Effectual Fervent Prayer

by Mike Ratliff

ἐξομολογεῖσθε οὖν ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων ὅπως ἰαθῆτε. Πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη. (James 5:16 NA27)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray on behalf of one another so that you may be cured. The petition of the righteous, being effective, has great power. (a personal translation of James 5:16 from the NA27 Greek text)

While I took some time off over the Memorial Day holiday to be with family, I received some very disturbing news vial email from two separate sources. I am not prepared to address either, but I will as God enables me to do so. The first has to do with claims by a group that we collectively refer to as “New Agers” based upon a new video that some of them have released claiming that mankind and the Earth are preparing for the next stage or step in the evolutionary process. Here is the link to their website. If you watch their videos or read anything there, please do so prayerfully. The second set of “disturbing news” was the reappearing of the John Piper/Rick Warren Interview. I really haven’t a lot of time to go over it, but I have received emails from some of you wanting me to Biblically address some of what these men say. I did look at a few of comments and was not surprised at the usual automatic defenders of John Piper and/or Rick Warren who have NO CLUE what true Reformed Theology is say absolutely idiotic things in order to smoke screen what is going on there. Again, I will address this as God enables me to do so. 

Notice that my ability to do these “works” of apologetics or theology or whatever are within a very specific framework. It must be for God’s glory alone and for the edification of the Body of Christ. I can only do these things if it is God’s will for me to them and as my will to do them is lined up with His in this regard. Out side of this framework, it would be like chasing after the wind. It would be me motivated according to the ways of the world with the flesh in view, would not bring glory to God, and would only cause confusion and who needs that? Therefore, before I would tackle either of those, what must I do?

In the passage at the top of this post is a very familiar verse. Here is how the ESV renders it.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16 ESV)

Isn’t it obvious that we often quote the last part of the verse while ignoring the context? Here is the whole context.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:13-20 ESV)

So, the context is talking about “the prayer of faith,” however, that last part of v16 has caused much confusion. Does it mean to just pray hard? We already know that proper prayer is used by God to line up our will with His so that cannot be the right interpretation. Here is the Greek for the v16b, “Πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη.” Literally, word-for-word, this says, “Has great power the petition of a righteous man being effective.” The first word is the adjective πολὺ, which is the Accusative, Singular of πολύς or polus, which, in this context, “has great” is a very good translation. Next, we have the verb ἰσχύει, which is the Present tense, Indicative mood, Active voice form of ἰσχύω or ischuō, “to have or exercise force.” Next, we have the noun δέησις or deēsis, “a petition: – prayer, request, supplication. Next, we have the adjective δικαίου, which is the Genitive, Singular of δίκαιος or dikaios. The noun this adjective is defining is, of course, δέησις. So James is referring to the prayer of the righteous. The word “man” is often added because the gender is masculine. The last word in this very important statement about our prayer is the participle ἐνεργουμένη, which is the Present tense, and Middle voice form of ἐνεργέω or energeō, “to be at work, to effect something.” We get our English words such as energy and energize from ἐνεργέω. In its noun form, ἐνέργεια or energeia means, “energy, active power, operation.” In its use in the Septuagint as well as in the New Testament, it is used almost exclusively for the work of divine or demonic powers ( for example: Ephesians 1:19; 2:2).

What is James telling us then here in this passage on prayer? He is not telling us that we accomplish much by our own energy in prayer, but rather that our prayers are strong because they are energized by God. Therefore, a good way to translate v16b could be, “The God-energized prayer of the righteous is strong.”

I shall pray for God to guide and enable me in how I am or even if I should address those things above. No matter how wicked the world gets or how unbiblical things get in the visible church, God is still Sovereign and those who are His are the Righteous and their prayers, as they pray according to His will are powerful indeed. Shouldn’t that be what we should be aiming for my brethren?

Soli Deo Gloria!

14 thoughts on “Effectual Fervent Prayer

  1. Mike, I was much blessed , reading this!
    Once I read that all true prayer originates with God! The often check in the spirit when praying for my own perceived needs or the prayer requests of others, and the leading to pray on a completely different tack…these have shown me how careful I must be to walk in the Spirit… and also not to be importunate at the wrong time.

  2. Bottom line is it doesn’t really matter what Rick Warren and John Piper spoke during the interview. Rick warren says whatever he needs to say to please the audience he’s addressing (if they are muslims he has a message tailored to muslims, if they are reformed another message and so forth). The reality is that Rick Warren does not trust word and sacrament to produce the fruit of the spirit, in essence his church does not rely on God’s instituted methods for spiritual growth in the church. Instead a myriad of human techniques (that include secular psychology, church growth technology and new age thinking) are employed to grow the church as well as produce spiritual growth in the congregation. These methods are simply not biblical, and do not rely on God’s word to both grow the church and produce spiritual growth in the congregation.

    Talk is cheap, it’s really irrelevant what Warren said to Piper on the interview. I need to see actions before I can take Rick Warren seriously.

  3. How right Mike, just the other day i was saying to some people unless God draws me to prayer, i am empty and in the flesh. I have seen the difference in my life when i have prayed in my own strength and that of when as you say energized by God. Actually, thats now one of my main prayers of late “please God draw me to pray, give me the words and be the power in my prayer!” Again Glory to God because it is all of him and from him!

  4. Rick Warren may be the most dangerous man in the visible church since he has the resources and influence necessary to affect millions. And when men like Piper lend their stamp of approval then his influence permeates camps that were unavailable to Warren. Sad.

  5. Yes, wise words… well said Mike in the light of scripture! Thank you for continuing to defend the faith through this medium of the internet! You and your family continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.
    A sister in Christ

  6. Good Mike!
    Now you see why I sent you those 2 links to enemy websites as well. We must lift our heads out of our study just long enough to see what the enemy is doing. Be of good cheer, our Lord is victorious and we too are through Him. Tribulation is the wrath of Satan, and used for our purification as the bride to make us ready! So much of what is taught as biblical truth is Satan’s attempt to put the Church to sleep. Both wise, and foolish virgins are pictured as asleep! Behold our Bride Groom commeth! Whether be go by way of the grave, martyrdom, or perservere to the end and are raptured, WE WIN! Oh death, where is thy sting?!?!

  7. That was well said in a very good economy of words Bill. There are many of us who are victims of PDC takeovers of our churches and have been ousted or forced out or simply told by the leadership that we were not welcome anymore unless we submitted to the authority of the pastor when it came to the PDC stuff, no questions asked. You can include that in what is unbiblical. Why did we even raise questions at all? It was the departure from God’s Word and the migration to the ways of the world, et cetera. You are right. Talk in cheap. What is totally amazing to me is how Rick Warren simply will not go away. I am convinced that this whole interview thing is engineered to resurrect his image somehow.

  8. Dear Mike,

    Prayer always leads me to the Word.

    “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man come, will He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:3-8

    “And he said, ‘Then I beg you father, that you send him to my father’s house- for I have 5 brothers – in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:27-31

    “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and then the end will come.” Matthew 24: 12-14

    May God grant you spiritual wisdom.
    In Christ alone, charisse

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