For the past few months in our home Bible study group, we have been studying the book of James. This past Thursday we completed our study with chapter 5. Now, I have read James and pulled out certain Scripture verses many times, but when you take the time to dig and study it in light of the context, so many truths are unveiled.
As we came across James 5:16, the Lord opened my eyes to a truth I had never seen before concerning prayer. The Bible says, “Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James then goes on to give an example of one who was righteous and who prayed and saw God do mighty things, Elijah. Now often we think of Elijah as this super hero of the faith, but if you look at verse 17, it says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours….” He wasn’t some hero, he was just a normal person like you and me. Yet, when he prayed he saw God do great things, why? Was it because of who he was or was it because he was right with God? I believe the reason Elijah saw God move in such a mighty way is because he had done what verse 16 said. He was clean before the Lord and before men. During the time Elijah sat at the brook, I believe he was praying for the people of Israel, so he was praying for others, and last his prayer was effective because he was persistent, he fervently prayed and didn’t give up.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I often grow frustrated with prayer. Yet, I am realizing that the reason I am frustrated and not seeing God work is because to be honest my prayers are not effective. Now, I’m not suggesting some 5 step formula to see prayers answered. Yet, I do believe there are things that must be in place in order for our prayers to be heard and to see God move.
I know for myself, my prayers are often shallow and flippant. I pray for something for a time but then give up. Or I pray but don’t first pray like David prayed for God to search my heart. Selfishly, I too often spend more time praying for myself than for others. As my husband taught through these verses the other night, God just rocked my world concerning how pathetic my prayers actually are.
I believe prayer that pleases the Lord starts with praising and exalting Him for who He is. If you read the Psalms you will find examples of this in David’s prayers. Many a Psalm begins with, “O give thanks to the Lord, or Praise the Lord.” Next I believe we must allow the Lord to search our hearts and take the time to confess individually sins in our life.(Ps. 139:23). If there is one we need to confess our sins before, we need to do this as well. Next, we are to intercede for others and the needs around us. Finally, we are to present our request before the Lord. And just as the widow who came before the judge asking and asking for his help, we must be persistent. Praying fervently not giving up until the Lord answers or says no.
I will close with this Ps. 24:3-5, “Who may ascend into the hill of the lord? Or who may stand in His Holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, or sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessings from the Lord and righteousness from the God of His salvation.”