James 5:16 King James Version (KJV)
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Having been raised in and around the church, I can certainly tell you believers love this scripture. As they should. The interesting part to me has always been that the part that tickles most itchy ears is the “availeth much” part. This negates the rest of the verse.
So what does fervent mean? To define effectual fervent prayer we would best start by breaking down each part into smaller chunks. This will allow us to explore this verse in the simplest way possible.
To be effectual is to produce a desired result. Effectual prayer is prayer that brings that results that have been prayed for. When you pray for the sick and see healing, that is effectual prayer. I would say that for the most part, this is what we want. Although at times we say prayers because they sound good, or because we have not thought about what the result of these prayers means.
A great example of this is when we pray “break our hearts for what breaks yours”. It is often as a result of song. We have not taken time to internalise the lyrics, to understand what it is that we are getting ourselves into. Always consider the potential effect of your prayers before you utter them.
On a lighter not, you will also see people pray “Lord remove anyone who is hindering my success.” What happens when you are the one standing in your own way? What does it look like when that prayer is effectual. As the Lord would say to James and his brother, “You don’t know what it is that you are asking for.”
Effectual prayer is effective, efficient, fruitful, potent, productive and so on. When prayer is not effectual, it becomes fruitless, ineffective, unproductive, and dare I say, USELESS.
To be fervent in prayer is to exhibit passion and great intensity when you pray. Jesus warns us to not be like the Pharisees who do things to be noticed by their peers. When you pray to be seen by man, man becomes your God. Your prayers are to be answered by that God.
We know that prayer is about finding a secret place to be alone with the Lord. To be passionate alone, where no one can see. To be filled with zeal in your prayer closet. To show zeal, in secret, where no one can support or commend you for your effort. I believe that this is one of the reasons why our prayer rooms are often empty. That zeal for prayer is missing.
To be fervent in prayer is to be blazing, burning, charged, emotional, fiery, intense, and so on. Do you feel that your prayer life exhibits these things? Or is it cold, cool, dispassionate, emotionless, unemotional and impassive? This is an honest reflection that we should always have with ourselves as prayer warriors. Lest our prayers become acts of simply going through the motions.
God forbid that our prayer lives would become rituals. There is passion when truth is spoken in love and from the heart. This is the place that our prayers should reside in. They should come from a place where we love ourselves and others so much that we pour it all out before the throne of grace.
You can not be loving and cold in prayer. How can one be comfortable being cold in prayer while watching the world around them perish? There is passion on the other side of the fence. The enemy is evangelising and turning our youths away from the path of truth. If we are not fiery in prayer, we are losing ground daily. We also ought to remember that prayer is a form of warfare. You cannot go into war without being charged!
I imagine you don’t need to be reminded how much Jesus’ walk was filled with miracles. We know that wherever he went people were healed. Even when there was unbelief, he brought effectual prayer with him. The blind saw, the deaf heard and the dead rose!
Luke 22:44 New King James Version (NKJV)
44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Jabez was fervent in prayer
We know that God answered Jabez’s prayer. What you seldom hear is that Jabez was clearly fervent. He was righteous. These are the things that lined up to make his prayer effectual.
I single out Elijah on this one, but it was not just him. All of the Lord’s prophets were fervent in their prayers. The Bible is packed with results of just how effectual their prayers were. Their lives were accompanied by astounding miracles. We know that Elijah prayed that it would not rain, and it did not rain until he asked the Lord to open the heavens again. He was a man of passion.
We know that he gathered all the prophets of Baal for a showdown on Mt Carmel! This was done against the crown and rulership of his time. This was done when he thought he had no one to support him but God. If that is not fervency, I do not know what is.
We know that Daniel refused to let go of prayer, even at the risk of death. We also know that his friends went into the fire because of this fervency. That passion for prayer is one that should never die out in the body of Christ. How does your passion manifest today. Most of us live in nations where prayer can be carried out at our leisure, without the risk of persecution.
The early church thrived in the midst of intense persecution. We know that they added in numbers daily, while they were being murdered for their faith. That was a time of effectual, fervent prayer by righteous men and women of God. Are we becoming too relaxed and passive in our ways? So much such that the value of prayer is starting to diminish in our eyes.
The other key component that is often ignored is the personnel specification for this effectual fervent prayer. We know that for this cocktail to work, we need it to be coming from a righteous man. For prayer to be effectual, it needs to be fervent, and you need to be righteous. This is not to discount any one here. The bible tells us that all man’s righteousness is as filthy rags.
Isaiah 64:6 New King James Version (NKJV)
6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like [a]filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
The beauty of it all is that we are not called to be a “wonder” on this earth in our own strength. We are called to be enabled by God. Our strength is made perfect in him. He is our source, our very strength. It is when we choose to do things alone that we fall flat on our faces. Our very righteousness in in Christ! This is our heritage as the children of God.
Although it is seldom admitted, the church has sold God solely on this characteristic. He avails much. Prayer avails much. This is an attribute of God that has been used to fill pews with unbelieving believers. We have conditioned people and have been conditioned to seek his hand first. That being said, we know we can stand on the truth that, when we pray, God responds.
He makes a way where there seems to be none. Our God specialises in the impossible. He specialises in dead ends. These he turns into open doors. However, the criteria remain. We are to be fervent and righteous. The Bible teaches us to seek first his kingdom, and in doing so God availeth much!
This is not the gospel that fill the pews and offering baskets. The congregations want to hear of a God that availeth much, and not one who wants us to seek first his kingdom. The pursuit of riches is leaving a lot of unbelieving “believers” in worser states than they were in when they came to the church. It is pulling people from desperation into much worse conditions.
There are wolves among the sheep. There are wolves purporting to lead the sheep. The greed of the sheep is leading them to feed the wolves in hope that the wolves would share on the grace that they have. All this without realising that the wolves have none left. To make this clearer, many pastors and church leaders are robbing the flock that they should be feeding. The flock is just as guilty as the pastors are.
It can be very difficult to see fervency in yourself. We want to make sure that prayer is deliberate. As such, there are certain lines of enquiry that you can take. You can use these to consider your last prayer.