Fill us with mercy
Free us from judgment
Our minds move so quickly…jealousy...judgment…envy…
coloring the lenses through which we see
other eternal beings.
100 years from now, those very same people will not be clothed
in their success, popularity or stuff.
And neither will we.
Reader: It’s so easy to judge…It takes but a few seconds to size people up, weigh the worth of their souls, and caste judgment against them. Thankfully, humans will not be consulted by Jesus in the final judgment. So there is no need to practice that here on earth…it is not a skill you will need later. Be wise, but be merciful. Our souls develop over time in reaction to events, relationships and even words that have hammered against us day after day, for years and years. Your mind is much too finite to take all of this into consideration when given a few moments to assess someone else.
Cuirim Prayer James #6 – Faith and Works
One person pray:
Lord, I am glad I am saved-
I really am.
But some days eternity is too far off my grid
To frame my thinking right now.
In my face are requirements and expectations,
Appointments and deadlines.
I find myself wanting to pull back from the crowd,
To let everyone sort themselves
And call me when it’s all worked out.
Scripture Reading: James 2:14-26
A) With what shall I come before the Lord,
B) And bow myself before the High God?
A) Will the Lord be pleased with 10,000 rams?
B) Or 10,000 rivers of oil?
A) Tell me the minimum requirement.
B) I don’t even know what’s expected.
A) But, God has shown you….
B) I will sum it up for you
A) Do justly
B) Love mercy
All) and walk humbly with your God.
(Mostly from Micah 6)
Reader: The Christian life would be so much easier if all we were tested just on our knowledge, like in history class. The professor gives you a list of facts…you find some way to remember them…you take a test…and you forever have the grade to prove you got it. James reminds us that even demons would get an “A” in that system.
It would nice if the only requirement was one big sacrificial act, like crawling up a huge mountain on our hands and knees, to show we believe. And then we’re left alone to seek first our own kingdoms for the rest of our lives.
Our souls, like our bodies, don’t work that way.
We need to exercise them daily or they get weak. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait very long for an opportunity to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own. When that happens, don’t get mad…take it as a God-given opportunity to get stronger.
Cuirim Prayer James #7 – Say What?
Reader: Have you ever been as shocked as those around you by something you just said? If it weren’t so embarrassing, you would be proud of yourself. You may not remember, but there was a time in your life when saying one word like “cheerios” or “milk” was a major accomplishment. Your parents may have even celebrated the achievement. Now look at you. You can fire off a whole string of words with hardly any effort at all.
Read: James 3:1-12.
Lord have mercy on me,
I can steer a 3,000 pound car with the touch of my hand
And make major purchases with my fingertips
But sometimes I can’t control my tongue.
I’ll be cruising through the day,
Not thinking about anything in particular,
not mad at anyone, at peace with the world,
Then something will happen, or someone else will speak,
And it’s like lightning fires out of my mouth
And in an instant…scorched earth is all that remains
Even if I apologize immediately, everyone is kind of stunned.
Why did you give me such power?
Reader: James was a practical man. He grew up with Jesus, so he lived with a perfect person. He most likely even shared a room with Him. You and I know that we’re not perfect, but we also know that no one else in our lives is either. James couldn’t say that.
Earlier in his book, James encouraged us to be slow to speak. So, unless you’re running an auction, take your time when you speak to people. If you mess up, let the wave of embarrassment pass over you, say you’re sorry, and ask God to show you the particular area of darkness in your heart where that string of words sprung from. Often the person at the other end of the “lightning strike” is a substitute for someone else. Examine yourself to see if your heart is becoming cold or numb. Is there anger, unforgiveness, or frustration? Often you don’t know what is going on in your own soul. Your own words can be a brief window into your heart. Deal with what you see there.
Much of what you say in an instant springs forth from months or years of cultivating thoughts in your mind.
“Caste down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)