I enjoy traveling across this country and even internationally, helping raise the awareness of the need to help recover people who are held captive in addiction. Recently, I was in the mountains of West Virginia at a Prayer Advance Conference. The emphasis was on prayer and the importance of it.
My heart was burdened for two different people on that Friday morning as I went to prayer. One was a preacher friend of mine from the Carolinas of whom I have not spoken to in several years. I was impressed during the “needs” section of the RU “It’s Personal Daily Journal” to pray for him. Secondly, my thoughts went to a young man, living in Florida, who had, what James called, “erred from the truth”. He was reaching out for help and I knew it. The Holy Spirit prompted me to pray for each of these men as I wrote their names in my journal.
I knew the specific need of one of these men, but knew nothing about the other as I prayed. However, I knew that God placed him on my heart, and so I prayed. I knew that God knew his needs even if I did not. Effectual fervent praying is missing in many Christians today. Oswald Chambers said, “We take for granted that prayer is preparation for work, where- as prayer is the work. Intercessory prayer is God’s chosen way of working.”
[quote]Prayer does not equip you for greater works. Prayer is the greater work.[/quote] – Oswald Chambers
What is it that makes our prayer effectual (or effective)? Fervent prayer is putting your whole heart (all of your attention, your mind, your will, and your emotions) on that thing you’re praying about. That means your mind is focused on prayer instead of drifting off onto other things. Fervent prayer will make a difference in the lives of people, but we must understand that the focus is not on our righteousness but on His. The focus is not on our words, as much as it is on His works.
On this particular day, these two burdens were capturing my heart. I felt a close awareness to God and to the situations of these two people. Remember, I was aware of the specifics of only one situation; the other I was unaware, yet prompted throughout the day to pray. Later in the day, I was driving a rental car from that conference for several hundred miles as I was heading to another meeting. As I traveled, I talked to God about these two men. My prayers brought tears for these two individuals and even for a few others on my heart. My heart was over- whelmed and I pulled over to regain composer to be able to continue the drive.
At any moment, at any location, the Christian has the privilege of approaching God through prayer. Prayer is the means whereby each child of God can directly communicate with his Father in heaven. We go to God with our requests. We go to Him with our needs. We go to Him with our troubles. We even can go to Him for the unknown.
Do you ever feel that prayer does not accomplish much? Do you ever pray and see little, if any, results? Have you ever grown discouraged in your prayer life? Have you ever felt like David in Psalm 22:1-2, when he penned, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not…”
The words “effectual fervent” is one Greek word, energo, from where we get our word energy. I want to get energy from my prayer life, not just a ritual that many go through, or a “to-do” list for God.
There are three things I notice from this text about effectual praying:
1. Emotion was the springboard used to bring matters to prayer.
How many times do we get so emotional over circumstances for which we have lots of action and gossip, but little praying? The example in this passage in James is referring to a man named Elias, or Elijah. It is said of Elijah that he prayed earnestly. This word earnestly means warmly; zealously; importunately; eagerly; with real desire. In other words, this was clearly not a flippant request. He poured out his heart to God and the result was positive. His request for it not to rain was granted. James 5:17, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” A second example was a barren woman named Hannah. In 1 Samuel 1:10, it tells us she prayed unto the Lord and wept sore. Within the same passage, the Bible says that she was in “bitterness of soul”. Her circumstances caused her to earnestly seek God for an answer. The request was granted and she was given a son.
Another example of this type of earnest prayer is found in our Savior. Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed His familiar prayer, “O my Father, if it be possible, let his cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
2. Explicit requests were offered in effectual fervent praying.
For Elijah, the prayer was it would not rain. For Hannah, it was for a child. For our Savior, it was a cup to be removed. Need is the greatest asset to prayer. Humans are “need machines”. God is the only One who can meet those needs. The supply is at hand before we ever had a need. God created air before He created humans. He created water before He created fish. Needs are a trigger that should cause you to pray!
Prayer is not shooting in the dark. Prayer is searching out the mind of Christ concerning anything and everything. People often say prayer changes things and that is true. But just as important, prayer changes people. Prayer lines my will up with His.
3. Emphasis on His righteousness rather than my unrighteousness.
James 5:16 started out with the thought of confessing faults. 1 John 1:9 tells us “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I know that the day I got saved, I was completely washed! I was cleansed forevermore. God’s part in this verse was accomplished and completed the day He saved me.
I must remember my hopelessness and helplessness apart from God! My continual failings are already forgiven by Him, but my continuing confession is remembering my helplessness and hopelessness apart from God. The focus then turns to His righteousness, not mine. I am only righteous because of His gift granted to me. This does not give me a license to continue in sin, but will rather cultivate an attitude of gratitude for all He has done for me, is doing, and will do as I bow to Him in prayer.
My emotions were drained as I returned to the highway after wiping my tears for these two specific prayer burdens God placed on my heart. I decided to call the church of the Pastor for whom I had prayed. Perhaps he could give me a more specific request for which I could pray. His secretary answered and told me he was not available and asked if she could take a message. I told her of my burden to pray for him. I could hear weeping on the other end of the phone. She said, “Brother Burks, our Pastor was taken to the hospital and is now recovering from heart surgery. The doctors had to place a stent in the main artery of his heart.”
I now knew why God had placed him on my heart to pray! Let me tell you…I was energized!
At the time of this article, the other man for whom I prayed has returned to our men’s home. Praise God for answered prayer! The challenge for me and you is effectual fervent praying. Make the time to be energized today!