Last week we examined The Lord’s Prayer as a model for learning to pray. This week as we continue to search for instruction in prayer, we will once again turn to Scripture.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.James 5:16b (KJV)
I love the wording of this verse in the King James Version. It is so powerful and offers such instruction and encouragement for prayer.
As we look to this verse as a tool for learning, let’s pay particular attention to three key words.
The root of this word (effect) means to make something happen. This, of course, implies that work is involved. Supporting our supposition is the fact that the word “effectual” in this verse comes from the Greek word meaning “work.”
Therefore, we learn from this word that prayer is work (Colossians 4:12-13).
Some Bible translations use the word “earnest” here. It is the same word used in Acts 12:5. In Greek, this word means “the stretching of a muscle to the limit.”
Whether we choose the word “fervent” or “earnest,” it doesn’t matter. What we are talking about here is diligence. Our prayers are to be constant and persistent to the point of stretching us and causing us to feel the aches of an overworked muscle.
Do you hear the echo? Effectual? Availeth?
The word “availeth” conveys the idea of bringing something about or producing results. There’s a sweet intertwining here of doing the work (“effectual”) and obtaining results (“availeth”).
James 5:16 teaches us a powerful lesson on effective prayer. Prayer is work – hard, constant, persistent, straining-the-muscles kind of work.
However, as powerful as this lesson is, a conscientious student knows there is more to be learned. We continue on by asking ourselves, “What more can Scripture teach us regarding effective prayer?”
A quick survey of some New Testament passages will broaden our understanding.
John 9:31 – “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”
John 14:13 – “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
John 15:7 – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
1 John 3:22 – “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
1 John 5:14 – “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
The pattern for prayer seems simple. Ask, and you will receive (Matthew 7:8, 21:22; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:10; John 16:24).
But as these passages reveal, there is more to receiving than simply asking. There is more to being effective in prayer than simply uttering words.
An attitude of proper reverence, obedience to God’s will, and continuing communion with Christ as essential. Additionally, our prayers must be made in accordance with God’s revealed will and in accordance with His nature and character.
Practical Tips for Becoming Effective in Prayer
CULTIVATE A HABIT OF PRAYER
Make prayer a priority. Set aside time to pray. If necessary, put it on your calendar or set an alarm until it becomes a habit.
Redeem the time. Examine your life. Spend a few days paying attention to how your days are being spent. Then look for places where you can pray as you live. (Standing in the grocery line, sitting in the car pickup lane, doing the laundry, walking the dog, etc.)
Enlist an accountability partner. Give a trusted friend or family member permission to ask you how you are doing in your efforts to cultivate a habit of prayer.
CREATE A DISTRACTION PLAN
Scout out a well-suited location. As much as possible, remove yourself from noise and distraction.
Turn off the technology. Get away from screens and sound. And if possible, silence your phone.
Keep a notepad handy. When stray thoughts arise, simply jot them down on your notepad and return to prayer.
Take care of your needs before you settle in to pray. It is difficult to focus when you are uncomfortable. Restroom visit √. Water bottle √.
Check your posture. Take a few minutes to properly posture yourself before the Lord before you begin.
Pray out loud. Vocalizing your prayers helps with focus. What’s more, this tip comes with the added benefit of Satan hearing your prayer!
Involve your body. Take a walk. Journal your prayers. Engaging your body is a great way to help with focus and guard against distraction.
Discover a way of praying that connects with the way God uniquely wired you. We are not so easily distracted when we are immersed in something we enjoy.