What is ‘Effective Fervent Prayer?’ (2) By Babatunde Olugboji
This week, we will conclude the 2-part series on effectual prayer. In the King James Version of the Bible, the book of James talks about fervent prayer: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) The word “fervent” means “having or displaying a passionate intensity, forceful, heartfelt, powerful or wholehearted.
James refers to 1 Kings 17:1, where Elijah told King Ahab that it would not rain “for the next few years.” This was to punish the Israelites for their worship of Baal. After three and a half years of drought, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in a showdown on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:16–40), after which he proclaimed the good news that it would rain.
“So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground, and put his face between his knees. “‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,’ he said. “Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’ “The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’
“So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, “Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.” Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:42–45).
On Mt. Carmel, Elijah declared that it would rain and followed up the declaration with prayer. He prayed for rain seven times. After each prayer, he would send his servant to see if the sky looked like it would rain. When it did not, he would pray again. Finally, after the seventh time, a small cloud was visible, which Elijah interpreted to be the answer to his prayer -and it was.
He had prayed bent down to the ground with his face between his knees. This could be interpreted as an expression of earnest supplication, or fervent prayer.
Taking account of the foregoing, fervency may not be the most pressing issue in prayer, even though certainly, Elijah prayed earnestly. However, the point of James seems to focus more on the efficacy of prayer and the aspect of righteousness and steadfastness in the person praying.
Note the important point that the prayer being referenced was from Elijah, a righteous person. James 5:13 – 18 posits that prayer is important, and that God answers prayer, so we must give it our utmost priority. Elijah was not a super saint, but an ordinary man who was fervent in his prayers.
Dwelling in sin can make our prayer ineffectual. Certainly, earnest prayer is important, and the prayer of faith is essential, but this passage does not seem to indicate that the forcefulness with which one prays determines effectiveness. Rather, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
We should confess our sins and pray, expecting God to answer. Of course, the prayer should not be half-hearted or nonchalant, we should persist in prayer (See Matthew 7:7–8, Luke 11:5–9; 18:1–8) but above all, being righteous before God is the key to an effectual prayer that would avail much.
Have a great week!
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