Effective Prayer

What man cannot do in eternity, God can do in an instant, and He does it in response to our prayers. Thomas Chalmers said, “Prayer does not enable us to do a greater work for God. Prayer is a greater work for God.” Samuel demonstrated this principle when he said, “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes” (1 Samuel 12:16). God didn’t move until “Samuel called upon the Lord” (vs. 18). James said, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (5:16-18). Both Samuel and Elijah were righteous, and that is why they were effective in prayer, but in every other way they were no different from us.

We will never be effective in prayer if we go to God in emergencies and then return to managing our own lives when the crisis passes. That would make prayer a fourth down punting situation instead of a first down huddle. It is not appropriate to ask God to bless our plans. We humbly ask God to reveal His plans. God is capable of doing anything that is consistent with His nature. The question is, will He? We may never know unless we ask. Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of God’s willingness. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Our prayers will always be effective if our petitions and intercessions are in agreement with the Word of God.

Paul instructed us to be alert and pray in the Spirit for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer is part of our divine protection as believers. We need to respond immediately in prayer to the Spirit’s prompting and to the requests of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In addition Paul says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Samuel considered it a sin against God not to pray for others (vs. 23). However, we can only ask the Lord to do through others what we are willing for the Lord to do through us. Only to the degree that we have been tested and found approved can we request on behalf of others. Neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit can intercede through us on a higher level than that which they have first had victory in us. Christ is the perfect intercessor, because He took the place of each one prayed for.

Dr. Neil

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