Ineffective prayer ∙
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. – James 5:16
16 The energized prayer of a righteous man is able to do much.
17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!
18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.
There is no question about the sincerity and desire of our hearts and our prayers for others. There is nothing we can do to enhance our tender feelings, lovingkindness, or persistence. Rather let us focus on increasing the authority, effectiveness, and energy of our prayers.
Think about your favorite athlete. Now visualize them performing to the degree of excellence you know they are capable of. What do you see? Now imagine that same athlete as a 5-year-old child. Some of the talent that makes them great may already be evident. But can the child perform up to the level that they will when they become an adult? Of course not! What does it take to transform a 5-year-old child into an accomplished world-class athlete?
When it comes to prayer, assuming our heartfelt desire for others is for their best, we are too often just like 5-year-old children tugging on their parents’ clothes seeking to obtain what we think is best. The question becomes how do we become mature in our prayers with increased authority, effectiveness, and energy?
James 5:16 The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
In Greek, the word translated as effective is energoumen. Energoumen could be well translated energized. The English word energy is derived from it. Successful prayer is energized prayer.
When James speaks of effective prayer, the unspoken implication is that there is also ineffective prayer. How can we tell the difference?
By the results!
Effectual prayer is prayer that accomplishes something. More particularly, it results in the will of the Father being accomplished on earth.
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
The Father is always at work around you. The Father invites you to become involved with Him in His work. He does not ask us to dream our dreams for Him. He does not invite us to set magnificent goals and then pray that He will help us achieve them. The kingdom of God is not a democracy. It is a theocracy.
The Father already has His own agenda when He approaches us. He desires to invite us to leave behind our plans and aspirations and to accompany Him where He is working. He leads us from being self-centered to being God-centered. When the Father reveals to you where He is working, that becomes His invitation to join Him in His activity (Blackaby).
Effective prayer is a science whose laws can be learned. Effective prayer is praying the Father’s will into existence. To pray effectively, we must know what the Father wants to accomplish and pray towards that end.
James 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
What is the difference between Elijah and us? This is not a trick question. There is a simple one-word answer: Nothing! Elijah knew what to pray and how to pray because he knew what the Father’s plan was. He heard the Father’s voice and He told him what to pray and say. Elijah’s task was to pray what he was told into existence.
1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
1 Kings 17:2 The word of the LORD came to him, saying
1 Kings 18:1 Now it happened after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.”
Praying is not a shot in the dark. It is not a net cast into the sea with the hope of a good catch. Praying is working along with God in the fulfillment of His divine plan (A W Tozer).
REFLECT & PRAY
Praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency that will not be denied, and a courage that never fails (E. M. Bounds).
Father when it comes to prayer, I no longer want to be like a five-year-old child. Teach me the science of prayer. Equip me to pray effectively.
Jeremiah 12:5 If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses?
If we cannot effectively contend with little and overcome, how can we contend with much? How do we turn this around? We begin with where we are, assuming we are like little children and need to grow up. We seek the Father to gently but firmly hold our hand as we begin to take baby steps on the path of effective prayer.
Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
To pray effectively is a skill that can be learned. Any child of the King can master it. Prayer is the hardest thing we will ever be called upon to do and, being human, it is the one act we will be tempted to do less frequently than any other.
1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
No child of God is greater than their prayer life. The two prerequisites to successful Christian living are vision and passion, both of which are born in and maintained by prayer (Ravenhill).