The Secrets To Effective Prayers

Confess your faults one to another,
and pray one for another, that you
may be healed. The effectual fervent
prayer of a righteous man avails much.
(James 5:16)

How effective are your prayers? Do you feel like you are truly communicating with God, or are your prayers merely a long list of what you want Him to do? Do you seek His will, or just give Him your requests? Do you expectantly wait for God's answer to your prayers, or merely hope that He heard you? Do you take time to listen to God, as well as speak to Him? And speaking of time, just how much time do you spend in prayer each day?

Far too often our prayers are just a quick thanks for our meals, or a few whispered requests as we fall into our beds, worn out from the demands of our busy days. We barely spend time to talk to God, much less listen. Far too often, Christians feel like their prayers are just “hitting the ceiling”, and going no further. We often hope that God is listening, but have no real confidence that He has heard us and will act upon our prayer. On the other hand, many people seem to view God as some great cosmic Santa Claus, just waiting to grant their every request. This view of prayer, while certainly appealing, is simply not Biblical.

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” So how do we become powerful prayer warriors, whose prayers get results? What does confessing our faults to one another have to do with the effectiveness of our prayers? And if we aren't sick, what do we need healing for?

For our prayers to be effective, we must first confess our faults to one another. The word "faults" is not the same as any of the words for "sin"; our faults may lead us to sin, but even the thoughts and attitudes themselves are wrong. All sin begins with wrong thoughts, and wrong attitudes. Those who have done injury, and those who are injured, should pray for each other. There are always two sides to any story, so we are told to confess our part to whomever we may have wronged. They should also confess their part to us, and we should each pray for the other. Even if the other person does not cooperate, that doesn't relieve us of doing our part.

Repentance, confession and prayer are the conditions of forgiveness. They heal us of the results of our wrongfulness. Things like anger, bitterness, resentment, a desire to get even, even hatred can be the result of not confessing these things to the person we have been at odds with. If we want to be able to pray powerfully and see results, we have to confess to anyone we have been at fault with. Jesus taught this same principal when He said:

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there remember that your brother
has anything against you; Leave your
gift before the altar, and go your way; first
be reconciled to your brother, and then
come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)

And when you stand praying, forgive, if ye
have anything against any: so that your
Father also which is in heaven may forgive
you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive,
neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive
your trespasses. (Mark 11:25-26)

Notice that it goes both ways. Jesus said if we have anything against anyone, or if we are aware that someone has something aainst us. Either way, we need to humble ourselves, confess our part in it and be reconciled. Too often we wait for the other person to apologize first, thinking "I will if he will, but if he doesn't, why should I?" Or "I'm not the one who was wrong; he wronged me, so why should I apologize?" Sound familiar?

So why should we be the one to humble ourselves and go apologize, even if they started it? Why should we forgive, even if they aren't sorry? It's for our own benefit that we should forgive, and ask for forgiveness. Jesus couldn't have said it any plainer:

So that your Father also which is in heaven
may forgive YOU your trespasses. But if you
do not forgive, neither will your Father who is
in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:26)

Our key verse says that it is the prayer of a righteous person that gets results. Not self-righteous, thinking we deserve to have our prayers answered. True righteousness is not of anything we do or don't do, for the Bible also says our own righteousness is like filthy rags in God's eyes. (Isaiah 64:6) No, our righteousness is found in Christ alone. He became our sin, that we could become righteous. (II Corinthians 5:21) If we are not born again into the family of God, we cannot expect our prayers to be very very effective. Even when we have been born again and have put on Christ's righteousness, if we have unconfessed sin in our hearts, (like holding a grudge against someone who has wronged us!) Scripture tells us that God will hide His face from us, and will not hear our prayers. (Psalm 66:18)

Sometimes the reason we don't have results is because we simply fail to ask, or if we do ask, we ask amiss, for the wrong thing or for the wrong reasons. (James 4:2-3) For our prayers to be effectual, we must ask, and ask with the right motives and intentions. Our prayers must be intense and fervent, and prayed in faith, not wavering. (James 1:6-8) We must pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, (Eph. 6:18) because being a part of the Trinity, He knows the mind of God, and intercedes between us and God. Without knowing the mind of God, we can't know how to pray according to His will in every situation. (Rom. 8:26-27)

We should have a time we set aside each day to spend time in fellowship and prayer with God. How much time we spend is a measure of our relationship with God. Our time is far more valuable to Him than our money, and is what God desires most. We cannot have a good relationship with anyone if we do not spend time with them, and God is no exception. Our time spent reading and studying His word helps us to discern His will, learn His ways, and mature spiritually, so that we can pray according to His will, not our own.

One of the most effective ways to pray is to pray Scripture back to God. For instance, we may pray for salvation for a lost loved one, telling God, “I know Your Word says that You are not willing for any to perish, Lord, so please turn their heart toward You and save them.” (II Peter 3:9) When we pray Scripture back to God, we can rest assured that we are praying His will.

A great way to judge the effectiveness of our prayers are is to keep a prayer journal. Write down the things you have prayed about. Go back frequently to note God's answer. Also go back as often as necessary to remind yourself of all that God has done in the past, and assure yourself of His future answers. And don't forget to thank Him for answered prayers! I wonder how many people get their prayers ansered, then don't take the time to thank God? Remember the ten lepers who were miraculously healed, yet only one of them bothered to give thanks and glorify God. Are we ever guilty of not giving thanks to God for an answered prayer?

We have to be deliberate in order to become prayer warriors; it is not going to just happen without deliberate effort on our part. King David told the leaders of Israel,

Now set your heart and your soul to seek
the LORD your God”. (1 Chronicles 22:19)

To be effective, prayer can't be a haphazard or occasional effort; we have to set our hearts and souls to seek the Lord. It has to become a humble, heartfelt, habitual two-way communication with our Heavenly Father. When it is, then we can be assured that God has heard our prayers, and can eagerly and expectantly await His answer!

And 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,
whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the
requests that we desired of Him. (I John 5:14-15)

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