Effectual Fervent Prayer
The Prayer That Avails Much
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: James 5:15-16
Sunday 9th June 2013
Last week we began a new series, ‘The Prayer That Avails Much’, a journey of understanding on prayer. In this message, we understood the necessity of prayer; that it is not an option but an imperative: we must pray. We looked at the protocols that the bible identifies in order for our prayers to be effective and we also looked at the hindrances to prayer, which we understood included unbelief, unforgiveness, bitterness and marital strife.
Today, we continue on our journey of understanding. We are, as you know, in Deeper and Higher, our annual season of prayer and fasting, a time in which we invest much by way of prayer energy on our lives, our church, our community and our nation. It is important therefore that we have a clear understanding of what causes prayer to produce results.
James 5:16 (Amplified) says, ‘The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].’ There is a kind of prayer activity that we can engage in which releases power and which brings about results. If I know what it is that makes prayer to be effectual and fervent, then I can tap in to what it is that releases the power that guarantees results.
God is telling us that our prayers have the capacity to produce the desired results. In this scripture in James we are being invited to pay attention to the truth that we carry tremendous capacity; the truth that we can make a great difference with our prayers. Provided therefore that we pay attention to the principles that the scripture reveals as being essential, we can be assured of results. God wants to answer our prayers; Jeremiah 33: 3 which says, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.’ makes this very clear. We must therefore pay careful attention to the principles which guarantee results.
The term translated as 'effectual fervent' is actually only one word in the ancient Greek language; the word is ‘energeo’ which means ‘to effect’, ‘to bring about’ or ‘to produce desired results’. ‘Avail’ is the Greek word ‘ischyo’ which means ‘to have power’. From this therefore we can understand that prayer that is capable of producing desired results generates power. The challenge therefore is to identify what it is that causes our prayers to be capable of generating results.
If we examine the scripture text closely, we can see that James, having made this dramatic declaration about the capability of prayer to bring about results in verse 16, seems almost to be changing the subject by going on to make reference to Elijah. Verse 17 states, ‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.’ James was not so much changing the subject as he was drawing our attention to the truth that within the account about Elijah lay some key insights about effectual fervent prayer. The first observation is that Elijah was a man. He was not an angelic being but he had a nature like ours. There was not, therefore anything supernatural about Elijah which caused his prayers to bring about results. He, like us, got angry, upset, disillusioned; he was very much a human being.
Elijah’s prayer disallowed rain for three and a half years; he thus affected an entire nation with his prayers and advanced the purpose of God. In the account in 1 Kings Chapters 16-18 there are a number of important lessons: The first mention of Elijah at all is in 1 Kings 17 when we are told that he appeared at Ahab’s palace. We are told nothing about his background, he simply presented himself unannounced and uninvited before Ahab’s royal court and pronounced judgment on the idolatry that had been encouraged in Samaria under Ahab’s reign. He declared the counsel of the Lord, that there would be no rain or even dew in the land except at his word. At that time, Israel was in a state of utter apostasy and with Ahab’s encouragement, had turned its back on God. Idol worship was rife and God had been provoked to anger and thus He sent Elijah to proclaim his counsel to Ahab.
With this background in mind, let’s look at the three things that fuelled Elijah’s prayer:
1. Elijah Knew The Will Of God:
Elijah knew the counsel of God; he had heard God clearly and knew His plans. God’s will had been clearly revealed to him and it is this that he had declared before Ahab. This is what gave him the boldness to appear before Ahab uninvited. He knew that he had been raised to confront the idolatry that Ahab had encouraged. He knew the mind of God. He had been in the ‘secret place’, a place of intimacy and close fellowship with God and had heard Him clearly. The word of God that he had heard lined up precisely with the written counsel of God in Deuteronomy 11: 13-17 in which God made very clear that disobedience and idolatry would result in the Lord’s anger being roused, the heavens being shut and thus there being no rain.
Elijah therefore was speaking the perfect counsel of the Lord when he prayed and declared that the heavens be shut; he knew God’s mind and thus he obtained results. Towards the end of the famine when he returned to Ahab, we are told in 1 Kings 18:1 ‘And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.” Again, Elijah had heard from God. He was not acting on impulse or by way of speculation. There is an important truth for all of us here: we cannot settle in prayer that which God has not revealed to us. Heaven will only respond to that which it has sanctioned; heaven will only respond to that which is God’s will.
In 1 Corinthians 9: 26 Paul said, ‘Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.’ It is important that we have clarity as to what God’s will is. In this season, I urge you to avoid bringing empty prayers to God as these will not get results. Your prayer begins with knowledge of His will. If it means that you have to fast and pray to hear His voice then do so. It would be better and more productive to fast and pray for 29 days of Deeper and Higher just to hear His voice and use the last day to birth what He has spoken in prayer than to spend 30 days air-boxing. The effective and fervent prayer involves being focused, deliberate and intentional in praying in accordance with God’s will. In this period of waiting on God, do not be unfocussed. Have an expectation. Receive a word for your situation and take it to God in prayer based upon His revealed counsel.
2. Elijah Had Dealt With Known Hindrances To Prayer:
We learn in 1 Kings 18 of Elijah’s destruction of the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. 450 of the prophets of Baal were wiped out; not 448 of them but all 450. Sin therefore was driven from the land. There had been no trace of understanding of who God is amongst the Israelites to such a degree that Elijah had to confront them in verse 21 as follows: ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.’ During the 22 years of Ahab’s reign the people had no understanding of whom God was. Everything that Elijah did was at the behest of God’s word. We are told that he repaired the altar of the Lord which was broken down. He brought 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel, the basis of the covenant relationship and his sacrifice was accepted and God provided a dramatic display of His power.
In this season, in your own personal life, do whatever it takes to eradicate whatever may hinder your prayers. Do not be too proud to address it. Every potential hindrance to prayer must be dealt with. We are in right-standing with God through Christ Jesus. We must utilise our positional righteousness and confess and eradicate all known sin.
3. Elijah Demostrated Faith In God:
Once sin had been eradicated from the land in the form of the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, Elijah told Ahab to go up and eat and drink as he heard the sound of the abundance of rain. This is despite there being no visible sign of rainfall at all let alone an abundance. Elijah, however was not moved by what he saw but by the word of God and thus he had the boldness to instruct the king to go up and eat and drink. He was walking by faith in the word of God and having sent the king to go and eat, he began to pray. His faith grew stronger notwithstanding the absence of any sign of rain, declaring ‘there is the sound of the abundance of rain.’ This was a bold declaration given that there had not been even so much as dew for in excess of three years. He took with him knowledge of the will of God, purity before God and his faith and thus on Mount Carmel, he then adopted the position of prayer and sent his servant to go and check on an answer.
What is it that made his prayers so effectual? He had reached a place in his relationship with God in which he was certain that God could not lie and that He would do what He said He would do. He understood that God’s word was always backed up with His power. On this basis, he persevered in prayer, refusing to be disillusioned on the six occasions that his servant having been sent to observe for the answer to his prayers, returned to say that he saw nothing. He stood his ground and continued to pray. He knew to reject anything that contradicted God’s word and held on. On the seventh occasion, the servant returned to report that he saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand. Elijah’s effectual fervent prayer had brought about change.
When prayer is not birthed in the will of God it is easy to give up. When you have heard from God, however you will stand your ground. God’s calling to us in this season is to pray effectual prayers of Elijah. We must pray with understanding. It is better to spend time in prayer discovering God’s will as to the season that you are in and birth it accordingly. Effective fervent prayers are not simply energetic babblings. It is the result of knowing God’s will, ruthlessly eradicating hindrances to prayer and operating faith that generates the release of dynamic power that brings about desired results. I challenge you in this season to pray prayers that get results!
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