Who Can Have Effectual Prayers?
The righteous are not people who are better than others. Except as God looks on them in favour, they have nothing. It was so with Elijah, Moses, and Paul, as we have seen. Effectual fervent prayer, therefore, is a gift and it always will be a gift – even for the righteous. What a comfort this is for those who have no power in themselves! The word righteous certainly does not refer to a quality of man. The righteous are those who are clothed with grace. Therefore no one is too weak to too unworthy to lay his need or the needs of others before God. Only the opposite is true.
It is therefore wrong to say, ‘That is only for an Elijah.’ When James points to the effectiveness of prayer, he doesn’t limit this to Elijahs; he takes that great Elijah as an example and adds that he was an ordinary man, ‘subject to like passions as we are.’
It is of utmost importance that we don’t think God is too small to meet our needs. It is possible to expect too little from God, but never too much. The sins of unbelief, of mistrust, and of seeking help outside of God make prayer ineffectual. All things are possible for those who believe.
What About My Lack of Faith?
Is it then true that it is our lack of faith that keeps us from being healed when we are sick? Here the questions begin to multiply. One could possibly come to the fearful conclusion: ‘If I could pray effectually I wouldn’t be laid up with this sickness and I wouldn’t have to carry this cross.’ But don’t forget that there are more and greater things to be looked for. One man, seriously ill in a hospital, had something better and greater than healing to pray for. His only request was that the Lord might be glorified by his cross. He greatly desired to be healed, but he had an even greater desire to have the Lord as his portion forever. His prayer was answered. A miracle took place, not physically, but spiritually. His was an effectual prayer.
Be still then if you notice that your prayers for the removal or obtaining of a matter do not find acceptance. It is a sign that the Lord intends to lead you in a different way. But that shouldn’t stop you from praying; a prayer for strength may be an equally effectual prayer. It is not so important that we suffer, but how we suffer. The results of such an effectual fervent prayer are better and greater than the removal of a cross. Isn’t prayer effectual when the Lord gives grace in suffering? Isn’t it an effectual prayer when one keeps standing in the midst of temptations against the onslaught of many enemies?
Effectual prayer doesn’t have to be accompanied by outward power. It often bears fruit in secret. And aren’t there many secret temptations and needs for which we need effectual prayer? Nothing is too insignificant to be worthy of effectual fervent prayer. Such prayer need not go beyond ordinary everyday matters. Is anything too insignificant for the Lord? God is glorified by the small and the weak.
Lowering our Aim
Maybe the reason we lack much effectual fervent prayer is that we aim too high. We seek the special, the extraordinary, the sensational. We think that we have to increase, whereas we should decrease. The church has to realize that the kingdom of God is more than outward signs. Seen in this light, the smallest token of God’s grace in answer to a sinner’s prayer becomes as great as the miracle of rain from heaven for which Elijah prayed at Carmel. As we learn to live by the miracle of grace, prayer will avail much, and we will know that there is no greater power on earth than the power of effectual fervent prayer, for it is laying hold on the power of God.
Taken from Frans Bakker’s Praying Always (pp. 68-70). Headings have been added.