Does prayer work?
“If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith.” (Charles Spurgeon)
There are many important aspects to the Christian life. But perhaps the most vital is prayer. It is the primary means by which our human spirit truly connects with God the Holy Spirit and brings us into the presence of our heavenly Father. There is a vast resource of providence at the disposal of every Christian believer and it is accessed simply through prayer. “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.” (Charles Spurgeon)
Using the Old Testament prophet Elijah as an example, James the half brother of Jesus writes about the remarkable difference that prayer makes.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 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.” (James 5:16-18)
Prayer spoken in faith is dynamic. It moves mountains and makes light work of the impossible. Individuals, families, nations and the world are transformed by the faithful prayers of ordinary Christian people. All things are possible to the person who takes prayer seriously.
If we want to be a person of prayer, what can we learn from Elijah?
A pious person – “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Elijah was a righteous person. He was not a double minded, double living man. He honoured God and lived right. Unlike king Ahab and many of the leading figures of his day, Elijah was godly. It was his righteous heart and right living that brought about an open heaven over his life. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit and makes prayer difficult and ineffective. Holiness builds a highway right into the throne room of heaven. Our personal integrity has a significant impact on the effectiveness of our prayers. Holiness will never be popular with sinners. But it pleases God. Be a righteous person.
A praying person – “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Elijah was a praying person. He had a prayer life and it proved to be the defining facet of his life and ministry. “A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.” (Robert Murray McCheyne) That was certainly true of Elijah. Are we praying people? Do we have a prayer life? Could someone set their watch by observing our daily prayer time, as they did with Daniel? The world can be changed, our world can be changed, and it can be done by people who pray. Be a praying person.
A powerful person – “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Elijah was a powerful person. Rain ceased and drought came at the word of Elijah. Fire fell from heaven and burned up a drenched altar at the command of the prophet. Sick people were healed, the dead were raised, miracles were performed and the prophetic word of the Lord was proclaimed in the nation. Rulers sought his favour. Elijah was powerful, and all because of his prayer life. How much more in this gospel age is the power of the Holy Spirit available to those who pray? Be a powerful person.
A productive person – “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Elijah was a productive person. He got things done. His effectiveness came directly from prayer. By prayer he effected the weather, the economy, the politics, the morality, and the spiritual health of a nation. The course of Israel’s history was directed by the prayers of this man. Prayer changed things in Elijah’s era, and prayer will change our world today. If we want to be productive and effective in our generation we ought to be people who pray. Be a productive person.
Elijah is long gone. Today it is our turn. The God of Elijah is our God. He still hears and answers prayer when ordinary people pray. “God shapes the world through prayer.” (E. M. Bounds) God transforms the world through praying people. Be a pious person. Be a praying person. Be a powerful person. Be a productive person. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”