There are three things that affect our perseverance that define true success, guarantee lasting prosperity and sharpen our prayer life: our values, our fears and our convictions. These are the determining aspects of our walk with God.
Respectively, this presents three matters that we must answer personally to God: who do we really love? Who do we really fear? In whom do we really believe? Certainly, the answer to these questions, explains a lot about the level of effectiveness of our prayer life.
“I fought the good fight” – changing our values
The first aspect of perseverance is our values: What do we love? Where is our heart?
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
If there is a “good” fight, there must also be a “bad” fight. This conflict between the good and the bad fight is the collateral effect of our values. Perseverance loses its meaning when our values have been corrupted.
Who do we truly love, God or Mammon? Where is our treasure? We are servants of the one that we love! This is a law. Our intimate values are related to what we love. The efficiency of our prayers is deeply tied to our values. A spiritual distortion of our set of values concerning the character of God compromises our intimacy with Him and undermines the effectiveness of our prayer life.
That which we love compromises us deeply: (Hosea 9:10b). We mold ourselves to the values that we have chosen for our lives. We take the form and the manner of that which we love. Our set of values determines our character, and as a result determines our destiny. All transformation is preceded by a change of values. You cannot change a person without changing his values.
The Word of God clearly determines that there will be things that we love and things that we do not love. We must love what God loves and hate that which He hates. We can intelligently choose what we must love, resisting the flood of worldly sophisms by being a voice that cries in the desert where the convenience of sin prevails:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Mind and heart
There is a much greater distance than 18 inches between the head and the heart. I would like to evaluate this distance. Honestly, what are our values? Are we fighting the good fight of life? How can we generally determine our true values? It’s simple, by paying attention to the things in which we invest the greatest part of our time, money, life, effort, etc. In this way, we can easily detect our set of values and evaluate their relative nobility.
It is also fundamentally important that we confront: how we relate to the values transmitted by the gospel? Where do we hold these values, in the mind or in the heart? This question establishes the difference between the superficial and the profound, between theory and practice. There is often a great disconnect between intellectual and practical values that exposes our spiritual inconsistency.
It is common to see people with an enormous head disproportional to their own body and their stunted and sick heart. People full of rules and poverty of life, saturated with theories yet empty in practice, full of snobbish theology but devoid of experience, just as Paul said, “They have a form of piety but deny the power of God.” (Titus 1:16)
To better illustrate the situation, allow me to test you with two questions. We can form the first question in the following way: “Do you think it’s important to pray?” When we ask an individual or a church group this question everyone answers in the affirmative. Since it is a theoretical question, it is also a very easy question to answer or “irresponsibly answer”. This question will certainly reveal our intellectual values, our “religiosity”.
However, a second question touches our lifestyle, which is what defines the essence of our values. “Do you have a prayer life?” While this question is similar it is completely different while touching on the same subject, it demands a separate response. Because it is a practical question, it could be very difficult to answer because it requires us to pay a price. A lot of hypocrisy can be revealed through questions like this one.
When answers to these two questions don’t coincide, it indicates that we are facing a crisis of integrity with respect to the content of the question, whatever it may be. The first question isolates us from the commitment of character, while the second question confronts it directly. If we ask the wrong question, we will have the wrong answer. When we ask the right question, we perceive that we cannot assimilate the gospel merely in theory.
It is not enough to answer certain questions from God’s heart with the correct biblical theology. If we ask for example, what is the value of a life? What is the value of a human soul? Would it be enough to cite a verse of the gospel just like a child answering a multiplication question: “A soul is worth the whole world”? I don’t think so.
This may be the theologically correct answer, but perhaps the most inconsistent one that we can offer. We can only express the value of a soul by the price of the life that we are paying for the salvation of souls. This is certainly the answer that God wants to hear from us independent of our theology and accumulated degrees. This requires an effective prayer life.
I have learned that the best place to be is in the center of the God’s will. My set of values still needs to be transformed. The things that we love will determine if we are fighting the “good” or “bad” fight of life and if are perseverance is worthwhile or not.
“I finished the race” – conquering our fears
The second aspect of perseverance deals with the ability to face fear and laziness. Who do we fear?
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
The greatest obstacles in the course of a life are internal. It was not the fortified cities or the military acumen of the inhabitants of the Promised Land that defeated the people of Israel when they spied out the land, but fear and unbelief. In other words, the greatest challenges are not our external difficulties, but fear and internal insecurity.
Family breakup, violence, abuses, daily stress and so many other harmful situations have imposed a chaotic backdrop of insecurity, fear, and even panic. Many people have already gotten used to living under social and spiritual intimidation. They are addicted to fear and various aspects of their lives have been blocked. Traumas and complexes destroy our initiative and dull our capacity to take risks in favor of fulfilling the will of God. Besides castrating our development and preventing advances in life, all paralyzing fear destroys the spirit of prayer. In order to persevere we must be bold and overcome the oppression imposed by fear.
There is a type of fear that works as a safety valve and alerts us to dangerous situations. This is a protective fear, but it must be limited in a healthy manner. Its message must be correctly received and followed. However there is another type of fear that is spiritual and is based on intimidation. It is not wrong to feel fear, it is wrong to be manipulated by fear. When fear overcomes our convictions we begin to frustrate the plans of God.
In these last decades the world has grown to understand the power of terrorism as a strategy of war. What is terrorism? It is when someone through an act of atrocity makes a threat greater than what they represent. Terrorism is an optical illusion. It is when you believe an enemy even more than he believes in himself.
Who is the greatest terrorist? Satan. He has no power yet causes us to believe that he does. The truth is that all the disadvantages are on his side. This makes terrorism and intimidation his principal weapon to combat people’s peace and faith. He seeks to establish a general climate of violence and insecurity through which he remotely controls society.
Satan spreads fear, acting, controlling and manipulating through intimidation. This can deter us from completing missions and tasks that were entrusted to us resulting in personal discredit and dismay with our relationship with God.
Spiritual fear can be defined as faith in the enemy and in his life. Fear is not spiritually neutral, in reality it is a negative faith. There are people who have is surprisingly “great” faith, however it is a negative faith. They strongly and intensely believe that nothing will work out, that they can do nothing, that they will never succeed and that the worst is coming, etc. They have been totally undermined by intimidation. They are easily conformed to this present age allowing the visible contrary circumstances to mold them. They live an existence of confessing defeat.
Fear is nothing more than faith in misfortune. Through fear, we set up our own defeats and edify the will of the kingdom of darkness to the detriment of our advances in God.
“I kept the faith” – keeping our convictions
The third aspect of perseverance is maintaining a positive balance of faith. Whom do we believe in?
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith (1 John 5:4)
You have to believe first in order to overcome afterward. Faith is already the victory in itself that overcomes the world whose prince is Satan. What we believe determines our character of perseverance as an intercessor.
The ability to maintain our convictions, assimilate the truth and fight expectantly in prayer is fundamental in the knowledge of God’s character and in the cross of Christ. It is common to see people who have gone through many things to lose their faith, give up on people, break promises and abort the divine plan. Disappointments along the way have an incredible potential of destroying our confidence, producing amnesia with respect to God’s promises leading us to neglect principles.
The matter here is not merely ceasing to believe in the truth of God. When this happens, we simultaneously begin to believe in many satanic lies. That is the way we become spiritually insane. For each truth of God, Satan has a very convincing argument. There is no middle ground or “no man’s land” between the truth and a lie. Whether we like it or not our faith will be the direct result of this conflict.
The transformational dynamic: believe and be
Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them. (Psalm 115:8)
This verse expresses an important spiritual principle: “We are what we believe.” It is impossible to lift up an idol and not trust in it. The definition of an idol is anything that occupies the place of God. Idolatry destroys dependence on God. When we trust in an idol, we assimilate ourselves spiritually in its essence. We impose upon ourselves the spiritual process of similarity with respect to that which we idolize. Therefore, our spiritual identity is intimately tied to that which we believe.
The Bible talks about Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of lentils, a tasty red soup. He put food above his birthright, despising his divine purpose. He earned the name of Edom, which means “red”. He became red just like that bowl of soup. Edom passed on this identity to his descendants forever.
Someone once said, “Don’t tell God how big your problem is tell your problem how big your God is! Many people have a tendency of believing in their problems more than in God. It is very common to see people who because of idolizing their problems are afflicted with a deep distortion of spiritual identity, or in other words, more than having a problem, they become a problem. They take the form of the problem. They live in accordance with the problem. They constantly confess defeat. The problem has become the center of their spiritual life, taking the place of God. They go to church but instead of worshiping God, they worship the problem. They still pray, but their faith still rests on the problem.
The religious hypochondria that stems from unbelief explains why so many people are spiritually bound slaves of long prayer lines for healing. Our positive process of transformation depends upon what we believe. We are spiritually conformed to the image of what we believe. Spirituality is the result of a continuous conflict between the truth and a lie, a visible and invisible reality, adverse tests and the faithful promises of God.
We must ask ourselves what we really believe in most, the truth of God or the lies of the devil, the flaming arrows of resentment or forgiveness, God’s solutions or the adversity of the adversary, God’s promises or the spirit of condemnation. The level of our spirituality depends on the result of this conflict, which will be either a collection of defeats, emotional breakdowns, complexes and chronic problems or a life of victory that emerges and fulfills the will of God.
Our attitude and response to each difficulty, test or conflict we face must result in the divine witness of approval that brings effectiveness to our prayer life.
Key elements of prayer
James affirms that “the prayer of a righteous man” is effective. Or in other words, the prayer of a righteous man produces an effect. The lack of prayer and the lack of answers to prayer is basically the collateral effect of the “character crisis” that afflicts the church today.
All prayer will certainly have one of three answers: yes, no and wait. What causes a prayer not to be answered? What elements of prayer and in our own lives can increase the effectiveness of our prayers? What is it in our lives that can affect the spiritual world in a way that would alter the speed and frequency of positive answers to prayer? Obviously patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit and God will always create situations for us to exercise it. What causes a prayer to lose or to gain effectiveness? What elements of prayer can alter the effectiveness of someone’s prayer life?
The answer to all of these questions is simple but deep: the elements of a prayer of a righteous man. The answer dispenses with the manner that a person prays and rewards the character of the person who prays; it dispenses with the length of the prayer and rewards the discernment of the prayer. It dispenses with culture and rewards the knowledge of and intimacy with God. It dispenses with human merit and rewards the crucified life.
When we speak about the elements of prayer of a righteous man, the only recipe that God gives us is dependence on Him. This is not merely a matter of believing in God, but of God believing in us and knowing that we will not use His power to destroy ourselves.
Defining the elements of prayer of a righteous man
How can we define the elements of this “prayer of a righteous man” that causes it to be so effective? I believe we can safely say that there is no better model of the “prayer of the righteous” then the high priestly prayer of Jesus. More than just “righteous” Jesus is also our “justifier”, giving us access to ownership of His character.
to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:26)
Of all of the prayers of Jesus registered in the Bible I believe that this is the most meaningful principally in virtue of the existential confrontation of the moment at which He offered it. In order to define the meaning of the “prayer of the righteous”, I suggest we take a closer look at this prayer.
Elements of prayer in Christ’s Priestly prayer
“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said:” Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:1-26)
We can glean some elements in this prayer offered by Jesus without which prayer begins to lose its effectiveness. Some things block our prayers and other things make our prayers more effective. Contained in this prayer are elements that characterize the prayer of the righteous and establish the genuine character as well as the lifestyle of the intercessor
The prophetic discernment of the moment
This element of prayer defines the spiritual intelligence in prayer and of prayer.
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (John 17:1)
A perseverant character
Another element of effective prayer is the lifestyle of the intercessor which is marked by a perseverance that defines the cutting edge effectiveness with which prayer can break out against resistance in the spiritual world.
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4)
Spiritual objectivity – the goal of prayer
This element of prayer limits the scope of prayer focusing it on something specific enough so that when the prayer is answered, there will be no question whether God responded to what we specifically asked or not and thus the favorable answer can bring more honor and glory to Him.
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours” (John 17:9)
The spirit of covenant
Covenant is one of the indispensable elements of prayer that is much more than simple agreement; it is an integral sharing of mutual life. Covenant begins with surrender. Surrender testifies to the trust that defines the strength and spiritual power of prayer.
And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. (John 17:10)
Consistency and identification
Another element of prayer is consistency with the identity that God has given to His people. The legitimacy of a relationship depends on consistency. From this genuine authority emerges through prayer. Authority is inseparable from truth.
And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth (John 17:19)
Vision and hope
Yet another element of prayer is the ability to spiritually see the answer to our requests in prayer. Vision determines the reach of prayer and the spiritual ceiling of our faith.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20)
The spirit of unity and love
Lastly the element of unity among those who agree in prayer guarantees the answers that we seek. Unity releases revelation and the saving presence of God in and through prayer.
I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23)
Powerful prayer – perfection vs. consistency
Powerful prayer doesn’t require perfection. God does not expect Christians to be “perfect” but he does expect them to be consistent. Perfectionism and inconsistency lead to opposite destinies. Perfectionism exalts personal merit and leads to pride, legalism, self-righteousness and control. Consistency assures dependence on God and leads us on the road to integrity. Prayer is not magic and even less so something with which we can manipulate God according to our will independently of our consistency with the laws of the spiritual world.
Powerful prayer and character
When the Word of God affects our character we begin to see our own needs from God’s perspective, and in this way our prayers begin to be fully answered. Jesus said “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 17:7). When God’s words abide in us and we abide in God’s Word His character pours into our lives. This is the power of a consistent life and a character that is in agreement with the Scriptures. Powerful prayer doesn’t require perfection but it does require a certain level of character.
Powerful prayer and faith
However, the Bible is far from affirming that a prayer by itself will always bring great results. James spoke of the prayer “of faith” as the saving the sick and that the prayer of a “righteous man” avails much. Prayer requires elements like faith and character to synergize it.
Usually, when we speak of powerful prayer, we emphasize faith. Unfortunately, too often this is communicated in a mystic and inconsistent way. Too often the guilt of consistent failure is irresponsibly attributed to someone’s “lack of faith”. Regardless, the fact is that faith is able to produce supernatural and powerful prayers and this is what is generally emphasized. However, James goes beyond the prayer of faith in explaining the effectiveness of the prayer of a righteous man. This demonstrates how the character of the person can affect the development of the prayer focusing on the relationship with God through which His hand is moved. Faith alone is not sufficient for effective prayer there must also be character and relationship in order to catalyze the effectiveness of the prayer.
Powerful prayer requires both faith and character. One of the main reasons that there is so much failure and ineffectiveness in prayer is often irresponsibly due to the lack of faith of those who pray. Many people don’t recognize it but character and not only faith is necessary to tap into the potential of powerful prayer.
Powerful prayer and intimacy
This approach to character and the lifestyle of the intercessor is what I want to emphasize. The truth is that powerful prayer is merely a consequence of our intimacy with God and the mutual trust that exists between us. Just think of the ease and effectiveness of the prayers of Christ. Powerful prayer is not merely fruit of what we know about God, or what we do for God, but of who we are in Him and to Him. By that I am referring to our relationship with Him, beyond the fact that we are His spiritual children and He is our heavenly Father.
The example of Christ as an intercessor illustrates a life built on a true foundation of relationship with the Father upon which He (God the Father) was able to edify a permanent work of salvation and spiritual blessings through the life and prayers of Jesus His Son.
Powerful prayer and identity
Power in prayer is not only the fruit of what we do for God, but who we are in Him. It is not only the fruit of our ability to work for God, but also of our ability to confidently rest in Him. It is not the fruit of our spiritual anxiety, but the powerful released by hearing God and waiting confidently in faith for the fulfillment of His promises. Prayer is not merely a war against hell, but above all an unshakable peace with God. It is at this point that the cross enters the scene as the fulcrum between faith and character. This is not an article about how to pray or about models of prayer, but about the power that a proven character, transformed and trusted, has over the spiritual world.
My purpose is not to offer a magic formula or power prayer model that will guarantee your prosperity, but to encourage the building of true foundations upon which God will build an enduring work.
Powerful prayer to the all-powerful God
When we enter into the dimension of character we can understand how God can show Himself in a greater way and far beyond the limits of our faith than we could achieve through our greatest prayers. A trustworthy character which is the fruit of voluntary submission to God’s means and measure of teaching and discipline is a sure factor that moves God to act exceedingly abundantly more than what we ask or think. Just as the apostle Paul experienced; “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20). This is contrasted with a much more common yet ineffective approach to prayer which presents formulas and models of prayer that promise prosperity and success.
Many things can cause God to act beyond our prayers and dreams exceeding our expectations. One of them I firmly believe is a trustworthy character which is the fruit of voluntary submission to God’s dealings and the principle factor of a powerful prayer life.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 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 sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:13-16
Prayer has never been nor will ever be a secondary subject. It continues to be the key to revival and to the breath of spiritual life. James describes prayer as an imperative. The exercise of our spiritual life not only demands adjusting to the principles that rule over the spiritual world but also a close and deep relationship with God. Effective prayer not only entails asking things of God but also correctly responding to his commands, his counsel and direction.
God’s moral government is not based on a sovereignty isolated from human will, but on an interaction and cooperation that God desires to maintain with man. Prayer is the greatest spiritual opportunity to partnership with God in what He is creating and doing. God created man to be his moral agent on the earth and prayer is the means by which he can access God’s divine resources.
Many things can unilaterally attract God’s favor; however there are others that God has determined must be bilateral. God’s character is unchangeable. He is gracious and His kingdom is abundant. There is plenty for everybody. However, above all He is a personal being. This means that the highest purpose of our life does not depend upon what we do for God, but in the simple fact of possessing and maintaining a relationship with Him. This is the primary axis of our existence.
Relationship is bilateral by definition and is only genuinely possible through trust. Trust is never automatic but something that must be built over time and doesn’t only depend on our faith in God’s character but also on our credibility before him. Beyond exercising blind faith toward God we are required to be trustworthy before him. When you are trustworthy, then it is easier to believe that others will also be. This interactive faith is the foundation of relationship.
Faith and character are interdependent elements. Faith without character produces fantasy and hypocrisy. Character without faith is reduced to rationalism. Faith and character, trust and credibility are the master pillars that support and give structure to relationships.
To trust and to be trustworthy are interconnected. Faith can be inhibited by infidelity and betrayal. Chronic infidelity reduces the capacity to believe and engenders superficiality. Superficiality can rapidly undergo metamorphosis and transform itself into mere hypocrisy. When we allow hypocrisy into our heart, our inner sense of spiritual security begins to fade away.
It is impossible for us to believe in ourselves if we are not trustworthy. Why would God believe or trust in us if we don’t even believe in ourselves? Certainly God is free to believe in us regardless of our trustworthiness; however, our lack of trustworthiness becomes an existential matter that imposes an internal conflict between our conscience and our soul. We are either convinced of our own sin or we strangle our own conscience. We either relate to God and to others in a healthy and free manner, or we isolate ourselves from God and others. If we choose to isolate ourselves from God because of this inner conflict, we will undermine our faith and our prayers will become ineffective. The result is a quality of life that is inferior to that which God desires to give us and the tragedy at this point is that we often blame or attribute this level of life to God’s preference rather than to our isolation from His grace.
The effective prayer of a righteous man
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16)
Not all prayer is effective and not all people who pray are effective intercessors. The problem of ineffective prayer is not God’s lack of power or goodwill or the spiritual exercise of prayer itself but ineffective prayers and people who ineffectively offer them. Just as the strategy of a prayer is a highly relevant element in its effectiveness so also is, and principally so, the character of the person who is praying. That is why some prayers are effective and some are ineffective, some are powerful and others are “harmless”. Some prayers are so dangerously ineffective or negatively effective that they can even do more harm than good.
And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul. (Psalm 106:15)
James testifies that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). How can we define that which James called the prayer of a righteous man? The best example would logically be the famous “High priestly prayer of Jesus”, the “righteous or just one” and the “justifier” of the entire human race.
I would suggest that this prayer above all of the prayers voiced by Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, serves as a model for the Christian leader, due to the crucial moment of testing that confronted His character and revealed the secrets of His lifestyle. From this “prayer of a righteous man” we can identify at least seven elements that are necessary to produce powerful effects of a prayer and must be synergized and integrated into the lifestyle of the person who prays:
1. The power of effective prayer
The power of effective prayer is founded upon a covenant with God as its object. The first requirement of effective prayer is a proper relationship with God. There is a huge category of people who have absolutely no promise of getting a hearing from God, namely those who are outside of God’s family.
While it is true that God is free to answer any prayer we must recognize that the first “basis” for answered prayer is to be “in covenant” with the God who answers prayer. The scriptures teach us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust but those who are outside of God’s family have no “ground” upon which they can exercise faith because there is no promise from God upon which they can believe. The only exception is that whoever wills can approach God for salvation based on promises such as Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And Hebrews 11:6 “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Therefore for the unconverted that cry out to God for salvation, there is a basis for positive and effective answered prayer, but beyond the point of salvation God expects all further requests to be uttered firmly upon the basis of a covenant relationship. This implies that the unconverted may never expect any answer to prayer except to the request for their own salvation, but it also implies that God’s covenant people who pray outside of the sphere of any of God’s covenants cannot expect God to hear or answer their prayers since they pray against the spirit and intent of covenant purposes.
2. The authority of effective prayer
The authority of effective prayer is established by coherency with God’s purposes. Before we can begin to act as agents of God on the earth we must recognize that there is a proper basis upon which we must proceed in prayer. In the same way that it is unreasonable to act in the name of a stranger, or improperly use someone’s name with whom we have no relationship, it is useless to pray in a direction or manner that God has made clear is contrary to his will. God will not listen to just any and every prayer but only those that are in accordance with his will and character. No child or servant of God is authorized to pray in any direction that they please and expect God to comply. The relationship of the servant of God with the Father even though he is a legitimate son does not trump the Father’s purposes.
3. The spiritual intelligence of effective prayer
The spiritual intelligence of effective prayer is optimized by the prophetic discernment of the moment. Not every legitimate prayer is spiritually intelligent nor should it be uttered at any given moment. Believers, as God’s collaborators (1 Corinthians 3:9) have the responsibility to perceive the direction that the Spirit of God is moving in any given circumstance and at any given time. This ability of course must be developed in each Christian and must be tried and tested in the case of approving a leader. The effective intercessor needs to know when it is time to ask God for something, how it should be asked for, when it is time to patiently wait, when it is time to boldly act, and numerous other factors that are impossible to anticipate thus making the dynamic ability to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit an absolute necessity.
4. The aim of effective prayer
The aim of effective prayer defines the focus of its spiritual objectives. After discovering what God intends to do in any given situation it is necessary to discern how he intends to use us as his co-laborers. This requires the knowledge and understanding of the spiritual and supernatural arsenal of tools that God has provided us with, which of these must be used, when they should be used and the order in which they must be applied.
5. The cutting edge of effective prayer
The cutting edge of effective prayer is sharpened through perseverance. Once we are able to discern what God intends to do in any given moment or circumstance and we discern the manner that he wills to bring it about and we voice the corresponding objectives in prayer, we must resolutely persist and press on in the direction of the prayer. The enemies of Intelligent and persistent prayer are many and varied. Although many leaders are able to discern God’s intentions in any given circumstance, many do not have the state of mind to insist and persist in the direction that they have been praying. If we falter in this respect, our prayers can be rendered useless and we will fail as God’s co-laborers.
6. The spiritual impact of effective prayer
The spiritual impact of effective prayer is manifested through the spirit of unity and love. Unity is the key to the revelation of the gospel and the love of God to the world. Jesus prayed:
“… that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23)
Whenever a body of Christians on any level whether it be a small group, a congregation or even an entire denomination begins to succumb to the attacks of the enemy with respect to its unity and love, the effectiveness of its prayers will be adversely affected. Just as within the covenant of marriage a husband’s prayers will be hindered because of problems in his relationship with his wife, so also the corporate prayers of a small group, local church, or group of churches will be hindered because of lack of unity.
7. The scope of effective prayer
The scope of effective prayer is defined by the limit of our faith, vision and hope with respect to God’s covenant purposes. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he gave them authority to ask that God’s will be done here on earth just as it is done in heaven. As we begin to experience effectiveness in prayer in the circumstances of our own life, we must lift up our eyes and expand the horizons of our hope, vision and faith. We must grow in our conviction that only we can limit the scope and dimension of our spiritual influence on the earth. While we must be careful not to presumptuously use the name of Jesus in our requests in prayer, the greatest danger is to become paralyzed in the name of “godly fear” in overstepping the limits of God’s will. In other words, we must waste no time imagining that God has a smaller ministry than what our heart cries out to accomplish. Our hope must grow ever stronger, our vision must extend ever further, and our faith must grow ever bolder.
Effective prayer is attainable, it is God’s burning desire for each of us, but we will never reach it unless we dedicate ourselves to these seven factors: authority, spiritual intelligence, aim, cutting edge, spiritual impact and scope. Upon these seven pillars any child of God can enjoy a rich experience of a spiritual overcomer through an effective prayer life.