Effectual Prayer

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, October 21, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” ~James 5:16

What makes our prayers effective? What makes them work? First let us look at this verse. “Confess our sins to one another.” Let us be careful about what this means. I heard one person share during a sermon how he and his wife were at a conference and repenting of their sins, but this man kept on going. His wife asked him this: “Are you confessing sin, or re-living fond memories?” Confessing sins to each other is important because it releases guilt, and it restores relationships that can hinder our prayer. But do not use that to bring back sins you want to “re-experience.”

Pray for one another. How often do we support each other in prayer? How often are our prayers just about our needs, or rather our desires? I have yet to address Intercession in the context of prayer, but that is what this is about and that is necessary of a separate post.

Our prayers need to be fervent. What does that mean? According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word is “energeho,” which is the same root as “energy,” meaning to be active and mighty. Too many of my prayers have been very weak. I have not wrestled and done “battle” with God to get my prayers answered. When I wrote about hindered prayer, one of the things I addressed was when we quit praying. We do not see results as quickly as we’d like so we stop and say, “We’ll try again later.” We aren’t being active in our prayers. We tend to be couch-potatoes watching the athletes do their sport with great energy and endurance and we wish we could do that… without getting up off the couch and starting to work out. We won’t be instant athletes in the field of prayer, but let us start moving so we could be one day. Start with five minutes, move on to ten, to one hour. When I hear of Rees Howells praying for 11 hours in intercession for acquiring a building or for praying for the outcome of a battle in World War II, I know I have nowhere near that capacity. I do not sense having a calling like Howells had, but I do know every one of us has a calling to pray. And the saints praised for their prayer life throughout the Bible were prayer-ers who had an active, fervent prayer life.

The kind of person we are also make prayer effective, but only for one kind of person: a righteous person. We cannot expect our prayers to be very effective if we are living in sin, if we are living for ourselves. We spend 1-2 hours in church on Sunday morning, maybe one hour Wednesday evening, and say a few minutes of prayer for our meals and expect God to answer our prayers when we spend hours and hours on TV, internet, and games? I’m guilty here. Not that TV, internet, or games are evil by themselves. What we put on them is more the issue. When I was preparing this series, God told me to put the video games away, so I did. I had several times where I really wanted to play, but I chose not to. Don’t think I was being all holy and spending all that time in prayer instead. I ended up vegging on the computer a lot, even when listening to sermons. I was praying more than I had, but not like I could have been. God later said if I wanted to play again, I could. For several weeks, I still did not, because part of what I was to learn in this process is more dependence upon him. So now, I am able to turn off the Denver Broncos when God wants me to pray (that was a tough one when the game was on) and I am able to turn off the games when God wants me to pray. God is still not done with me on these issues.

If our prayers are to be effective, prayer needs to be our priority. Not that we cannot do anything else, but it needs to be our priority. That means we need to schedule our day around prayer, not schedule prayer around our day. If we make our prayer time an extra thought, and not something we schedule our life around, do not be surprised when God treats your needs as “if I get around to it.” You can tell who makes God priority in how they handle church. I reserve my schedule so I can make it to church early. When my church has activities, I make it my priority that I be there for them. Look at the prayer meeting. The only reason I stopped going to my church’s Wednesday prayer sessions (which is what sparked this whole series and study) is because God told me to get involved with the youth group, which is at the same time.

Read this quote from E.M Bounds:
"His [Paul] teaching is that praying is the most important of all things on earth. All else must be restrained, retired, to give it primacy. Put it first, and keep its primacy. The conflict is about the primacy of prayer. Defeat and victory lie in this one thing. To make prayer secondary is to discrown it. It is to fetter and destroy prayer. If prayer is put first, then God is put first, and victory is assured. Prayer must either reign in the life or must abdicate. Which shall it be?" (The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds, page 99)

This is one of many quotes by Bounds that my pastor addresses so simply: “You spend half your time reading, half your time repenting.” Is praying priority in your life? Is spending time with God your top motive, your top task that must be done? It does not matter if you spend your prayer time in the morning, noon, or night, but do you schedule your time with God first over everything else you do? What if you were to schedule your prayer time first, then your job schedule? So if God told you to pray at a certain time, then you would purpose to arrange your work schedule around it? You may need to stay up later than you normally would or get up earlier than you normally would. John Wesley was invited for dinner with one of the elite of London. At a given time, he suddenly got up and left his host. The host asked, “Where are you going? It’s not even 9:00.” Wesley said something like, “I have an appointment with the Lord, and I need not be late.”

Do we have that kind of conviction about our prayers? Are we willing to cut off our appointments, our social meetings, even if we were to appear to insult our hosts, so we make our appointments with God? You don’t dare show up late for work. Why do many of seem to think it is okay to be late for God? And then we wonder why are prayers have so little effect. Let us make God our priority. When we do that, we’ll start seeing God making our requests, as they align to his will, become priority as well.

Next week, I am going to address a very difficult aspect of prayer for me: praying in anguish. Inspired by a sermon by David Wilkerson, I will address praying to the point where it hurts.

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