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)
The prayer of a righteous man and the prayer of faith are joined by confession. Faith and character are synergized through brokenness. The prayer of a righteous man is perfectly synchronized with the reality of the spiritual world. The character of the intercessor, the content of his prayer and the prophetic discernment of the moment work together to produce a determined impact in heaven and on earth.
The prayer of Elijah
The prayer of Elijah, contrary to what many affirm, does not represent a prayer of just any man. Elijah was not just any man even though James guaranteed that he was a man subject to like passions as the rest of us.
However, although he was subject to the things that we are also subject to, Elijah chose to be different. Something of the righteousness of God was imputed to his character in spite of all of his weaknesses. The level of dependence on God that he reached gave him a perception and allowed him to penetrate the spiritual world the likes that few have ever known. He made a difference in his generation.
Elijah was so in tune with the laws of the spiritual world and with the will of God that his prayers were affecting the whole nation. Thus was the story of Elijah and can also be yours.
The prayer of a righteous man and the judgment of God
“And he fervently prayed that it not rain, and for 3 ½ years it did not rain upon the earth.”
Judgment always begins with the house of God. The first aspect in the life of someone endued with the prophetic is a sensitivity to sin. The righteous man loves the sinner, but does not tolerate his sin. The judgment of God comes to make the comfortable uncomfortable. What would drive someone to pray fervently for a drought? I believe that it is the discernment of the benefits produced by divine judgment.
We should dispense with the thought that prophecies of judgment are the schemes of the prophets of doom. Unfortunately many wounded people pass themselves off as prophets seeking emotional revenge and self-affirmation. On the other hand, true prophets feel the weight of sin and understand the urgent need of specific confrontations that produce true repentance.
The judgment of God is always preceded by a limited time for repentance. In many cases, the prayer of a righteous man is based on the discernment of sin in the leadership that is troubling the land. Here we have a conflict between the leader and the prophet. Ahab was the leader and Elijah was a prophet. When this conflict was resolved the heavens opened and the rain fell. It is important to mention that the prophet is not above the leader, but he is the channel through which God will try to correct the leaders before judging them. Thus it was between Elijah and Ahab, between Nathan and David, between Haggai and Zerubbabel, etc. Of course it is possible that anyone can immaturely claim himself to be a prophet and this is very dangerous because the Bible warns us:
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7
We must know the difference between the prophetic prayer of a righteous man and the irresponsible threats of an immature and wounded prophet.
The prayer of the righteous man and the restoration of the land
“And he prayed again and it rained and the earth produced its fruit”
The purpose of the drought sent by God is to provoke the hunger and thirst for righteousness in society. Judgment comes to remove the deceit and the seduction of sin. Satan is constantly sugarcoating sin. The judgment of God is complete when the seductive deceit of sin is broken and something changes in the hearts of the people. When Ahab repented Elijah changed the direction of his prayer. The prayer of a righteous man is clothed in the reality of the spiritual world.
It is necessary to discern the correct moment to change a prayer. When James stated that Elijah prayed again, this means that he prayed in another way. It was a different prayer that certainly would change the reality of the nation.
He saw a little cloud in the heavens and believed for the rain. It was like a little lock in the sky. He walked around it seven times with the golden key. He put his head between his knees and continued persevering in prayer without becoming distracted from the prayer of a righteous man. He repeated the process seven times until the storm of God came. The prayer of a righteous man unlocks the heavens and refreshment comes.
Elijah ran in the rain of revival with such speed that he passed Ahab in his chariot. Revival enables us to run as fast as those who ride horseback. As a result of Elijah’s prayer a great restoration began to spring forth over the nation that culminated in the destruction of the prophets of Baal and in the restoration of the worship of the true God.
The prayer of a righteous man and the restoration of backsliders
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
This is the heart of the prayer of a righteous man. Elijah knocked a whole generation of God’s people off the wall of indecision. They were not only undecided, they were backslidden. They hobbled between two lords. They served God, but they also served Baal.
It is a common practice to give up on people who for some reason have given up on life. Jesus compared the kingdom of God with a King that went out to war. Many who have been shot and wounded and others who have been captured have been left behind. These are precious losses which in some way can and must be rescued.
The church lives in a prophetic moment of seeking out these people. The nature of revival has inarguably been characterized by an intense spiritual move of reconciliation, deliverance and restoration of the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”. More than ever we need intercessors! More than ever we need the prayer of a righteous man. Better yet would be the prayers of a righteous generation!