Summary: James encourages believers not only to pray, but to pray powerfully!
HOW TO PRAY POWERFULLY
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
How would you describe your prayer life? Are the prayers you offer vibrant and vigorous? Or are they anaemic and puerile? Is prayer a joy; or do you struggle to fling even a few requests heavenward? For the past several weeks, we have been thinking about prayer. Though many Christians say prayers, I can only wonder how many Christians pray—and know that they have prayed. And as Christians who do pray, we should be willing to ask how many know what it is to pray powerfully. Our focus today is the last statement of the verse before us: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Whenever we come into the assembly of the Lord, each of us should be prepared to testify about the answers we have received to our prayers throughout the previous week; and each of us should come expecting to witness His gr eat power unleashed among His holy people as we gather to worship. We should come before Him with an air of expectancy, eagerly anticipating what the true and living God is going to do. Whenever we are in the presence of the Lord, we should provide seat belts on every chair and a crash helmet for each worshipper.
The Lord our God always stands ready to act on our requests, and when He acts He will reveal His glory, encouraging His people. We who are called by the Name of God’s Son have been invited to share in His glorious demonstration of power as we ask what honours Him and anticipate that He will do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” [see EPHESIANS 3:20].
Jesus promised us who follow Him, “Whoever believes in Me will also do the works I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” [JOHN 14:12]. The words that followed should be a constant encouragement to pray. Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in My Name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My Name, I will do it” [JOHN 14:13, 14].
This is a bold promise; there is no middle ground. Either the Master has spoken truthfully, or He has lied. His people either believe His promise, or they think the Son of God to be a liar. A review of the prayer life of the average Christian in our nation would lead us to conclude that Christians believe Jesus is a liar, because we ask no great things of God and we do not even seek to do the works that the Master did. Looking at the mundane, pedestrian lives of contemporary Christians, I want to cry out with Elisha, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah” [2 KINGS 2:14].
Jesus healed the broken bodies of all who were presented to Him—not one was turned away; He freed demonised souls and stilled raging storms. He restored life to dead bodies, comforted grieving families and gave hope to all who heard Him speak. He provided all that was necessary for His disciples to serve Him unhindered, and He boldly opposed wickedness in high places. Our Master promised that we would be empowered to perform these same works—doing, in fact, even greater works than these, because He would be in the presence of the Father interceding for us as we did what He wills.
If we see no demonstration of His works in our lives, we can only conclude that it is because we have not taken Him seriously. I read the text, and I am prompted to cry out as did Gideon, “Where are all His wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us” [JUDGES 6:13]. Modern Christians have heard of God saving lost sinners, but we don’t see it. We have heard of God delivering people addicted to alcohol, but we don’t see it. We have heard of God restoring marriages, but we don’t see it. We have heard of God changing hearts, but we don’t see it. I am convinced of the veracity of the promise of God delivered through Isaiah,
“The LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or His ear dull, that it cannot hear.”
I am compelled to believe that the Word of God that James has already delivered is true of us: “You do not have, because you do not ask” [JAMES 4:2b].
If we do not ask, surely it is because we do not know the power of the Lord; or perhaps we do not ask because we are overwhelmed by our own sinful condition, or because we do not know how to pray powerfully. Perhaps we are timid in seeking demonstrations of God’s power because we are uncertain of what He can do. Surely, we do not ask because we do not believe? Surely, we are not so obtuse as to believe that God no longer answers prayer? Thus, I am proceeding on the premise that we are unaware of how to pray, believing that if we will receive instruction in how to pray powerfully that we will shortly witness a transformation of our lives and of our church.