Prayer is a vital element of the Christian life, and yet far too often, it’s placed on the back-burner of our everyday lives. We remember to pray as sort of an afterthought when we’ve exhausted other options of trying to sort through a certain situation by ourselves with our own methods. I was contemplating prayer after I had a long and exhausting day of being emotional and easily irritable for no real reason…oh the joys of being a girl, huh? Everything that was happening was either aggravating me or making me anxious. There was a certain work situation, a particular conversation with my husband, an issue with Riley Grace, and on and on and on. There was no big thing that was really the matter, but I had allowed a lot of little things to pile up and overwhelm me. Throughout the course of the day, I had not focused on prayer as I should. At the end of the day as I was preparing for bed, I began to pray about my attitude. I prayed about the situation at work and the conversation with my husband, which led to praying for my husband as he pursues a degree and be obedient to God’s calling on his life as a teacher and minister. Then, I started praying for Riley Grace, that she would grow up to know God intimately. Then, I started praying about jobs. Then, I started praying about our church. After praying for the duration of my shower, I realized that there are SO MANY THINGS to pray about! Prayer is so important, and all too often, it is an afterthought because I’m busy doing too many other “important” things. I have to go to work. I have to get Riley Grace ready for school. The clothes have to get washed. Supper has to get cooked. The house needs to be cleaned. Riley Grace’s bag needs to be packed for the next day. And the list continues. But when I stopped to think about my never-ending to-do list, I realized, NONE of these things is more important than quality time with the Lord, and NONE of these things – or anything else – will be done effectively if I’m not covering each thing in prayer. Sometimes, I have a hard time feeling like prayer is productive because I’m not physically doing something. I don’t immediately see the results. Because of the tendency in my personality to be task-oriented and desire visual results, I often neglect praying for an extended period of time (that’s one of the reasons prayer is neglected, but not the sole reason).
Maybe you can relate with me, in the fact that prayer is oftentimes an afterthought. Maybe you can relate in the fact that you like control, and so you attempt to solve the issue before going to God. Maybe you can relate in the fact that you feel overwhelmed at times, but can’t seem to spend the quality time in prayer because you see too many other tasks that need to get done – and you’re the one who has to do them! Maybe you can relate in the fact that prayer doesn’t give immediate visual results, so it’s hard to feel like it’s productive time well spent. Maybe you can relate in the fact that your prayer list extends for miles so you don’t even know where to start! Or maybe you relate in the fact that many times, you just don’t feel worthy to come before the Lord with requests that you think may seem trivial or unimportant to an omnipotent and all-sovereign God. Well, you’re not alone in your feelings. And you’re not without hope. (Side note: That’s one of my FAVORITE things about the Christian life. If you are IN CHRIST, you are NEVER WITHOUT HOPE, no matter the situation. So in this situation, when we need strength, discipline, motivation, and stamina for long, heartfelt, meaningful, and righteous prayers, HE can enable us to be devoted to this very thing!)
Let’s read James 5:16b in several different versions, and then discuss. J
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (New International Version)
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (English Standard Version)
“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (New Living Translation)
“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (New American Standard Bible)
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (King James Bible)
“The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
To whom are the prayers directed?
When we pray, we are communicating with God. That statement seems very simplistic, but let’s think about who God really is. God is the Creator of the universe who desires intimate communication with His creation – us! God is the Good Shepherd, who desires to guide us into paths of righteousness for His namesake. God is the Good Teacher, who has set an example in Christ for us to follow. God is the Comforter, who longs for us to run to Him in times of need and pain. God is the Righteous Judge, who cannot look on sin and allow for it to go unpunished. God is the Redeemer, who has provided a way in Christ for us to be forgiven for our transgressions. God is our Father, who loves us unconditionally and disciplines us lovingly.
When we think of all God is, and the former list does not even begin to convey all that God is to us, our next thought might be, “Who am I that I can come before the Lord and communicate with him?” That thought would be appropriate in light of His majesty. The beautiful thing is: God – even though is completely holy, righteous, sovereign, and ruler over all things – desires to communicate with us. He longs to hear from us, not because He needs us, but because He knows that we need Him. What a loving God we have!! He calls us and pursues us because He knows that He is our lifeline. He has gone through the most painful and drastic measure of allowing His son to be sacrificed so shamefully and painfully so that we could enter into a right relationship with Him. THIS is the God that we serve, and THIS is the God to whom we are praying. Yes, we are undeserving, but He has made a way for us to come before His throne. When you pray, do not take it lightly that you are communicating with the God of the universe. Fall humbly before His feet and remember what an honor it is to be allowed into His presence. Remembering WHO God is will help us to have a proper perspective when we approach Him in prayer. He is worthy of our devotion.
Who is doing the praying?
What I mean by this question is, what is the heart condition of the person who is praying – which would by you?! In taking a look at James 5:16b, we see that the adjective “righteous” is used to describe the person who is praying. Righteous is defined as “morally right, justifiable, virtuous”. We cannot be righteous from our own doing or own merit. We are by nature sinners and enemies of the Father. However, the good news is that He provided a way for us to be right with Him. Although we can be right with Him once and for all because Jesus’ sacrifice paid our sin-debt, we also have to continually pursue righteous living. A person who is seeking to live in a way that honors the Lord is a person whose prayer will have this effect (as noted in the translations listed above of James 5:16b): “powerful and effective” / “great power as it is working” / “great power and produces wonderful results” / “can accomplish much”. Do you want your prayers to accomplish much? Do you want them to be powerful and effective as they are working toward wonderful results? Then, we must ask the question: Are you living a righteous life from which these kind of powerful prayers will flow as an overflow of your passion for the Lord? If we are not living lives that are righteous and pleasing to the Father, then we cannot expect for our prayers to be answered. In reality, if we are not living righteous lives, then it’s very likely that our prayers are selfish instead of God-honoring, and God does not honor selfish prayers. He honors prayers that are in alignment with His Kingdom purposes. Be encouraged to live a righteous life so that you can pray prayers that are in alignment with His will because you are close enough to Him to know His will!
What priority does prayer receive?
Think of things that you earnestly desire. Think of an urgent situation that you recently encountered. Does prayer fit with the terms "urgent" and "earnest" in your own personal prayer life? Is there an earnest and urgent desire in your heart to be devoted to this kind of fervent prayer? Is prayer the lifeline that you count on in all seasons of life and at all moments throughout the day, whether stressful or joyful? Do you set aside quality and quantity time daily for focused and uninterrupted prayer, even if that means rising before the rest of your family and staying up after they are tucked in? Do you believe in its power and necessity? Do you understand the power that is held in righteous praying that can lead to the kind of Kingdom results that can change lives? These questions are in no way meant to incur guilt, but rather to revitalize your perspective on the vitality and privilege of prayer. Let’s get to praying like we believe it will make a difference!!!
What is the subject/goal of the prayer? In other words, does the purpose of the request point to God’s glory or your own comfort?
This point is simple, short, and sweet, and is connected with the heart condition of the prayer. If you are seeking righteousness and if you are deep into your study of God’s Word, then you will pray prayers that are in alignment with His Word and His will. In that case, the subject and goal of any prayer you pray will be for God’s glory. If you are living selfishly with no thought of God’s will, then your prayers will be more inclined to have selfish motives, which God won’t honor. This is not to say that is wrong to pray for yourself. However, if you are praying for yourself so that you can receive honor, praise, unnecessary worldly comforts, prestige, or anything other than what God wants for you, then your prayers might be coming from a heart that is focused on your own glory instead of the Lord’s.
I don’t know about you, but I desire for my prayers to be powerful and effective – not for my own glory, but so that God’s Kingdom can be advanced. I want to be a prayer soldier for the things that God wants us to fight for. I want to be a prayer warrior for the things that I have been entrusted with: my husband, my daughter, my family, my church, etc. I want to be found faithful in the Kingdom work, and Kingdom work is PRAYER. I don’t want to be busy with things that don’t have eternal value. I want to remember that I am not a citizen of this country, but of a heavenly one, and as such, I need to be focused on God’s Kingdom-agenda as I plead with Him in prayer for His will to be on earth as it is in Heaven!
1. Evaluate your time. Are you spending time in prayer? Are you spending quality time in prayer? Are you spending quantity time in prayer? What things need to take a backseat in order for prayer to receive the priority that it needs? What things are time-wasters that should be eliminated? How can your daily schedule be altered so that you can focus intently on prayer?
2. Evaluate your motives. What are the motives in your heart and mind when you offer your requests? Are you looking for results that would glorify you or glorify the Lord? Do you desire for the Lord’s will to be done or your will?
3. Evaluate your requests. Make a list of things, people, events, situations, etc. that are dear to your heart. Make a plan to pray for each of these categories at different times throughout the week. Thank the Lord that He has given you so many opportunities to reach and touch so many people and situations, and as you’re praying, pray that He’ll use you in each of these areas!
4. COMMIT: Commit to a specific time in order to pray for your organized lists. Make a plan and stick to it. Commit to carrying out your prayer time for the duration of month. Pray that the Lord will allow this habit to stick because after a month of quality and quantity time, you will wake up desiring this precious time with your Father! He is worthy! His work is important! And it’s time for us to stop wasting time with other “important” things and make a commitment to pray!
May our prayers come from an earnest and righteous heart.
May we be fully devoted to this sacred, honorable, and vital task.
May we be found faithful with the task that we’ve been given.
May we be mighty prayer warriors for the glory of God!