What is ‘Effective Fervent Prayer?’ (1) By Babatunde Olugboji
One of our most powerful tools as a follower of Christ is prayer. It is the most direct way of communicating with God, to appreciate him, to present petitions before him, or just to bask in his presence. The importance of prayer is so clear in the Bible, from the Old and the New Testaments, with examples from Moses to Elijah to Jesus, to Paul and several others. Before and after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, several Bible characters prayed passionately, intensely, and sincerely.
In the King James Version of the Bible, the book of James has a word to describe this kind of prayer: fervent: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Fervent means “having or displaying a passionate intensity, forceful, heartfelt, powerful, or wholehearted; in its archaic use, it means “hot, burning, or glowing.” The verse, as translated in the King James Version, seems to indicate that a passionate, wholehearted prayer will accomplish much, implying that a half-hearted prayer will not be as effective.
Essentially, to do something fervently is to do it with passion, and an older use of the word was to do something like a burning fire. To pray fervently is to pray with intensity, fueled by the Holy Spirit. It can be any kind of prayer. Someone can be intensely thankful, deeply in need, or embroiled in spiritual warfare. The prayer can be outward, and often fervent prayer does manifest itself physically in movement, words, and sometimes tears.
Most modern versions translate James 5:16 differently, so that the fervency or forcefulness applies to the outcome of the prayer, not the earnestness of the prayer: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (ESV); “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV); “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (NASB) These translations simply say that prayer is powerful, without differentiating between “fervent” prayer and some other kind.
The context can also help shed light on the intended meaning of a fervent prayer. The immediate context speaks of praying for healing and says that the “prayer of faith” (prayer offered in faith) will be answered. The first part of James 5:16 says that we should confess our sins to each other and pray for each other to be healed. The second part of the verse seems to summarize the thought. Then verses 17–18 give an example of the kind of prayer that is encouraged. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
Have a great week!
Kingdom Dynamics, a weekly column written by Dr. Babatunde Olugboji, the President, Kingdom House, a non-profit organization in New Jersey, USA.
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