Effectual Fervent Prayer
James 5: 13-20
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” James 5: 13.
While I know that most of you are already aware of the things mentioned in the next few paragraphs; I would still like to say them for the sake of those starting out in Bible study.
It is likely that the three best translations of the Bible are, the New King James Version by Thomas Nelson Publishing, the King James Version, much harder to read because of the old English wording; and the New American Standard Version, published by the Lockman Foundation.
If you are really serious about these things, it would not hurt to obtain both the New King James and the New American Standard; however, one is enough for now. Any version will do though, if that is all you have on hand, or can afford. You can save yourself a lot of grief by not using the New World Translation, because it is put out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and has been twisted to fit their heretical theology.
Be sure and read the preface at the beginning of your Bible, because it will tell you how to use the various tools in the text; such as marginal notes, columnal references, footnotes, paragraphs, capitalization, and so on. You will be surprised at what you can learn, and I speak to old and new students here. Often, especially in study Bibles, there will be, timelines, maps, concordances, tables of weights and measures; a gold mine of helps. There is another great help that you can pull up right here on your computer screen, www.biblestudytools.com/, there are other sites, but this is a good place to start.
Finally, and I have said this before, while reading Scripture be very careful to watch for commas, semicolons, parenthesis and the like; a missed comma can change the meaning of a whole verse. The Bible can be a good read, a technical book, and a life changing vehicle, but not if one is careless in the reading of it.
As for my Bible and the opening verse quoted above, one of the tools of this version is that paragraphs are denoted by putting the verse number in bold type. Verse 13 above is the beginning of a new paragraph which continues to verse 18, all of which concerns prayer. The next paragraph beginning at verse 19, concerns Christian care for one another.
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” This is the failure of many Christians; when affliction of one sort or another comes along, they try to work something out, or fall into despair, rather than turning to God for help.
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Psalm 50: 15.
Prayer should always be the first resort, not the last; God is not too busy to hear you. In fact prayer should be an integral part of your life, not just an emergency device.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7.
In bringing all things to God in prayer, there comes the realization that these requests are being answered. In fact the answers become so common that we tend to take them for granted; for this reason we are to give thanks for these answered prayers. Not just to show gratitude to God, for who is not pleased when gratitude is shown for whatever they have done for someone, but giving thanks reminds us of the grace shown to us. This reminder of all that God has done for us brings God’s peace into our hearts, seeing that He cares for us always.
When bringing all things to God in prayer, that means everything from “Help, I have the flu, and need to get back to work!” to “Father help me shop for food and get the best prices, and the best produce”, to “Please help me not injure myself while mowing the lawn”, anything. Ask Him to help you to drive your car safely, or to help you get to an appointment on time.
The answers may not be what you expected. The flu may not go away, but work might be slow while you were out, and you were not missed that much. You will still need to stay alert and drive your car as carefully as possible; and you will still need to do your best to leave on time for your appointment, often when prayer is not answered it is because we have not done everything to hold up our end.
Still, it is amazing when you ask God to order your day, and you find traffic light, little or no waiting for appointments, easy parking, and you stumble onto bargains on the things you need. However, you will need to keep your ducks in line; you cannot live your life like some hell-raiser, thinking of God only when you need something, and then asking as though, just because you are His child in Christ, He owes you something. You would not expect to treat your parents that way and get what you want; you can expect no more from God. Too many Christians miss the peace which passes understanding because they are unwilling to submit their lives to God.
“Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” Here is thanksgiving, singing praises to the Lord at home, in church, in your devotional time. These are the things that bring peace.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” James 5: 14-15.
If you are very sick, seek medical attention, but do not neglect to bring the Lord in on it too. One of the ways of doing this is to call for the elders of the church. Some churches do not have elders, so the alternate word for elders in the Amplified New Testament is, spiritual guides, which is a good litmus test for eldership.
So call for recognized men who are godly, humble, knowledgeable in the Scriptures, and loving, to pray for you; you may already know some of these, if not, just call for the elders and let God sort it out.
When it says, “…the prayer of faith will save the sick”, it means that it will save him from death, not hell, the fact that the sick person is already a Christian is implied. In speaking of communion Paul says this, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” I Corinthians 11: 27 and 30. The words, “many sleep” mean they have died. It is possible for a Christian to sin their way into a hospital bed or to death.
“And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” The implication here is that he has confessed and forsaken his sins to God alone or to God in the presence of the elders. This has nothing to do with the extreme unction of the Catholic Church or with confession, neither of which can be found in Scripture.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5: 16.
It seems as though every time I have heard the phrase, “Confess your trespasses to one another…” spoken of, it was taken to mean that we are to confess our weaknesses to one another. “Brother, pray for me, I am getting into an adulterous relationship!” Do not even think of doing that.
Confessing your trespasses to one another depends on the reliability of the person you are telling your darkest secrets to. Many things can go wrong; if they tell one other “reliable” person your secret, it is out; especially if they in turn tell it to a “reliable” person who loves to gossip.
If you confess your secret to a reliable person and then find yourself at odds with them, as things heat up, the first thing that will be vomited up against you will be your darkest secrets. Many Christians have been absolutely broken and become estranged from the church by this kind of vitriol.
If you have a real problem, such as the one given above, and need to discuss it for prayer or advice, then seek out a godly discreet older Christian who has a good reputation for these things; men should go to men and women should go to women. State your problem in the simplest terms without going into titillating details; one person said to me, “Pray for me I have a besetting sin”, that is enough, God knows what I am praying for.
Always be careful, one young man went to his pastor with his dark secret, and the pastor announced it to the entire congregation. It is hard to call this person a pastor when there are much more colorful words to describe him. I met this young man some years later, and he was still a basket case, and still is I reckon. Please be careful.
Okay, if it does not mean the above, what does it mean? This error in interpretation may have begun with the way it is rendered in the old King James Bible, “Confess your faults to one another…” the word faults seems to convey the idea of telling one another our shortcomings, dark secrets, or actual sins.
However the word faults is a poor translation that is why it is properly rendered trespasses in the New King James; the word trespasses here carries the idea of trespasses against one another. Put another way, if we wrong someone, we are to go to that person and confess that wrong to them. What is implied is that we apologize and make any restitution that may be necessary. “John, it was me who stole your book, here is your book, and I sincerely apologize.”
The rule of thumb on apologies is, if it was a public wrong, then a public apology is owed; if, as in the book theft scenario above, it is a private wrong, then a private apology is necessary.
Notice here that there is more in this sentence than confessing our transgressions against another, it continues with, “…and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” According to Thayer’s Lexicon, the idea here is not so much that of being healed of a sickness but rather of making whole, being freed from error or sin.
This is logical because these trespasses, though confessed, can still become a cancer within a relationship, or a congregation. The transgressors need to be prayed for too, in order to cleanse them from such desires that may have caused them to sin against another to begin with. As you might imagine, this intercessory prayer is a full time job on its own, a noble task which God will reward for those who pursue it wholeheartedly; because it does much to maintain the unity of the church.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all; and in you all.” Ephesians 4: 4-6.
James goes on to make the case for prayer. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” One of the reasons that the church and the world are suffering shipwreck today is that Christians have neglected the power of prayer. If Jesus said that mountains can be moved, why is it that His church is so helpless?
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’” Matthew 17: 20.
Well, no mountains have been moved, it is true, but it is because of unbelief. There are several things that affect prayer though and you need to know them to pray intelligently. While Jesus did say this about prayer, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14: 13-14. The condition here is “…that the Father may be glorified” However, there are other conditions which must be met.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15: 7-8.
This passage is part of the Lord’s teaching on the vine and the branches, John 15: 1-8, it would be profitable for you to study the entire passage; if you are interested, check out “Abiding in Christ”, posted September 26,2009. However, for now, it is enough to use the above verse for our purposes. Another condition, and possibly the most important one is that we must abide in Christ if we want power in prayer.
This abiding is no different than abiding with your parents, or spouse; you live there, and hopefully it is a good environment. You socialize with those you abide with, share your problems, ask advice, and so on. Abiding, or living with Christ is no different, you become companions, become like Him, and become sensitive to His leading. In this manner His desires become our desires; which brings us to two more conditions.
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.” I John 5: 14-15.
“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” I John 3: 21-22.
We know that if it is according to His will, He hears us, if we know He hears us, we have the faith to ask, if we ask, He will grant it. How do we know if we are abiding in Christ? If our heart, or conscience, does not condemn us, we have confidence before God, because we have kept His commandments, we can know that there is no sin separating us from Christ and His will is clearly made known to us. What are God’s commandments? There are two.
“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” I John 3: 23.
For the Christian, the first commandment has already been fulfilled, “…believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ”. It is the second commandment on which we fall flat on our face, “…and love one another”.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35.
When the Lord gave the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13, this is the only condition He put on it: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6: 14-15. In a similar vein, when speaking of the unrighteous steward the Lord winds up with this statement, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Matthew 18: 35. Think of that, you must forgive from the heart.
There is one more prayer hindrance that sneaks under the radar. Speaking of the wives, Peter says this about prayer, “Likewise you husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” I Peter 3: 7. There are many husbands whose prayers are not being answered because they do not show the wife proper respect, yet when the rest of their lives are examined they are quite godly, an unnecessary loss of power in prayer.
The words fervent and effective should not be separated, for the word fervent describes the drive behind effective prayer. Fervent because it is the power of the Holy Spirit driving effective, in the will of God, prayer. The righteous man is not just one cleansed by the blood of Christ, as all Christians are, but one walking in the power of a person who abides in Christ at all times. Is it possible to be such a person, or is it something quite out of our reach?
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5: 17-18.
Elijah was not superman, he had a nature like ours, which is a sin nature, one with its cravings of the flesh as ours has, yet he overcame it by the power of God. Hear what the apostle Paul has to say about this.
“…I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 12b-14.
Both Elijah and Paul were men who had their eyes fixed on the prize and pressed toward it, casting worldly riches and fame aside. No matter what your failings or what you have achieved in this life, it is possible to obtain eternal things that you never dreamed possible. But you must focus on Jesus and stretch toward the Kingdom of Heaven.
No matter what you are able to achieve in your Christian life, do not cease to pray, this will strengthen your faith and encourage you to go deeper, even if this all frightens you now. There are many things that we know are God’s will without being super-Christians. Prayer for the unsaved for instance, God is not willing that any should perish, pray for the safety of your family, pray for understanding when reading your Bible, pray for food, shelter, peace, work, a Christian walk. But if you have known sin in your life, do not be disappointed if your prayers hit a stone wall, it does not mean that prayer does not work.
“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5: 19-20.
It is important to understand that the one who wanders from the truth and becomes a sinner in the error of his way is a Christian not an unsaved person. As a result of being a Christian this errant sinner does not need salvation nor is he in peril of going to hell, rather, he is in peril of an early death. If someone comes alongside this sinful Christian and helps him see the error he has fallen into and the sinner repents and turns back to following Christ, then the one who has helped this person has saved them from death and kept them from going on, piling sin upon sin, thus covering a multitude of sins both past and future.
As an example, I have heard that many Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians who somehow become entangled in their heretical teachings and go on to proselytize unsaved persons sending them to a hell that the errant Christian is not going to go to. Such a thing is no different than murder, worse, since the Christian has set the victim on a course to hell. You can see how someone who falls into error can do great damage, and has to be stopped; often the only way to do this is through death.
The book of James spends a great deal of time discussing the worldly Christian, a double-minded man, but beyond that there are many things mentioned which need to be seriously considered by the Christian.
Trials, also known as the testing of your faith, come to us to make us more mature in our Christian walk. In fact this is what the word perfect is intended to mean, mature.
Temptation is different, it comes when we are drawn away by our own desires and enticed. Dwelling on these lusts bring forth sin; the Christian or even an unbeliever can learn how to avoid destroying their lives.
We are exhorted to be doers of the word rather than just listeners. So many people read the Bible and walk away and forget everything they have read, they have learned nothing.
We are to avoid partiality when dealing with people. One person may be rich another may be a star, or a street beggar; God sees them all the same. Right Christian thinking sees them the same way too.
The tongue is an uncontrollable fire, and whether Christian or unbeliever we all destroy, jobs, relationships, and reputations with our tongues. Such a great forest fire is set ablaze by a little match.
Humility, though disdained by men, is highly prized by God.
Wars and fights come from our own selfish lusts which characterize the double-minded man.
Brethren are not to judge one another because in doing so they are setting themselves up as judges and usurping Christ the great Judge, which is sin.
The ungodly rich who grasp and rob have an end and their victims need only wait until God requires it from those who committed such evil deeds. Christ will return and rule this earth with equity.
The Christian is to endure patiently these ungodly men for the Judge is standing at the door.
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
If a Christian wanders from the truth, the godly Christian must attempt to turn them back to save their life.
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” II Chronicles 16: 9.
Effectual Fervent Prayer taken from blog.godisrevealed.com
Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.