Sermon notes from 6/14/15 – “How to Pray Effectively”

“HOW TO PRAY EFFECTIVELY”                        James 5:13-20

 INTRO – (video) – Without prayer, we can’t see & understand life clearly. We will, as the video illustrated, wander through life in a spiritual fog, having some sense of what’s going on around us, but not really having the clear & concise spiritual direction & comprehension that comes to those Christ-followers who are serious about their prayer lives.

Last week, we talked about how to know you are saved. One way you can know is if you have a growing, deepening prayer life. Do you have a hunger to be in God’s presence in prayer? Do you long to spend time w/ Him in prayer? Is your prayer life characterized by praise & thanksgiving to God for who He is & all that He has done? Do you immediately & intentionally confess your sins to God? Do you pray for yourself & for others, crying out to God for physical, spiritual, & relational healing? Praying for the salvation of those who are lost? Lifting up those who are grieving, or confused, or hurting, or wandering in spiritual rebellion? Praying for those who are in leadership in the church, the community, & the nation?

As Christ-followers, we need to work on having an effective prayer life! It’s a spiritual discipline that is absolutely necessary for your spiritual growth & maturity. Adrian Rogers, What Every Christian Ought to Know, chapter, “Every Christian Ought to Know How to Pray with Power”: “Praying w/ power! There’s not a more important subject in all the world for a Christian than to learn how to pray. Not only learn HOW to prayer but to pray w/ POWER, to pray in the Spirit, to pray to get prayers answered. As Christians we must realize that nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer expect that which lies outside the will of God. Prayer can do anything God can do, & God can do anything!” Gregory Frizzell, “I want to shout from the housetops that powerful prayer is God’s will for every believer!” (How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life, p. 7)

Would you use the word “powerful” to describe your prayer life? Would you use the word “effective” to describe your prayer life? If your prayer life consists of a blessing that is mumbled before you eat & not much else, I would say that your prayer life is not very effective. If there’s not a deep desire in your heart to spend time w/ the Lord in prayer, then you’re probably not praying w/ power. If you don’t sense the need to confess your sins to the Lord, then your prayer life is going to lack power & will be ineffective.

There’s no doubt that a Christ-follower is to be a person of prayer. Prayer is certainly a high and holy privilege. “To think that, as God’s children, we can come freely and boldly to His throne and share with Him our needs![1]… The mature Christian is prayerful in the troubles of life. Instead of complaining about his situation, he talks to God about it; and God hears and answers his prayers. ‘Taking it to the Lord in prayer’ is certainly a mark of spiritual maturity.[2]

When we look at this passage from James, we see that prayer is mentioned 7 times in these few verses. We are told to pray when we & others are suffering, sick, sinning, & straying. And we are NOT told to just pray half-heartedly, or unbelievingly, or apathetically, or unenthusiastically.

NO! Our prayers should be “offered in faith” (v. 15a). This is when we know the will of God when are praying. 1 John 5:14-15 – “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of him.”

Our prayers should be “powerful,” meaning that they have much strength.

Our prayers should be “effective,” meaning that we work hard at praying & our prayers work!

And, like Elijah (v. 17), we should pray “earnestly,” or “fervently.” This word actually means that we “pray prayers.” We don’t just mouth some religious words, or go through the motions with our heart disconnected. But we get serious & we PRAY PRAYERS! We are persistent & passionate & purposeful as we pray.

So, how do we do this? How do we pray in faith? How do we pray powerful & effective prayers? How do we pray earnestly & fervently? 3 points of focus & 3 practical applications:

Focus UPWARD – If there’s anything that all of us could learn better & live out better in our lives, it’s the truth that the first & foremost focus of our lives should be on God. We need to constantly remember that the Christian life is not about us – It’s all about JESUS! That’s why the writer of Hebrews told us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith.” That’s why Jesus said for us to “seek FIRST the K’dom of God & HIS righteousness.” That’s why Paul said in Col. 3:1-2 to “set our hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” And to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

We MUST change the focus of our lives from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ! So if we want to have powerful & effective prayer lives, we must, first & foremost, focus UPWARD. We do that through:

  • PRAISE – So often, we come to our time of prayer w/ our list in hand, ready to start asking God to do all sorts of things for us. Again, this is a symptom of a self-focus, instead of a God-focus. We MUST spend time in praise. When we spend time in praise in our prayer, we are focusing on God & who He is. We are focusing on His characteristics, His attributes, & His nature. We don’t do that b/c He is some kind of egomaniac that need to be stroked all the time. We do that to remind ourselves who it we are praying to, & how awesome our God is!
  • THANKSGIVING – A little different from praise, in that praise focused on WHO God is, while t’giving focuses on WHAT God has done.
  • SEEKING THE WILL OF GOD – Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy K’dom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” If we are going to be powerful & effective in our prayer lives, we absolutely must focus upward in seeking the will of God. MUST BE IN THE WORD!

Focus INWARD – After we focus upward, we then focus inward.

  • CONFESSION – As we see who God is, see what He’s done, & seek His will, we will then see how far away from God we truly are, how our desperately wicked our hearts are, & how badly we need His grace & forgiveness. Confess your sins to God regularly. Be specific. Name your sins. Own them. Lay them out to God & cry out to Him for forgiveness. “Forgive us our trespasses…”
  • FILLING OF THE SPIRIT – When we sin, we do not lose the Holy Spirit out of our lives. He doesn’t leave us. That would mean we would lose our salvation, which is not possible. But when we sin, we DO grieve & quench the Spirit. We lose the intimacy in our fellowship w/ God. So, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us afresh & anew each day, to occupy every nook & cranny of our entire lives. Eph. 5:18 – “Do not get drunk w/ wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled (be being filled) w/ the Spirit.”
  • PETITION FOR OUR NEEDS

Focus OUTWARD – When we have focused on God & gotten ourselves right before Him (remember – “the prayer of a RIGHTEOUS man is powerful & effective”), we then turn our focus outward.

  • INTERCESSION FOR THE NEEDS OF OTHERS – 2 words in NT for “intercede” & “intercession” – Both mean to gain an audience & to plead for others. When we intercede for others in their times of need, we are gaining an audience before the very throne of God to plead w/ Him on their behalf. WHAT A PRIVILEGE!
  • PRAYING FOR THE LOST –5 billion lost people in the world. 57,000 people w/in a 15-minute driving radius of CWBC. You & I know what happens when a lost person dies in their sin w/out Christ! That knowledge alone should drive us to constantly cry out to God for them to be saved.
    • Young man on front row in Honduras

3 Practical Applications:

  • Be INTENTIONAL – Today, make an intentional decision to become more of a person of prayer. Don’t be satisfied w/ where you are right now. Decide today that you want to have a powerful & effective prayer life & make some intentional steps in that direction.
    • Plan – Time of day (set clock 15 minutes earlier), how you’re going to do it, what do you need? Read some books on prayer – Prayer websites – Study course in prayer (Warfare prayer – College of Prayer next year at CWBC)
    • Place
    • Person – ACCOUNTABILITY!
  • Be PRACTICAL – Goes along w/ being intentional. Decide what you need to develop a powerful & effective prayer life.
    • Bible
    • Journal/Notebook
    • Prayer App on your phone – But be careful that you don’t get distracted by other things on your phone (checking Instagram, FB, Twitter, getting texts in midst of prayer time, etc.). If you’re not able to ignore those things, then don’t take your phone w/ you into your prayer time.
  • Be HABITUAL – STAY WITH IT! If you miss a day, get back after it the next day.
  • “We have only to pray. All things are possible to us. Pray. You have the key in the door of heaven – keep it there & turn it till the gate shall open. Pray, for prayer holds the chain that binds the old dragon. Prayer can hold fast & restrain even Satan himself. Pray. God girds you with omnipotence if you know how to pray. May we not fail here, but may the Spirit of God strengthen us, & to God shall be the glory forever & ever.” (Charles Spurgeon)

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 381). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 381–382). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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About Jon Daniels

Senior Pastor - Country Woods Baptist Church, Byram, MS
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