Updated: Nov 1, 2018
"The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective" James 5:16.
Would you describe your prayer life as powerful?
Not many of us would. Yet we believe in the power of prayer and we desperately want our prayers to be "powerful and effective." What gives?
"Much of our modern prayer has no power in it because there is no heart in it. We rush into God's presence, run through a string of petitions, jump up and go out... if we put so little heart into our prayers, we cannot expect God to put much heart into answering them." (Torrey, How to Pray)
I'm working on putting heart into my prayer time and it's harder than you might think.
I realized recently that sometimes I don't even really give thought to the fact that God is listening to me. I just go on and on not ever acknowledging that God is bending over, cupping His ear, and leaning in to hear me. When I think of our conversation like that—with God right there next to me—I begin to palpably sense His presence and it changes the whole dynamic. I begin with "come Holy Spirit," and wait until I feel Him show up. I know He's right there, always has been, but I need to be re-oriented. I need to experience His presence. It's a way of reminding myself that this is a two way conversation, I'm not just rambling into thin air.
Prayer is a way of our soul "stretching out to God" (Torrey). When we're told to "pray without ceasing" the Greek literally means "stretched-out-ed-ly." It's the word used of Jesus when he literally sweat blood in prayer. If that isn't putting your whole heart into it, I'm not sure what is. Prayer becomes powerful when we stretch our souls to God.
This isn't some spiritual frenzy we can work ourselves into. Only the Holy Spirit can usher us into the presence of God and allow us to pray in His will: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groan that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" (Romans 8:26-27).
And if we're praying in the will of God, through the Spirit, we know our prayers will be powerful and effective. "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" (I John 5:14-15).
This praying in the Spirit takes practice and perseverance. Just as the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, we ask the Holy Spirit to teach us. "When we pray in the Spirit, we will pray for the right things in the right way. There will be joy and power in our prayer" (Torrey).
When all is said and done, praying with power requires praying with faith. Faith that He hears us. Faith that He answers us. Faith that our prayers prevail.
"Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" Mark 11:24.