The following is excerpted from Effectual Prayer for Perilous Times, a Bible course available from Way of Life Literature.
“The effectual fervent prayer ... he prayed earnestly” (Jas. 5:16, 17); “strive together with me in your prayers” (Ro. 15:30).
Effectual prayer is fervent, passionate, earnest, and heart-felt. It is engaging in spiritual warfare. It is not halfhearted or frivolous.
“Effectual fervent” (Jas. 5:16) is the Greek energéo, which is elsewhere translated “was mighty in” (Ga. 2:8). “Prayed earnestly” (Jas. 5:17) is the Greek proseúchomai prosyookhay (Strong 4336 and 4335), which could be translated “and he prayed prayed.” Elijah’s prayer for the rain to stop was not lackadaisical. It was a fervent, focused, pray pray type of prayer!
“Strive together” (Ro. 15:30) is the Greek sunagonízomai, which is from sun (with) and agonizomai (agonize, struggle, strive). It is “to strive, contend for victory, as in the public games; to fight in company with, assist or help to fight” (Complete Word Study Bible).
Effectual prayer is not rote prayer; it is not repeating a prayer out of habit; it is not reading a prayer as a religious exercise. It is not praying with half of one’s mind on other things. It is not praying for things for which one has no concern.
It is Hannah pleading with God for a son (1 Sa. 1:10-13).
It is David crying out the Lord (“attend unto my cry,” Ps. 17:1). See also Ps. 27:7; 28:1-2; 29:12; 40:1; 55:17; 56:9; 57:2; 61:1-2, etc.
It is Hezekiah weeping in prayer (“I have seen thy tears,” Isa. 38:5).
It is Daniel pleading with God to restore Jerusalem. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name” (Da. 9:19).
It is the church at Jerusalem praying for Peter’s deliverance (“but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him,” Ac. 12:5).
It is Epaphras “labouring fervently for you in prayers” (Col. 4:12).
To pray fervently doesn’t mean that I must cry out, weep, groan, and agonize in prayer. It doesn’t mean that I try to work up some deep emotional state. That would be an affectation, a pretense, and God is not moved by such things.
To pray fervently simply means to pray from the heart, to pray with genuine concern, to pray about things that I truly care about, things that I long to see answered, things that mean something to me. It has been said that “if your prayers are going to mean anything to God, they have to mean something to you.”
To pray fervently is to engage in prayer with your whole mind and heart. “It is not enough to say a prayer, but we must pray in prayer. Our thoughts must be fixed, our desires firm and ardent, and our graces in exercise” (Matthew Henry).
I learned to pray fervently at the beginning of my Christian life when I was seeking to understand sound doctrine. I was led to Christ by an old-line Pentecostal. The day after I was saved, we parted ways and I have never seen or heard from him again. He had taught me the promise of Christ in John 7:17, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” He had also taught me Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Knowing the deceptive nature of my own heart, I prayed fervently to God to enable me to “will” to do His will so that I would know the right doctrine. I would pray with great earnestness, “Lord, don’t let me be deceived by my own heart. Don’t let me think that I am willing to do your will when I am actually not willing. Don’t let me be led astray by false teachers. Lead me to the right church. Give me the right understanding of the Bible!” I prayed this often with tears. I shouted it out to the Lord. In those days, I looked particularly at Pentecostalism, Seventh-day Adventism, and Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. Soon the Lord led me to a little independent Baptist church where I finally felt at home. But 48 years later, I still often pray fervently for spiritual understanding and still pray that I will not be led astray by man or devils or my own heart.
Fervency happens when you pray for things for which you care deeply.
- In my own life, when I am truly burdened about something, I know that God is going to answer.
- e.g., children, grandkids, unsaved loved ones, the nation, churches, pastors; problems in the church; when our ministry team became divided and was at odds; praying for a door for Way of Life before visiting Brooksville and meeting Bobby Meadows; the beginning of O Timothy magazine (praying at the hospital in India); praying for 1,000 preachers.
Intercessory prayer is not easy or comfortable. It is work. It is a battle. We have the example of Moses interceding for Israel as she battled with Amalek. He had to hold up his hands in intercession to God during the entire battle (Ex. 17:10-12).
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