“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Nothing in the believer’s life is more important than prayer. There are more than 500 references to prayer in Bible. Prayer changes things, and nothing is changed without prayer.
E. M. Bounds (1835-1913) wrote several books on prayer. In his book, The Weapon of Prayer, he wrote: “Prayer lays hold upon God and influences Him to work. This is the meaning of prayer as it concerns God. This is the doctrine of prayer, or else there is nothing whatever in prayer. Prayer puts God to work in all things prayed for. While man in his weakness and poverty waits, trusts, and prays, God undertakes the work”.
In his epistle, James tells us that, “. . . The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)
While prayer is a great privilege and has great influence on God and is a source of wonderful peace of mind, to be effective, prayer does come with some prerequisites.
First, in order receive peace from God we must have peace with God. This only comes through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)
As Jesus plainly declared, access to God, the Father comes only through Him. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) This is one of the most straightforward statements in the Bible. It would be difficult to misinterpret or misapply it. In fact, Jesus, as our High Priest, joins our prayers, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) So, access to God and effectual prayer begins with “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Acts 20:21)
Righteousness cannot be earned it is attained also through faith in Christ as the Apostle Paul declared; “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:9) In fact, prayer, itself, is dependent on faith, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Another prerequisite to answered prayer is confession of sin. David stated in Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” And Solomon wrote in Proverbs 28:13, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
So then, effective prayer must be offered in faith, through Jesus Christ, with a clean heart, with thanksgiving, Psalm 107:8 “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
We see then that prayer offered frivolously, or through mindless repetition of some memorized prayers have no effect on God.
Effectual prayer is hard work, and often emotionally draining. However, the peace, calm, and joy that floods our heart and the confidence that God is working on our behalf as a result is well-worth the effort.
Roy Delia is pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church, Ontario. He can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The Argus Observer weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.