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About James Banks

Dr. James Banks and his wife have two adult children and live in Durham, North Carolina, where he is the pastor of Peace Church. He is the author of The Lost Art of Praying Together, Praying the Prayers of the Bible, Prayers for Prodigals, and Prayers for Your Children. Find books by James Banks

Lost, Found, Joy

By |2023-01-23T01:33:03-05:00January 23rd, 2023|

“They call me ‘the ringmaster.’ So far this year I’ve found 167 lost rings.”

During a walk on the beach with my wife, Cari, we struck up a conversation with an older man who was using a metal detector to scan an area just below the surf line. “Sometimes rings have names on them,” he explained, “and I love seeing their owners’ faces when I return them. I post online and check to see if anyone contacted lost and found. I’ve found rings missing for years.” When we mentioned that I enjoy metal detecting as well but didn’t do it frequently, his parting words were, “You never know unless you go!”           

We find another kind of “search and rescue” in Luke 15. Jesus was criticized for caring about people who were far from God (vv. 1–2). In reply, He told three stories about things that were lost and then found—a sheep, a coin, and a son. The man who finds the lost sheep “joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me’ ” (Luke 15:5–6). All of the stories are ultimately about finding lost people for Christ, and the joy that comes as they’re found in Him.

Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost” (19:10), and He calls us to follow Him in loving people back to God (see Matthew 28:19). The joy of seeing others turn to Him awaits. We’ll never know unless we go.

Treasured Prayer

By |2022-12-21T01:33:04-05:00December 21st, 2022|

The Clark’s Nutcracker is an amazing bird. Every year it prepares for winter by hiding tiny caches of four or five whitebark pine seeds, as many as five hundred seeds per hour. Then, months later, it returns to uncover the seeds, even under heavy snow. A Clark’s Nutcracker may remember as many as 10,000 locations where it has hidden seeds—an astounding feat (especially when you consider the difficulty we humans can have remembering the location of our car keys or glasses).

But even this incredible act of memory pales in comparison with God’s ability to remember our prayers. He’s able to keep track of every sincere prayer and remember and respond to them even years later. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John describes “four living creatures” and “twenty four elders” worshiping the Lord in heaven. Each one was “holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” (5:8).

Just as incense was precious in the ancient world, our prayers are so precious to God that He keeps them before Him continually, treasured in golden bowls! Our prayers matter to God because we matter to Him, and through His undeserved kindness to us in Jesus He offers us uninhibited access (Hebrews 4:14–16). So pray boldly! And know that not a word will be forgotten or misplaced because of the amazing love of God.

Grasping God’s Word

By |2022-11-02T02:33:13-04:00November 2nd, 2022|

A rugged, cast-iron ring stood strong against the harsh Minnesota winter as it hung on the doorframe of my great uncle’s old farmhouse. More than a hundred feet away was another ring, firmly fixed to the dairy barn. Years ago during a blizzard, my uncle would attach a line between both rings so he could find the path between the house and the barn. Keeping a firm grip on the line kept him from losing his way in the blinding snow.

My uncle’s use of a safety line in a snowstorm reminds me of how David used lines of Hebrew poetry to trace how God’s wisdom guides us through life and guards us against sin and error: “The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:9–11).

A firm grasp of the truths of Scripture informed by God’s Spirit working in our hearts keeps us from losing our way and helps us make decisions that honor God and others. The Bible warns us against wandering from God while showing us the way home. It tells us of the priceless love of our Savior and the blessings that await all who place their faith in Him. Scripture is a lifeline! May God help us cling to it always.

Our Heart’s True Home

By |2022-10-04T08:51:08-04:00October 4th, 2022|

“Bobbie the Wonder Dog” was a collie mix separated from his family while they were on a summer vacation together over 2,200 miles from home. The family searched everywhere for their beloved pet but returned heartbroken without him.

Six months later, toward the end of winter, a scraggly but determined Bobbie showed up at their door in Silverton, Oregon. Bobbie somehow made the long and dangerous trek, crossing rivers, desert, and snow-covered mountains to find his way home to those he loved.

Bobbie’s quest inspired books, movies, and a mural in his hometown. His devotion strikes a chord within, perhaps because God has placed an even deeper longing in our hearts. Ancient theologian Augustine described it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This same longing was desperately yet eloquently expressed by David in a prayer as he hid from his pursuers in Judah’s wilderness: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

David praises God because His “love is better than life” (v. 3). Nothing compares with knowing Him! Through Jesus, God has sought us out and made the way for us to come home to His perfect love—regardless of how distant we once were. As we turn to Him, we find our hearts’ true home.

Imaginative Faith

By |2022-09-19T02:33:10-04:00September 19th, 2022|

“Look, Papa! Those trees are waving at God!” As we watched young birches bending in the wind before an oncoming storm, my grandson’s excited observation made me smile. It also made me ask myself, Do I have that kind of imaginative faith?

Reflecting on the story of Moses and the burning bush, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote that “Earth’s crammed with heaven, / And every common bush afire with God; / But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” God’s handiwork is evident all around us in the wonders of what He has made, and one day, when the earth is made new, we’ll see it unlike ever before.

God tells us about this day when He proclaims through the prophet Isaiah, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12). Singing mountains? Clapping trees? Why not? Paul noted that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

Jesus once spoke of stones crying out (Luke 19:40), and His words echo Isaiah’s prophecy about what lies ahead for those who come to Him for salvation. When we look to Him with faith that imagines what only God can do, we will see His wonders continue forever!

Lighting Candles

By |2022-09-02T02:33:03-04:00September 2nd, 2022|

It was noon, but the sun wasn’t visible. New England’s Dark Day began the morning of May 19, 1780 and lasted for hours. The cause of the surreal darkness was likely heavy clouds of smoke from massive wildfires in Canada, but many wondered if it might be Judgment Day.

The Connecticut Governor’s Council (senate) was in session, and when some considered adjourning because of the darkness, Abraham Davenport responded, “I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

Davenport’s desire to be found faithfully performing the work God had given him to do on the day He returns is illustrative of Jesus’ words: “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes” (Luke 12:35–37).

Day or night, it’s always good to serve our Savior. Even when darkness encroaches, His promises for all who look forward to Him will stand. Like candles in the darkness, may our “light shine before others, that they may see” (Matthew 5:16) and love and serve Him too.

When Prayer Shakes the Earth

By |2022-08-03T02:33:05-04:00August 3rd, 2022|

Dr. Gary Greenberg has magnified and photographed sand from beaches around the world, often revealing surprising, vibrant splashes of color from the minerals, shell, and coral fragments contained within. 

He’s discovered there’s more to sand than meets the eye. In arenology (the study of sand), the microscopic analysis of sand’s mineral content can reveal much about erosion, shore currents, and their potential effects on coastlines. Even a little sand can yield information of great worth! 

A single prayer, like a grain of sand, can be a weighty thing. Scripture indicates prayer’s powerful role in the coming of God’s kingdom. In Revelation 8, John sees an angel standing at the altar before His throne holding a golden censer containing “the prayers of all God’s people.” “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (vv. 3, 5). 

Immediately after the angel hurled the censer filled with fire and prayer, seven angels with seven trumpets “prepared to sound them” (v. 6), heralding the old earth’s last days and Christ’s return. 

Sometimes we may not feel like our prayers add up to much, but God doesn’t miss one. He so values them that they somehow even play a role in the consummation of His kingdom. What may seem like the smallest prayer to us can have earth-shaking weight with Him!

Hurry Up and Wait

By |2022-07-07T02:33:04-04:00July 7th, 2022|

“What will we do with all our spare time?” That thought was at the heart of an essay published in 1930 by the economist John Maynard Keynes. In it, Keynes proposed that within a hundred years, technological and economic advances would bring humans to a point where we work only three hours a day and fifteen hours a week.

It’s been more than ninety years since Keynes published his famous essay. But technology, instead of creating more leisure, has made us busier than ever. Our days are full, and while everyday tasks like travel and meal preparation take less time, we’re still in a hurry.

One striking incident from David’s life shows us how to stay steady in life’s rush. When David was fleeing King Saul (who was trying to kill him), he asked the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” (1 Samuel 22:3, italics added). David had his hands full. He was trying to escape Saul’s murderous pursuits and also provide for his family. But even in his hurry, he took the time to wait on God.  

When life’s frenetic pace sweeps us along, we can trust the One who can keep us in His peace (Isaiah 26:3). David’s words sum up the matter well: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

The Kindness of Candor

By |2022-06-06T09:06:03-04:00June 6th, 2022|

“My dear friend, sometimes you sound holier than you really are.”

Those words were leveled with a direct gaze and gentle smile. Had they come from someone other than a close friend and mentor whose discernment I highly valued, my feelings might have been hurt. Instead, I winced and laughed at the same time, knowing that while his words “hit a nerve,” he was also right. Sometimes when I talked about my faith, I used jargon that didn’t sound natural, which gave the impression that I wasn’t being sincere. My friend loved me and was trying to help me be more effective in sharing with others what I genuinely believed. Looking back, I see it as some of the best advice I ever received.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted,” Solomon wisely wrote, “but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). My friend’s insights demonstrated the truth of that counsel. I was grateful he cared enough to tell me something I needed to hear, even though he knew it might not be easy to accept. Sometimes when someone tells you only what they think you want to hear, it isn’t helpful, because it can keep you from growing and developing in vital ways.   

Candor can be kindness, when measured out with genuine, humble love. May God give us the wisdom to receive it and impart it well, and so reflect His caring heart.

Pressing Pause to Pray

By |2022-05-29T09:06:11-04:00May 29th, 2022|

The fire hydrant gushed into the street, and I saw my opportunity. Several cars had splashed through before me, and I thought, What a great way to get a free wash! My car hadn’t been cleaned for a month and the dust was thick. So I fired it up and headed into the deluge.

Crack!

It happened so fast. The sun had already beaten down on my black car that morning, heating its glass and interior. But the water from the hydrant was frigid. As soon as the cold gush hit the hot windshield, a crack struck like lightning from top to bottom. My “free” car wash ended up costing me plenty.

If only I had “pressed pause” beforehand to think or even to pray. Ever have a moment like that? The people of Israel did, under far weightier circumstances. God had promised to help them drive out other nations as they entered the land He’d given them (Joshua 3:10) so they wouldn’t be tempted by false gods (Deuteronomy 20:16–18). But one of the nations saw Israel’s victories and used stale bread to trick them into believing they lived far away. “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace” (Joshua 9:14–15, italics added), unknowingly circumventing God’s instructions.

When we make prayer a “first resort” instead of a “last,” we invite God’s direction, wisdom, and blessing. May He help us remember to “press pause” today.

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