Keys to Effective Praying
What are the secrets to having an effective prayer life? James 5:17-18 says, “Elijah was a man subject to like passions 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.”
If Elijah could pray that effectively, so can we. An effective prayer life makes a major difference in our lives. It filled Elijah with so much excitement that when he saw just a hint of rain, he outran Ahab all the way to Jezeel, with Ahab in his royal chariot and Elijah on foot. Seeing God miraculously answer our prayers fills us with such anointing, enthusiasm and zeal that we can outrun the best of the enemy’s chariots.
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). And again, “Let it be known, I have done all these things at thy word” (1 Kings 18:36).
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, seeking Him and as we receive word from Him, pray accordingly, we would have much more effective prayers.
Prayer must depend on the Holy Spirit, be made in accordance with (Romans 8:26-27, 1 John 5:14-15) and the goal of seeing God’s will implemented in the affairs of men on earth (Matthew 6:10).
We must pray in the name of the Lord (James 5:14).
There is power in Jesus’ 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). Praying in His name is not simply a blank check that we sign to get whatever we want. Praying in the name of the Lord Jesus means four things:
- We receive power of attorney. If you are given power of attorney over someone’s estate, you are to use the assets for their purposes only. That said, you can use it however you choose. However, there will be a day when you will have to give an account as to how you used the funds. Likewise, there will be an accounting of how we used His name.
- We pray 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).
- We pray in His merit as opposed to our own (Romans 5:1-2, Hebrews 4:16). When we come to Him, praying in His name, we come 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).
- We pray 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 a few things that will help strengthen your faith.
- Be 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). Spending time reading the Bible builds and strengthens our faith.
- Meditate (Psalm 1:2-3 and Joshua 1:8). We need more than a casual reading of scripture. 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). Visualize God doing what you’re praying for and see it as completed. 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 which will also 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). Paul said, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
Be bold when praying (1 Kings 17:1, 18:44).
Elijah was bold in two ways:
- He was confident in his declaration, and in what he believed God was going to do. Then he declared it.
- He was bold in what he prayed for:
- Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain until he said it would (1 Kings 17:1).
- He prayed expecting life to come back into the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:19-22).
- There had been a drought for three and a half years. Elijah dared believe God would make it rain again.
If we are afraid to exercise 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.”
There is a difference between communing and fellowshipping with God and asking God for things to be accomplished for His glory. Elijah needed to see something happen.
He didn’t pray in general, “Lord do something to turn the people around.” He sought the mind of God, asked how He wanted to pray, then prayed exactly the way He said. If we are to pray effectively, we must be specific in what we are praying for.
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 are ever in a really desperate place and need someone’s help, you won’t calmly say to them, “Would you mind helping me for a minute?” No, you’d raise your voice (scream) and say, “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.
Be persistent (1 Kings 17:19-21, 18:41-44).
Whatever you’re praying for you must not loose heart and give up. True faith believes when we have prayed, we have already received what we have asked for (Mark 11:22-24) and goes on to continue to ask and remind God of our request until the answer to our request has materialized.
Scriptural examples of persistence in prayer:
- The widow’s son (1 Kings 17:19-21).
- Elijah praying for rain (1 Kings 18:41-44).
- The Syrophonician woman (Mark 7:24-30).
- Jacob (Genesis 32).
- A friend asking for bread at midnight (Luke 11:5-10).
- The widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).
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). Sin blocks our prayers from being heard and answered (Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalms 66:18). It’s extremely important to understand we have absolutely no righteousness of our own (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23).
The only righteousness we will ever have is imputed 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 any other person. If there is anything, we should do our best to make things right with them as well. This assures there is nothing standing in the way of our praying effectively.
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
If anyone has done us wrong or offended us in anyway, we must forgive them. “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him” (Mark 11:25). “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15).