James 5:16-18 (KJV) The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
If you haven’t yet, you may want to read the story of how God reminded me to take this scripture seriously by sending supernatural rain inside my house. Lately, it has been on my heart to encourage a fresh wave of believing prayer for the nations, especially for people groups who still don’t have the opportunity to hear the gospel.
I’ve been realizing some of the things that discourage the church from praying with faith for the nations. One of the primary ones is the belief that Christians do not have authority over territorial spirits. I dealt with that one in my book “What Really Causes Needless Casualties Of War.” Many people have read it and so far, nobody has come back and said “I’m not convinced that we have authority over all of Satan’s power.”
Another issue is the worldview that things are inevitably getting worse and the church will fail in its mission. Because of this, many Christians have no vision of God’s purposes for the nations. We will discuss that more in the next few weeks.
Today, I want to talk a little about fervent, effectual prayer. If we feel like not much is happening we won’t pray, so we need to be encouraged if we are going to “persevere in prayer” as scripture tells us to.
How Is “Prayer” Sometimes Different Than We Imagine It In English?
First, what is prayer? Garth Weibe points out that the Greek word used in James (and many other passages) doesn’t necessarily mean “a supplication to God.” It means “to wish/will/vow toward.”
Many have assumed that means “toward God.” But when Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done…” the grammar is imperative. It is not commanding God, but it is a “willing/vowing” towards the current state of things in accordance with God’s will. Fervent, effectual prayer is joining your will to God’s will with force.
As we’ve pointed out before, Elijah’s “prayer of faith” was hardly just asking “God, please do something.” He spoke as a fact contrary to all natural circumstances what God was going to do. And Jesus modeled healing the sick by “willing/vowing toward” the sickness. He did not ask God to remove it, but commanded healing.
This does not mean that “prayer” as in scripture is never “toward God,” only that it is not only toward God.
Discerning What Is Effective
Some people see in the spirit a lot. This is a form of what Paul called “The discerning of spirits.” I have seen in the spirit world before and I would like to more than I do now. But what I have experienced much more often is “feeling.”
And when I saw “feeling,” I don’t only mean emotion. I mean physically feeling spiritual realities. Especially God’s glory. It’s often like a weight, a vibration, or a force field. I have felt it very forcefully at times, as tangible as if you were grabbing my arm.
When I’ve felt it as a powerful vibration, it usually started at my mouth and hands and then spread. Why my mouth? Because what I was speaking fervently triggered it. This experience of discerning the spiritual world has made me much more aware of what our words and our fervency do.
I’ve seen many people healed and/or having experiences like feeling warm oil or angel’s hands touching them when no human was touching them. This has also made me aware of the spiritual realm and what triggers things in the spiritual realm. Fervent, effectual “prayer” triggers something! All of the sudden the air is electric. (And it’s not just me…bystanders sometimes feel it too.)
Peter was in shackles with guards on either side, about to be executed the next day. Acts 12:5 says “While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.” That night, two angels came and broke him out of there. Some time ago I shared a similar modern-day testimony of two captive Christians who were transported to freedom in the same way Peter was when the church prayed fervently.
What Is Fervency?
Think of somebody who is enraged at another person, with a long string of profanity and curses coming out of their mouth…
That is fervency.
Now imagine your heart is so full of God’s goodness and thanksgiving that you bless a person with that same force. Rather than cussing them out, you are speaking God’s blessings and what the Holy Spirit wants to do.
That’s the best way I can describe it. And when you do that with faith, it triggers the supernatural. (Effectual prayer is the unwavering prayer of faith.)
Following is one of my favorite verses when ministering to others. One day God burned this verse in my heart and I spoke it with fervency and force over every person. Now it hasn’t usually been so common for people to fall over or do anything crazy when I pray for them. But people were falling on the floor, weeping, laughing, shaking, and being healed when I spoke this verse.
Romans 15:13 (NRSV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I was not “praying” to God in this case. But I was “wishing/willing/vowing” towards them in fervency in agreement with God’s will. And suddenly the atmosphere was electric.
I have heard a lot more fervency coming out of unbeliever’s mouths cursing people than from Christians blessing them. We would do well to learn fervency.
I just came across an article from Christianity Today called How History’s Revivals Teach Us To Pray. Guess how? Fervently! The author (David R. Thomas) writes “I was confronted with how the Bible appears utterly unfamiliar with casual prayer, prayer of the mouth and not the heart.”
How To Increase Fervency
What we are fervent about is what we really care about. And that is formed by what we meditate on, or think about. And we can control that. The more you focus on an eternal perspective and choose to pray into it, fervency increases.
There are some things that set my heart on fire. Thinking about a powerful scripture does. Testimonies do more than almost anything else. Remembering how God has delivered me and what I’ve seen him do in other people’s lives brings me back to a place of fervency. Memories like seeing God’s power hit a skeptic who flew back through the air and landed on the floor weeping, or of a large tumor disappearing, set my heart on fire.
The testimonies of revival in Argentina and other places also set my heart on fire. Watching Youtube videos of guys like Mark Hemans, John Mellor, or so many others ministering to people ignites a passion in my heart and also reminds me of all I’ve seen God do before. I’m ruined for the ordinary. I absolutely must see an increasing manifestation of God’s glory, more than ever before, and not less.
Music also helps. I put Jesus Culture or Hillsong music on Youtube and I’m often in tears within a few minutes. Does that sound like it’s just “emotionalism?” Well, what does scripture say?
2 Kings 3:14-18 (NRSV) Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, whom I serve, were it not that I have regard for King Jehoshaphat of Judah, I would give you neither a look nor a glance. But get me a musician.” And then, while the musician was playing, the power of the Lord came on him. And he said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will make this wadi full of pools.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall see neither wind nor rain, but the wadi shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your cattle, and your animals.’ This is only a trifle in the sight of the Lord, for he will also hand Moab over to you.
Friends, I hope this post has encouraged you to engage in fervent prayer and see God do wonders! Get a vision for what God can do around you, and then add your fervent, persistent agreement to God’s purposes.
Romans 12:11-12 (NIV) Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.