Power Through Prayer
The Prayer That Avails Much
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: James 5:15-16
Sunday 23rd June 2013
During the course of our series, Effectual Fervent Prayer, we have taken a detailed look at the Prophet Elijah’s prayer life in order to extract the keys to effectiveness in prayer. We learned from the account in 1 Kings 17 that Elijah knew the will of God before embarking on prayer, he also took steps to eradicate potential hindrances to answered prayer and expressed his faith in God in a decisive manner. We understood that he was resolute in his asking and prayed passionately and continuously, refusing to accept ‘no’ for an answer and as a result, he saw a dramatic demonstration of God’s power.
God is calling each of us to experience that dimension of His power; it is not reserved for only the prophets of the Old Testament. In the book of James, it was emphasised that Elijah was like us; this being so, the power that he experienced is available to us also. Our positioning and capacity in God is such that we are able to, and should expect to, replicate Elijah’s results, if, that is, we are willing to pay the price that Elijah paid.
The power that we see illustrated in the bible is not a thing of the past; the church of Jesus Christ is synonymous with power. The very essence of Christianity is representative of power. The early church in the days of the Apostles experienced dramatic expressions of the power of God. Napkins from the elders of the early church would be used to transmit healing to the sick and even the shadow of Peter falling across the infirm brought about deliverance. This is not consigned to history; God wants us to move in these dimensions of power and therefore we should expect to encounter the power of God in our day to day lives.
James 5: 17-18 says, ‘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.’ The truth is that prayer works as long as we understand the fundamentals of prayer. God made clear that Elijah was a man like us for a very good reason: this means that he faced the same issues, weaknesses and challenges that we face. We are told that he prayed and it did not rain for three years and six months and that when he prayed again however, his prayers brought the rain. Elijah moved in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that Elijah did that you cannot do; this truth must not be alien to you or you will never attain it. I would emphasise again that Elijah was man; he was not a spirit. He was a man with passion, feelings and thoughts but he demonstrated the power of God. God is saying to us today that we can do what Elijah did.
Let’s look carefully therefore at the account of his life: In the account in 1 Kings 17: 1 when Elijah presented himself before Ahab, he announced as follows: “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives – the God I serve- there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (NLT). It is interesting to note that in his declaration he identified himself as a servant of God. He could simply have made his declaration in the name of the Lord but his identity as God’s servant is the subtle indication as to the source of his power: he was in relationship with God. Elijah knew God intimately and the effectiveness of his prayer was borne out of his intimate connection with Him.
If I want to water my garden and have a pipe in my hand, unless that pipe is connected to the tap, namely the source of the water, my efforts will be fruitless. Without a connection, we cannot access the power of God and our prayers are empty words. Elijah, however was a man of God’s presence. He drew his prayer, power and connection from his intimacy with God. At the stand-off at Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18, the prophets of Baal prayed from morning until night. However, they had no connection with the living God and therefore their prayers amounted to nothing but empty words. God is interested in the release of His power and desires us to be the channel through which His power is demonstrated; He is not impressed with our eloquence in prayer. He desires for us to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Thessalonians 1: 5 Paul said, ‘For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.’ The gospel is not only brought by words but more importantly, by power. This is at the very core of the gospel; God’s power to change our lives, to deliver and encourage us. In the New Living Translation, 1 Corinthians 4: 20 says, ‘For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.’ The Kingdom of God is therefore inseparable from the power of God. Further, in Romans 1: 16, Paul says, ‘For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes, the Jew first and also the Gentile.’ We can be clear therefore, just how central the power of God must be to our lives and just how much God desires that each of us experience His power through prayer.
In Genesis 32, when Jacob was returning to Bethel, we are told that he wrestled with an angel of God, a representation of intercession, and as a result his name was changed. In Daniel 6: 10, Daniel’s response to the passing of a contrary law was prayer which enabled him to survive the lions’ den. Further, we have in Jesus, the perfect example of the power that can be released through prayer. The undeniable truth is that prayer works. We have an invitation to enjoy constant communication with God, the opportunity to be linked to Him. This is what gives rise to the release of power in our prayers, this is what causes the counsel of God to be established. In Acts 8, Simeon desired the power of God although had no connection with God and sought to buy it. His request was met with a harsh rebuke from Peter. We, however are being invited by God to demonstrate His power. We should look carefully therefore at how to establish a relationship of intimacy with God:
In Psalm 42:1, David likened his longing for God to the way in which a deer pants for water, an image of longing and desperation for God. The tabernacle of Moses was divided into three distinct parts: the outer court, the inner court or the holy place and the holy of holies. This symbolises the levels of relationship with God, the most holy place representing the presence of God. Many believers, however, are content to remain in the outer court, the place of atonement and the place of forgiveness of sins; just happy that we are forgiven. However, God desires for us to move beyond this level; it is God’s desire to move us to the place of His presence.
David expressed a depth of desire for God that each of us should aspire to. In Psalm 63:1-8 he speaks of his soul thirsting for God and his whole body longing for God. Although he was in the presence of God, he wanted more and more of Him, likening the position that he was in to being in a ‘dry and thirsty land where there is no water.’ God’s invitation to us to experience His power is directly linked to our intimacy with Him; there is no power without intimacy. In Psalm 63:2-3 David continues, ‘So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see your power and your glory. Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you.' David had left behind that which had the capacity to hinder his pursuit of God concluding that God’s loving kindness was better than life itself. We must seek not to be distracted; the enemy is always seeking to place distractions in our way to hinder or compromise our relationship with God but we must come to the place that David came to, where we conclude that there is nothing that this life has to offer that can be compared to God.
In John 15: 5, Jesus said ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.’ Jesus is our source. A branch cannot survive for long and certainly cannot bear fruit without being connected to its vine. The result of being connected to Jesus is fruitfulness. Unless we are connected to Him, our efforts are futile. In verse 7 of this chapter, Jesus gave the key to the release of power through prayer, ‘If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.' Jesus is assuring us that the key to answered prayer and the release of His power is in our continued connection with Him. Paul’s prayer in Philippians 3: 10 was simply, ‘That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection’. The word used here has connotations of the intimate way that a man knows his wife. This is the level of relationship that God desires for us to have with Him; it is at this depth of relationship that His power is truly known.
Let’s look quickly at five things that we can do to enhance our intimacy with the Lord:
(i) Foster a strong desire for His presence: We should ask the Holy Spirit to give us an intensity of desire for God such that nothing will be able to distract us from seeking Him.
(ii) Make quality time to be with the Lord on a daily basis.
(iii) Seek Him with all your heart:
In Jeremiah 29:13 we are told ‘And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart.’ We must press into God and refuse to be casual about our pursuit of intimacy with Him. This involves seeking Him in His word, being a good student of the word of God which is the source of all power. The word of God is the equivalent of a bullet in a pistol; many of us make the mistake of firing the proverbial trigger of prayer without ensuring that the gun is loaded and all that we end up with is the appearance rather than the reality of power.
Praise and worship is also a key to seeking Him. We should use every opportunity to create an atmosphere for His presence to dwell, whether in our cars or in our homes. Furthermore, prayer, is a method by which we can seek Him earnestly; spending quality time fellowshipping with Him in prayer. Not necessarily asking Him for anything but simply telling Him how much we love Him.
(iv) Walk in His will, making obeying Him our priority.
(v) Follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
In conclusion therefore, having waited on God for 23 days in this month in prayer and fasting, it is beyond doubt that we have gone deeper and higher in Him. However, there is so much more by way of depth of relationship that He desires us to have with Him; it is at this level of connection that the power through prayer can be revealed. I urge you therefore to make a relationship of intimacy with Him your priority in this season.
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