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Effectual Prayer

James 5:16 says, "the effectual prayers of a righteous man availeth much." Sometimes, when I think about this verse, I take the word “effectual“ out of it. My mind says it as, “the prayers of a righteous man availeth much.“ I’ve always thought that the emphasis in the scripture is on the word “righteous.”

Righteous means, “right standing with God,“ and I am made righteous through Jesus is finished work on the cross. So I’ve always thought that this scripture meant that if I have received my righteousness from the Lord, my prayers will availeth much. But that’s not the case.

There’s an adjective in front of the word prayer. That adjective is “effectual.” Effectual means, "producing a desired effect." But then the word availeth means "useful or effective; to be of value." So the scripture is saying, "the prayers that produce the desired effect of a man who is right standing with God produce the desired effect.”

Well, that makes no sense. Of course prayers that produce the desired effect will produce the desired effect. Right? This is like saying a good cookie recipe baked by a good baker produces good cookies. Of course the cookies end up being good—it was a good recipe. Even a bad baker could take a good recipe and still end up with good cookies. The key is that it’s a good recipe. So therefore, the key to availing much in our prayer then, doesn't hinge on my worthiness, but rather having effectual prayer. 

But what does it mean to have effectual prayer? Well, let’s look at what makes a good cookie recipe. You have to start off with good ingredients, but the key is years and years of trial and error. Grandma always knew how to bake her cookies, because she knew how much shortening to use. She knew how much butter to use. How much flour; how much sugar; how many chocolate chips to give it the perfect cookie to chip ratio. She knew to make sure the butter and eggs are brought to room temperature prior to folding them in to the flour mixture. Because years of watching others bake—combined with her own trial and error--taught her that the cookies come out so much better when you do. And what was every grandmother’s secret ingredient in her cookies? They were always made with love.

So how do we translate this to our prayers? First of all, we start with good "ingredients:" the words that we use: Powerful words—strong verbs and descriptive imagery. Scripture—when Jesus prayed, He quoted scripture, and so should we. Praise and Thanksgiving—all through the Psalms, David cries out with praises and thanksgiving to his Father in heaven. 

Next, comes trial and error. This means we have to be sensitive to the outcomes of every prayer. We have to evaluate which prayers availed much—and why those prayers availed, and others didn’t. We have to look inwardly. We have to look at our sin. We have to look at ourselves and what could we do differently, say differently. What sins do we need to repent of? For example, through experience, I have learned that when I repent of my sins, praise and thank the Lord for what He has done in my life prior to beseeching the Lord, my prayers become much more effective. I may not get what I want, but my heart is more likely to be molded to what God desires for me. Sometimes, through our effectual prayer, the desired effect changes completely, because God transforms our original desires while they are baking in the oven. And that’s some pretty effectual prayer.

And lastly, our prayers must be submitted to the Lord in love. Love for our Father in heaven, and love for those for whom we are praying. We can’t have selfish desires in our prayers and expect our prayers to availeth much. As trite as it sounds, I don’t want to waste my time, breath and energy praying in circles. I want effectual prayers that availeth much.


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