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Some Advice From The Elder James Regarding Effective Prayers
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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 the sacrifice.

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:

I.       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 results.

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 perform.”

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.

II.    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 RSV)

“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?!

The 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 Spirit.

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.

III. 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.

IV.  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.” (James 4:3)

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.

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