What is effectual fervent prayer?

by Mike Ratliff

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16 (NASB) 

16 ἐξομολογεῖσθε οὖν ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων ὅπως ἰαθῆτε. Πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη. James 5:16 (NA28)

16 Confess, therefore, to one another your sins and pray on behalf of one another so that you may be cured. The petition of a righteous man, being effective, has great power.  James 5:16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

I have received many requests through many different channels from brethren who desire to know how to stand firm in these last, dark, and evil days. My reply is that we must pray for ourselves and each other for God to mature us, to give us the ability to stand, to give us wisdom, discernment, personal holiness, Christlikness and as He does this that he gives us boldness to stand in obedience. The issue is that many are confused about prayer. The “Name it and Claim it” heresy has corrupted the view of prayer for many. While that is in no-way Biblical and Satan has used it to keep many of us from praying as we should, we are given all sorts of examples in scripture of how to pray and why to pray. In this post we will look at James’ encouragement to us to pray and why.

Here is the whole context of the passage I placed at the top of this post.

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:13-20 (NASB) 

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.” My translation of that is, “The petition of a righteous man, being effective, has great power..” 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 better way to translate v16b could be, “The God-energized prayer of the righteous is strong.”

I don’t know what is going on in your walk right now, but if it is anything like mine then God is putting you in test after test after test. Are you going to stand firm or are you going to stay silent and let your church leaders continue to soften the truth or present extra-Biblical teaching as if it is from God? If you attempt to be firm what happens when many attempt to shout you down our silence you because your stance “rocks the boat” so-to-speak? To do things God’s way requires a solid walk with God and that requires a solid prayer life. Are you spending time with him in effective fervent prayer laying out before Him your needs (not your wants) and praying for the wisdom, discernment, personal holiness, Christlikness and boldness that is required to obey him no matter how fiery the trial? That is what it takes.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “What is effectual fervent prayer?

  1. I find that men have the harder time with prayer, either effectual or not. And it is rare to find fervent prayer. Satan’s attacks are especially strong on this front. I recently heard a good pastor say that God really doesn’t learn anything about us or our situation from our prayers. He already has that covered, even if we don’t know the right words to use. How true! I would say to be effective our prayers need to be rooted in his Word so we understand his will and as the Lord’s Prayer model says we are opening our hearts that his will will be done here on Earth as well as in heaven. But we will only know his will and direction if we study the Bible intensely.


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