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The Amazing Accomplishments of Prayer
James 5:16

by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com

The Bible has much to say about prayer.  There are over 1000 references to prayer throughout the Word of God.  But even with God's emphasis, the average Christian today knows very little about the doctrine of prayer.  We advertise our ignorance by our lack of desire to commune with our God through prayer.

We read in our text, "...the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."  The word "availeth"  means to prevail against or to produce results.  In other words, prayer works!  In this age of prayerlessness and faithlessness, we need to be reminded of the great things that fervent prayer can accomplish.


The psalmist asks the question, "what is man that thou art mindful of him."   Why indeed does the God of the universe take time to care for us?  No matter how much we sin or disregard Him,  He is faithful to care for and watch over us.

In Jeremiah 33:3 God says, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."  Even if our friends, our family, our leaders forsake us, God is there waiting to commune with us through prayer.  It is not just a duty that God must fulfill.  It is the pleasure of God to hear our prayers.

In 1 Chronicles 4:10 we have the prayer of Jabez.  We find that Jabez was "more honourable than his brethren." One reason for this was that Jabez had learned that God was concerned about every facet of his life.  He prayed a bold prayer.  Most of us would feel presumptuous to pray like Jabez did.  "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that  thou wouldest keep me from evil."

Jabez asked for three things:  God's greatness, God's guidance, and God's guarding.  Most of us would be too shy to ask for the greatness of God for our own lives.  But God is concerned with His children's success.   God's measure of success is not the same as the world's, but He wants us to be successful in the Christian life and will equip us.  After all, He answered Jabez's prayer.  "...And God granted him that which he requested."


The gaining of knowledge is very important in our society today.  Our culture puts great emphasis on education.   We spend billions each year to educate our children.  Yet how many people pray for wisdom and understanding?  James 1:5 says "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

We have Bible colleges, seminars, and clinics to teach us the wisdom of scripture, but many of us are not unlocking God's truths.  Could it be that we are not adhering to the plan of God?  Bible study is good, but God says to ask Him for wisdom.  We should begin all of our study with a prayer to God that He will give us His wisdom.  I believe that one reason there is so much disagreement and diversity in the churches is that so many of us do not seek God in our Bible study.


God likens His relationship to us as a father and his children.  In the following verses Christ is teaching us that we are to be as a small child when it comes to our needs.  "...your Father knoweth what things you have need of, before you ask him."  Matt. 6:7  "If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"   Matt. 7:11

No child of a normal home worries about finances, food, clothes, or shelter.  He takes it for granted that his parents will meet his needs.  In other words, he is in a state of rest.  We Christians could take lessons from this example.  We think we are adults.  We have responsibilities.  We have worries.  We also have a Heavenly Father Who would like to take care of these needs, if we will only ask.


The primary prerequisite for revival is a desire for revival.  Most Christians would rather not be bothered with revival; it would change our lives too much.  While the desire for revival might be lacking, the path to revival is simple.  2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

God is more interested in revival than the saints are.  He has made the formula so easy that anyone who wants it can have it.  It is possible to have revival without music and singing, without taking an offering, even without preaching.  But it is impossible to have revival without someone pouring out a burdened heart to God.  The common thread through all revivals down through the ages is prayer.  It was John Knox who prayed, "Give me Scotland else I die."

Prayer is not "a" key to revival, it is "the" key.  In the book of Acts, the disciples gathered in the Upper Room and prayed and tarried.  Pentecost ensued.   Prayer is a constant all through the book of Acts.  It could be that we lack spiritual renewal in our day because of a lack of prayer of God's people.


"If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death."  I John 5:16a  This verse is usually quoted in connection with the "sin unto death."  I consulted with many commentaries on this passage , and almost all of them focus on the last part of the verse, "there is  a sin unto death."

The sin unto death is a doctrine that is much misunderstood.  But I believe that there is an equally great truth to be found in this verse concerning prayer.  God says that if we see a brother sin, we can, through our prayers, restore that brother.  God says that He will "...give him life." A sinning brother already has life, that is, eternal life.  But i believe that this verse is speaking of "quality" of life, or the restored Christian life.

Just preceding our text verse are the words, "if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us."  Verse 16 follows these words and may be the ultimate illustration of this principle.  It is certainly the will of God to restore a sinning brother to fellowship.  I do not believe that God will override the will of any individual, saved or lost.  But this verse teaches that God is so desirous of His people that He allows us to assisting in restoring those who have fallen.


James 5: 14-15 tells us that "the prayer of faith shall save the sick."  I realize that we must tread delicately here.  Many of our pentecostal brethren have used this verse to justify healing lines and so-called "faith healing."  Also, we know that God sometimes gives His people a "thorn in the flesh," and that prayers of healing are not God's will.

But many times our sicknesses do not fall into such a category.  God promises us healing through prayer when it is His will.  We can pray for our own healing or the healing of others.  We can bring in others to pray for us or for our family.  Many modern churches have forsaken this doctrine of "anointing with oil."  But the word of God cannot be outdated.

Dr. Oliver B. Greene, a noted evangelist of the last generation, suffered a massive heart attack some years before he went to be with the Lord.  It was broadcast on his daily radio program that he was near death.  Listeners were asked to pray earnestly for him.  His wife testified that within hours after the broadcast first began to run, Dr. Greene improved dramatically.  His Christian physician testified that he had never seen a heart patient improve so quickly.  Dr. Greene attributed his last years of life to his radio listeners who "prayed him back to life."


Now, wait a minute, you say.  How can prayer hasten Christ's return?  Isn't it true that no man can no the day nor the hour of the second coming?  Yes, this is true.  and I believe that the day of the return is set and only God knows it.  But I believe it is also true that the Bible encourages us to pray for the return of Christ.   "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:20)  In this verse we find John the Disciple praying for the return of Christ.

We are also taught that the spiritual Christian is to be "looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing.." of Christ.  We are also taught that there is a special reward for those who "love his appearing." Also, in 2 Cor. 5:2-4 we find For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house, which is from heaven..." 

It would seem that our desire for the return of Christ hinges on our obedience and faithfulness to God.  I know of many Christians who do not seem to desire the coming of Christ.  They are satisfied with the worldly life they live.  But we are taught that the faithful Christian is desirous of Christi's coming and we have the biblical example of prayer for His coming.

Prayer is the privilege of every Christian.  Prayer is the one divine gift that is portioned our equally among every Christian.  the amount of time we spend in prayer determines our usefulness in the ministry.  Many of God's servants depend on their intellect, their oratory skills, or their personalities to accomplish the work of God.  Those ministers probably do not see a great need to spend more time in prayer. 

But those who realize that all blessings and accomplishments come from the hand of God Himself, will see their need to commune and pray to the One who can make their work and ministry successful.  May we all draw closer to our God in prayer to Him.


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