What do we mean when we speak of "praying?" What picture is conjured up within your mind? Is it a child kneeling by a bed, hands clasped, head bowed, eyes closed, reciting, "Now a lay me down to sleep...?" Perhaps it's a scene of a family holding hands around the dinner table, quickly praying before partaking of a meal together. Maybe your thoughts take you to people standing together in prayer after a church service...or to the last time you prayed with a "laundry list" of prayer requests you've been given from one source or another.
The point is, we probably all have different ideas and opinions about what prayer is, and what it is supposed to be. Allow me to ask you a few questions about prayer. Your opinions about prayer could have a significant effect upon your life...upon your fruitfulness in God's kingdom...and, ultimately, upon the glory God receives in our midst?
Why pray? What are we trying to accomplish when we pray, if anything? Does it matter what our "goal" is, when we pray? Could we be more, or less, FRUITFUL...more or less EFFECTIVE, more or less FULFILLED, more or less POWERFUL, more or less PEACEFUL, depending upon how we pray? DOES IT MATTER "HOW" WE PRAY? Or, as many believers apparently think, is it just important that we DO it, no matter HOW? And, most importantly, does the Word of God reveal any answers to these questions?
First, let's determine what prayer is NOT...
In truth, prayer is NOT the exercise of our sincere desire for God to do something. Nor is prayer our well-intentioned, well-practiced skill, aimed at CONVINCING God to do want we want Him to do. Sadly, most prayer we hear around us today is offered precisely in that way. Although we are encourage to "ASK," and "SEEK," in prayer, we are not invited to "beg until God has acquiesced."
Instead, we are directed to ask, believing! (Mt 21:22) And, what we are believing, in prayer, is that God will do what He has spoken and promised...not that He will do whatever we want. There is a world of difference between praying, "God I want a job," and, sincerely praying in faith, "Father, I'm sincerely trusting You as my provider, and the One who faithfully opens the door before me, as You've promised." (Is 22:22) There's a huge, night-and-day difference in the results of the, "I hope so" prayer, and the, "As You have spoken, Father, so be it" prayer of faith!
James, in his epistle (Ja 5:14-18), wrote specifically that when we are sick, NOT JUST ANY PRAYER will do. This is very important! However, we continue, for whatever reason, to pray in other ways for those among us who are sick. And, I think it's safe to assume that the "principles" James goes on to reveals in that passage are true for us in many other circumstances, as well...whether we're seeking revival in a family, a ministry, or a city, or we're seeking a breakthrough in our finances, or in marital problems, etc..
God, through James, did NOT say that it didn't matter how we prayed, as long as we just prayed. He didn't write that it was "alright" for us to just beg God for our healing, as long as we are sincere. "God, PLEASE heal me!"
Instead, James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, instructed us to seek the elders in the Body of Christ (assuming that they are "spiritual, biblical elders," anointed, mature in the Lord and in His Word, and empowered by the Holy Spirit), to anoint us in the name of Jesus, and pray "the prayer of faith." James goes on describe "the prayer of faith" this way:
"...pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.",
So, there it is, spelled out for us. What way should we pray? We're to pray "THE PRAYER OF FAITH." And, just what is "the prayer of faith?" According to James, it's the FERVENT prayer, prayed in GENUINE FAITH. Such a prayer is EFFECTIVE! It avails much! It gets the job done!
But, sadly, many will "disqualify" themselves right here (listening to the devil's condemnation, and the religious Pharisees in our midst), saying, "But, I'm not righteous! I'm trying, but I'm not there yet. I mustn't pray like that." Such MISUNDERSTAND "BIBLICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS." Listen to the life-changing, true, spiritual "revelation" of what the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of Romans, verses 16-17:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ...for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'"
So, the Word of God says that true righteousness is lived-out in those who walk and pray IN FAITH...trusting God to do what He has promised! Therefore, in Romans 10:6, Paul calls it "THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH." In another place, Paul reveals that true spiritual righteousness is a GIFT. It's the FRUIT of faith...the result of a trusting relationship with God. In fact, Paul describes it exactly this way in the fifth chapter of Romans, verse 17:
"For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."
Did you notice that Paul points out that those that operate in THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS will be able to "reign in life?" Those who do not understand this truth, and seek righteousness any other way, no matter how diligently and sincerely, CANNOT reign over the darkness in their lives, because condemnation will keep them from operating in James' "prayer of faith".
In other words, when we pray in genuine faith (the faith that Romans 10:17 reveals comes from believing the Word), then we are right with God, and moving in agreement with God Word. When we pray in faith, we are "one" with Him, and "one" with HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS (not our own)!
So, according to James, what does this "mountain-moving," PRAYER OF FAITH (which manifests miracles, look like? Is it just "pie in the sky" theory, to be ignored as impratical in the day to day? What does the prayer that God wants us praying resemble, and what kind of "pray-ers" are we normally to be? It's not radical! Spiritually, it is the NEW NORMAL!
Well, with the same requirement we put upon every good preacher these days, God knew we would also require of Him a perfect illustration here, so we could really "grasp" exactly what kind of pray-ers God's wanting us to become. So, the passage from James, chapter 5, continues with God's illustration, God's example, so that there would be no misunderstanding. Here's what our PRAYER OF FAITH looks like:
"Elijah was a man with a nature like ours (don't miss that preface...Elijah was just like you and me...he is offered by God as an example of what WE should actually be doing...in other words, we have no excuse), and he prayed earnestly (his prayers of faith) that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again (the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man), and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:17-18)
I want to hang-out with people who really believe that what God as shown here is possible for His people to do. It is attainable. Let's DO these verses. Let's live them. In my opinion, God is saying that we are setting the faith-bar way toooo low. God wants you and I to change our "expectations" in prayer...to STOP MAKING EXCUSES for our unbelief...to stop automatically dismissing ourselves from walking and praying "supernaturally," and aim at a NEW NORMAL!!
So, let's define prayer. Prayer is a process wherein we reconcile who we are (and what we seek), to God, through Christ, by His grace, and for His glory.
Here's the "expanded version" of that statement. Effective, fruitful, and successful prayer is a God-ordained, God blessed, and God directed process wherein we...
-RECONCILE ourselves (who we are, how we think, what we say, what we want, what we do, and how we do it),
-THROUGH our genuine, truth-centered, faith-based relationship with the resurrected, victorious Savior, Jesus Christ,
-TO our faithful, loving, mercy, mighty, holy God (who He is, how He thinks, what He says, what He wants, what He does, and how He does it).
And, in the process of prayer..
-we humbly "ALIGN" ourselves, in ONENESS, with God's supernatural Presence, purpose, power, and peace, and
-with His help, we get a hold of God's will and Word, in our hearts, and in our prayer confession, and
-we do the "work of faith," believing, confessing, receiving, and doing, as He leads, by His Spirit.
"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!"