Some Advice From The Elder James
Regarding Effective Prayers
“Father, I thank you that you have
heard me. I knew that you always hear me...” Jesus prayed with deep conviction
and confidence (Jn 11:41). Immediately after this simple prayer, Jesus
performed one of his most astonishing miracles by making Lazarus, a man dead
for four days, walk out of a tomb alive.
In history, great men of God have
been prayerful and great signs have followed them. Moses prayed and the waters
of the Red Sea rolled back for the Israelites
to pass through, and when Elijah prayed, fire shot down from heaven to consume
Today, it is imperative for us to
examine ourselves to see whether we have the same confidence to associate
ourselves with Jesus and say, “Father, I knew that you always hear me...”
Ineffective prayer in a Christian life generally stems from a misunderstanding
of prayer or a wrong approach to it. The following is an advice from James,
Jesus Christ’s brother, which he offers in his letter:
Believe and ask according to His will
“But when you pray, you must
believe and not doubt at all” (James 1:5). James here is merely stating what
Jesus Himself promised during his ministry on earth: “And all things you ask in
prayer, believing, you shall receive” (Mt 21:22). This is no empty promise, for
it has been demonstrated time and again in His own ministry. The results, far
from being illusory, are positive, tangible and sometimes immediate.
Two blind men followed Jesus,
crying out, and saying, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” And Jesus replied,
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then
He touched their eyes saying, “Be it done to you according to your faith.”
Their eyes were opened.
The kind of faith that pleases Him
most is a steady faith. It does not swing from firm belief at one moment to
cynical disbelief at the next, for God often has His own time in answering your
prayers. Your will cannot be forced upon God and demand that you get immediate
The best time for God to answer
your prayer may be days, months, or even years later. This is graphically
illustrated in the story of Abraham as told by Paul in Romans 4:18-21:
“In hope against hope he believed,
in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which
had been spoken, ‘so shall your descendants be.’ And without becoming weak in
faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a
hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet with respect to the
promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief; but grew strong in faith giving
glory to God, and being fully assured that what He has promised, He was able so
Twenty five years elapsed from the
time God promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations to the time
Isaac was actually born (Gen 12:4; 21:5). He waited many years before he could
see actual proof that the promise was to be fulfilled in Isaac. And all this
while, Paul wrote, “He did not waver in unbelief.” Hence he is aptly called the
FATHER OF FAITH.
If you think that you’ve waited
far too long, just think of how long Jesus has waited for YOU to commit your
life FULLY to Him and He may, at this very moment, be still waiting. The Jews
waited centuries for the Messiah. The faithful early Christians waited, in
prisons and filthy dungeons, until they died, for the return of Jesus Christ.
But God has His time for everything.
Pray with fervency
“Elijah was man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain,
and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth”. (Jas 5:17, 18
“Fervent” is derived from the
Latin word “fervere” meaning “to glow or to boil.” It means showing great
warmth of feeling. Other versions (the New American Standard Bible, Today’s English
Version, New English Bible) use the word “earnest,” denoting seriousness,
intensity or determination.
An effective prayer is one which
is fervent and earnest. Jesus, in the days of His earthly life offered up
prayers with loud cries and tears. He was earnest and absolutely serious about
His prayers. Put your everything into your prayer; not
just your mind and your lips, but your heart and your soul; your entire being
and your emotions.
Every single word counts. Mean
what you say. Solomon warns against flippant words uttered in prayers:
“Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought
to bring up a matter in the presence of God, for God is in heaven and you are
on earth, therefore let your words be few.” (Eccl 5:2)
It is all too easy to lose
concentration while praying. if one dares not be
frivolous before a human king, what more before the Sovereign of the Universe?!
parable of the midnight visitor is intended for our asking for gifts from God.
A man has a friend and he goes to him at midnight and says to him, “Friend,
lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I
have nothing to set before him.” From inside, he shall answer and say, “Do not
bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I
cannot get up and give you anything.” “I tell you,” Jesus explains, “even
though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet
because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
Here is a living example of an
effective prayer offered by a believer. Fred has been a Christian for quite
some time. For many years he has been attending one Spiritual Convocation after
another but has not received the Holy Spirit. He knows the importance of having
the Holy Spirit, but as his life is little troubled by unfortunate encounters,
the urgency is not there. It strikes him one day how powerless he is in the
face of adversity. That sets him to think of the urgency of having the Holy
Coming to the following Spiritual
Convocation, his mind is set on praying for the Holy Spirit. This time it is
different. There is the added element of DETERMINATION. He has decided to
persist until he receive the Holy Spirit. For three
days, he prays and prays. With that DETERMINATION, he comes to the turning
point of his life. On the last day, the Holy Spirit pours down on him.
When Peter was kept in prison to
be tried before Herod, the Bible records that “the church was earnestly praying
to God for him” (Acts 12:5-10). The effectiveness of earnest prayers is
powerfully demonstrated here, and as a result, Peter was delivered that night.
Be in a clear conscience
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and
pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is
powerful and effective.” (James 5:16).
James admonishes us to confess our
sins to each other, be reconciled, and then pray for each other. Jesus also
said the same thing in Matthew 5:23, 24.
“Therefore, if you are offering
your gift. at the altar and there remember that your
brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.
First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.”
In a church of a large membership
conflicts are inevitable. But it is possible to resolve them with humility,
forgiveness, understanding and brotherly affection. Therefore, confess yours
sins, be reconciled, and pray for each other. Your prayers will be heard.
James also speaks about the
“righteous man.” What is a righteous man? John answers, “He who does what is
right is righteous” (I Jn 3:7). He is one who strives to live in accordance
with God’s will as revealed in the Bible. He has no desire to sin and violate
the law of God. Peter confirms that, “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and His ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Pet 3: 12). It is the prayers of
those who consciously work towards holinesss that are effective and powerful.
Ask with the right motives
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you
ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Students may wish to pray for a
successful examination, and businessmen, for prosperity, because, as they
think, Jesus once promised, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” To
be sure, Christ will grant you anything that is beneficial to you:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you
will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks
receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake
instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Lk 2:9-12).
This scripture is mainly concerned
with praying for the Holy Spirit and spiritual blessing. In our daily life we
mast remember that the kingdom and the righteousness of God is the primary
object in our prayer and supplication (Mt 6:33). Along with the request for
achievements in our profession and schooling, we have to do our best and be
thankful at all times. Even when we do not receive what we asked for, realize
that the Lord sees our motives. Any prayer which does not glorify God or is
harmful to one’s spiritual well-being is subject to divine disapproval.