How to Pray Powerfully: Hint, it’s not Praying in ‘Earnest’
When God first began to stir my heart for intercession I pushed back. All I knew about interceding was my perception of what a ‘prayer warrior’ was. 10 hours a day on your knees didn’t sound like something I was interested in. I knew the Bible taught that ‘earnest’ prayers like Elijah’s were powerful and effective, but I didn’t have that type of crazy self discipline like you read about in ‘old school’ Christianity.
But as I submitted to where God was leading, He began to show me that it’s not the ‘earnestness’ of the prayers that bring heaven to earth. But that, in fact, Prevailing prayer is an effect of powerful prayer, not the cause.
James 5:16 says ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’ (NLT)
But what does that word ’earnest’ really mean? I’d like to suggest that if Elijah prayed earnestly for a plague instead of a drought, his prayer would not have been answered with a yes, why?
I do like a good Greek word study.
The word that is translated ‘earnest’ is the Greek word ‘ischuo’ meaning full of health and vigour, or prevailing. For the believer, however, the meaning goes deeper to a sense of engaging confrontationally for what God gives you faith for. In other words, it’s about the believer bringing about what God deems to be victory.Earnest prayer refers to the believer bringing about what God deems to be victory Click To Tweet
In Deuteronomy 11:16-17 God says ‘Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. 17 Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.’ (NASB)
God told the people of Israel that if they were disobedient and served other gods, He would shut up the heavens. Elijah knew God had made this promise, but it needed an intercessor on earth to bring it about (See 1 Kings 17:1). The reason Elijah prayed earnestly was because he already knew what God had promised and it was just a matter of praying until it came about. It was the same when he prayed for the life to return to the widows son. Elijah asked God what He thought about the situation, and then when God responded, he prayed earnestly again for life to return to the son and it did (see 1 Kings 17:19-22). Then God spoke to Elijah that He was going to bring back the rain, but it wasn’t until Elijah prayed earnestly again that it came to pass.
If we want our prayers to be powerful and effective we need to not just be labouring in prayer, we need to know God’s heart.
The sometimes incorrect motives of Godly prayers
It’s not only our selfish prayers that don’t get answered.
James 4:2-3 says ‘You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.’ (NASB)
Most of us are honest enough with ourselves to be able to weed out the selfish prayers. For example, we don’t bother to ask God to win the lottery because – even if we promise to give money to the church or the poor or whatever we can think of to convince God we only mean well – we know why we are really asking. But there are other motives that won’t get a ‘yes’ from God.
If we want our prayers to come to pass, we need to be aware of our seemingly ‘Godly’ prayers as well. We can pray for things we think God wants, but not take the time to find out how He feels about it.
Being friends with the creator of the universe
God considered Abraham His friend and so shared His heart with him. Jesus says to the disciples that he no longer considers them servants – but friends – because they do what He commands.
If you are a follower of Jesus, than you should have the expectation of God sharing His heart with you, and also the expectation that you will get involved. Just like Abraham pleaded with God to spare Sodom and Gomorra.
What do I mean? When Jesus shared with His disciples that He was going to die, Peter said he would never let it happen. Jesus’ response was ‘“Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”’ (Matthew 16:23 NLT)
‘There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12
In Jesus and Peters case, Peter wanted a victory that saw one mans life spared, but God’s victory was for all of mankind.In Jesus and Peters case, Peter wanted a victory that saw one mans life spared, but God’s victory was for all of mankind. Click To Tweet
When we don’t take the time to hear God’s perspective, we can pray for things we think are right, but end up praying against what God is doing. If we want to have powerful prayers like Elijah, we need to be willing to take the time to hear God’s heart. Then when you know His heart, it is a small thing to pray earnestly until you see that thing done.
We are all called to get into the battle of increasing God’s Kingdom here on earth. Prayer is our main weapon. Are you taking the time to quiet yourself and seek God for what his heart is? Because it is only then that we can pray like Elijah and see God move heaven and earth.