How would you like to have an effective prayer life? The Bible says, “Elijah was a man subject to like passions (weaknesses and failure) as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:17-18 KJV). Now that is exciting!
What James was saying was that if Elijah could pray so effectively so can we. A prayer life like this will make a major difference in our life. It filled Elijah with such excitement that when he saw just a hint of the rain on its way he outran Ahab all the way to Jezeel, with Ahab in his royal chariot and Elijah on foot. Kind of like the road runner flying past Wile E. Coyote. Seeing God miraculously answer your prayers will fill you with such an anointing and zeal that you will be able to outrun the best of the enemies chariots.
Here are a few important keys to having an effective prayer life:
Our prayers must be divinely directed (1 Kings 18:36). Elijah heard from God and prayed accordingly. “The word of the Lord came to Elijah” (1 Kings 18:1 NASB). And again, “Let it be known … that I have done all these things at thy word” (1 Kings 18:36 NASB).
Our first prayer should be directional. “God how do you want me to pray”? I’m convinced that if we would wait on direction from God first and as we receive word from Him we would pray accordingly, we would have much more effective prayers. Prayer must be done in dependency on the Holy Spirit, in accordance with His will (Rom 8:26-27 and 1 John 5:14-15) and with the goal of seeing His will implemented upon this earth in the affairs of men (Matthew. 6:10).
Praying must be done in the name of the Lord (James 5:14). There is power in His name. So much so that God “bestowed on Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father” (Philippians 2:10-11). The devils even believe and tremble (James 2:19). Praying in His name is not simply a blank check that we sign His name to and get whatever we want. It means four things:
- Power of attorney. If you are given power of attorney over someone’s finances, you are to use it for their purposes only. You can use it however you choose. However, there will be a day of accounting when you will give an account as to how you used what was theirs. There will be an accounting one day of how we used His name.
- In God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). Praying in His name means we are praying for His purposes (will) to be implemented in the affairs of men (our affairs and life) on earth (Matthew 6:10).
- In His merit as opposed to our own (Romans 5:1-2 and Hebrews 4:16). When we come to Him, praying in His name, we are coming in His merit and not our own. We come in His righteousness, having been made worthy by His finished work on the cross for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- For God’s glory (John 14:13). When praying in His name we should be praying for that which will bring Him glory. Judge what you are praying for and if it will bring God glory then you are praying rightly and if not don’t pray for it.
Praying must be done in faith (James 5:15, James 1:6-8). Jesus said if we have faith we can move mountains (Mark 11:22-24). Below are some things that will help to build and strengthen our faith.
- Be sure you are divinely directed (1 John 5:14-15). Elijah was filled with faith because he knew he was in God’s will and acting according to His word.
- Read the Word (Romans 10:17). Time in the Word of God helps build and strengthen our faith – read and study the Bible.
- Meditate (Psalm 1:2-3 and Joshua 1:8). We need more than a casual reading of the scriptures. We must spend time not only reading the Word but meditating on it. This means we take a passage, verse or phrase and toss it over and over in our mind, letting it sink deep within our spirit. This will build and strengthen our faith.
- Use your imagination (John 5:17 and 19). See God doing what you’re praying for and see it as a completed and done deal. Jesus saw what the Father was doing in the spiritual realm before He did anything and then acted accordingly. If we really believe something our imagination will be stirred and our imagination will stir our faith.
- Pray in the Spirit. Jude said, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20 NASB).
We must be bold in our praying. Elijah was bold in two ways:
- He was bold (confident) in his declaration (17:1, 18:44). He was bold or confident in what he believed (knew) God was going to do and declared it.
- He was bold in what he prayed for (1 Kings 17:1, 19-22). He prayed that it wouldn’t rain until he said (17:1), in praying for widows son and actually expecting life to come back into him (17:19-22), there was a drought for three and a half years and he dared to think God would make it rain again. If we are afraid to exercise great boldness in our prayer life we will never experience great effects from our prayers. Psalms 81:10 says, “open thy mouth wide and I will fill it”. George Mueller said this meant we should open our mouth wide in big requests.
We must pray specifically. There is a difference in a time of prayer, communing and fellowshipping with God and asking God for things to see something accomplished for His glory. Elijah was needing to see something happen. He didn’t pray in general, “Lord do something to turn this people around”. He sought the mind of God as to how He wanted to do it and then prayed exactly that way. If we are to pray effectively, we must be specific in what we are praying for.
We must pray fervently (James 5:16-18). Fervent means to work hard at, hot, boiling over, to put all you have into your praying. If you were in a really desperate place and needed someone’s help immediately, you wouldn’t calmly say to them, “would you mind helping me for a minute”? You would raise your voice (yell if you will) and say, “get over here and help me now”.
The early church prayed fervently for Peter and God sent an angel and miraculously delivered him out of jail and from the hand of Herod (Acts 12:1-17). It was said of Jesus, “who in the days of His flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared” (Hebrews 5:7). God told Isaiah, “Put me in remembrance; let us argue our case together; state your cause that you may be proved right” (Isaiah 43:26). Let’s remind God of His Word and put all we have into our praying.
We must pray with persistence (1 Kings 17:19-21, 18:41-44). Whatever you’re praying for you mustn’t loose heart and give up. Be persistent. It’s not if we believe we only ask once. True faith believes when we have prayed, we have already received what we have asked for (Mark 11:22-24) but it goes on to continue to ask or remind God of our request until the answer to our prayer has materialized.
There are many examples of persistence in prayer: The widow’s son, Elijah stretched himself out on him three times (1 Kings 17:19-21); Elijah was praying for rain and had his servant look for a sign of rain seven times (1 Kings 18:41-44); The Syrophonician woman (Mark 7:24-30); Jacob (Gen. 32); A friend asking for bread at midnight (Luke 11:5-10); The widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). Let’s lay hold of God and not let up until we have received what we have requested (Isaiah 64:7).
We must pray with anticipation (1 Kings 18:41-45). When Elijah began to pray for it to rain again, after being dry for three and a half years, he prayed with expectancy. He put his head between his legs and prayed. He then asked his servant if he saw anything. He said, “there is nothing”. He did this seven times, until after the seventh time the servant said, I see a cloud about the size of a man’s hand. When Elijah heard this, he knew the rain was on its way. Pray and keep praying in faith, looking for and expecting your answer, until it manifest itself.
The one praying must be righteous (James 5:16). The blind man who had been healed said, “We know that God does not hear sinners” (John 9:31). Sins blocks our prayers from being heard and answered (Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalms 66:18). We have no righteousness of our own (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23). The only righteousness we will ever have is inputed righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is why we need Jesus. He is the substitution for our sins. The moment we put our faith in Jesus, as our only hope of salvation and the one who paid the penalty for our sins, we are declared righteous by God. Jesus’ righteousness is put to our account and we are righteous in God’s sight. He sees us just as if we had never sinned. From that point on you can pray effectively as a righteous man or woman.
We also should daily ask God to search our heart for anything that may not be right with Him and make it right by confessing it as sin (1 John 1:9). This should be done at the beginning of our prayer time. We should also ask God to show us anything that might be wrong between us and anyone. If there is anything, we should do our best to make things right with them as well (Matthew 5:23-24). This assures there is nothing standing in the way of our praying effectively.