(view this full teaching by scrolling to the bottom of the page)
What kind of praying is considered to be effective?
How can you become more effective in prayer?
James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The Bible teaches that there are certain kinds of prayers that are ineffective. But we want to focus on the kind of praying that is EFFECTIVE.
There are some synonymous terms to effective praying.
For example, there’s fervent praying. This speaks of fiery praying, which is intense and passionate.
We also see the phrase prevailing prayer. This type of prayer is about you overcoming and getting a breakthrough when you pray.
Then there is intercessory prayer, which is effective and involves bringing someone else’s needs before God. It’s you praying for them before the Lord.
Then there is effectual prayer, which simply means you’re striving, pressing, and working to be effective.
Finally, there is the fifth kind of prayer; it’s called travailing prayer. Travailing prayer is a painful experience of emotions as you’re pressing into God in prayer.
These five kinds of prayers are not different prayers. They’re just additional terms for the same kind of prayer.
The life of Jacob, in the book of Genesis, is an example of effective prayer.
Jacob had lived with Laban, his father-in-law for 20 years. During those 20 years, he worked for Laban. Laban was a very sneaky, deceptive man, and he changed Jacob’s wages 10 times over the 20 years. At the end of the 20th year, God speaks to Jacob, and tells Jacob to return home to the land of promise.
Now, mind you, 20 years earlier, when Jacob had left Canaan, he went under the shroud of all kinds of scandal against his brother, Esau. He had deceived his brother twice in regards to his birthright and their father’s blessings. And so now God tells Jacob to go back home.
As Jacob and his wives and his children, and all of the cattle and animals and servants that he has acquired over the 20 years, are migrating back home to Canaan, Jacob sends many messengers ahead of him to tell Esau that he’s coming back home. He wants to know if everything is well between the two of them.
When Esau finds out, he’s livid because he remembered what Jacob had done 20 years earlier. He then gets 400 men, and they start going towards where Jacob is.
It’s at this point, Jacob has to learn how to breakthrough in prayer and be effective in praying. As we look at Jacob, we’ll see that effective praying secures God’s approval. The Scripture says prayers offered by those who have God’s approval are effective.
So, let me ask you this question: Do you have God’s approval?
How do you gain it?
To gain God’s approval, you have to have a right relationship with God. You must deal with any kind of sin or disobedience in your life. Sin muffles and mutes our voice before the throne room of heaven. It makes our prayers impotent and powerless to affect change. It’s almost like kryptonite to Superman, which renders him powerless.
Sin renders your prayer lives ineffective and powerless.
Let me show it to you in the Scriptures. Psalm 66:18-19, tells us, “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.”
The psalmist is making it plain to us. He’s saying I’ve learned from experience that when I don’t confess the sins in my heart, God doesn’t listen.
How do you confess your sins? You say, God, I’ve sinned against you, and you name the sin specifically, whatever it may be. And you say, God, would you forgive me? Wash my heart so that it may be pure and clean. Help me always walk in a way that honors you and think in a way that honors you. I ask you this in Christ’s name.
And now that you’ve repented, you forsake…you walk away, and you leave it like that.
Now the line between you and God is open. The gap between you and God has been closed.
Let’s look at how Jacob modeled effective praying by securing God’s approval.
Genesis 32:9-12 reads, “Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my father, Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper.’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’ ”
Jacob secured God’s approval in this instance. He already dealt with his sin issue, but he secured God’s approval by chasing after God’s promises.
Every time we pursue God’s promises, it causes alignment in our lives, it causes a shift of perspective, values and priorities. When we seek God’s promises wholeheartedly and with great fervency and intensity, we find ourselves lining up with what God wants us to do and to be.
There are times God wants us to hold before Him the things he’s promised us. Why? Because it shows God how we value the very things He has in store for us.
There are times that God wants to do things for us, and we could care less. Just like a parent may want to do good things for their son or their daughter, and they can care less. When that devaluing occurs, the parents don’t place a significant priority on what the kids want because they’ve not demonstrated that they align themselves with the parents’ wants.
In this instance, Jacob secured God’s approval by bringing before God the very things that God had promised him. God had promised his grandfather, Abraham, that he was going to be a father of many nations. And that promise was handed down to Isaac, Jacob’s dad, and Jacob knew what was at stake when he was praying that day.
What God promised Isaac years ago was jeopardized. Jacob knew that he’d better get a breakthrough that day when he prayed.
Effective praying focuses on specific objects.
When you’re dealing with resistance to the will of God and difficult things are now causing you emotional pain and anguish, you need effective, fervent, intercessory, prevailing, and travailing prayer. And you must focus on one or two objects at the most.
In Genesis 32:11, Jacob says, “Save me, I pray, from my brother Esau. I am afraid—afraid that he is coming to attack us and destroy us all, even the women and children.”
Jacob didn’t throw a bunch of things on his prayer list. It was just one single prayer request.
So, how do you pray effectively if you just focus on one or two objects? Ask yourself, what bothers you the most? What bothers you most when you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night, that’s the subject of prayer.
I love the fact that God says I will give you the desires of your heart. God puts a desire in our hearts that we can’t shake. That’s the subject and the focus.
Now, just because God told you to do something, doesn’t mean you’ll be exempt from a trial in the walking out of that thing. And just because you’re going through a trial, it’s not an indicator that you’re not in the will of God. Oftentimes, being in the will of God attracts crisis.
So crises don’t mean that you’re out of the will of God. Crises may verify that you’re in the will of God.
You can’t just be someone that knows how to talk and sing, you must be someone who has power on bended knees. Jacob had power on bended knees because effective prayer lays hold.
What is the single object that you need to talk to God about? Effective praying focuses on specific things. What’s your specific thing? Stay focused.
Effective praying secures God’s blessings.
Genesis 32:24-27 says, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’ ”
This is one of the most challenging passages in the Old Testament. The man who wrestled with Jacob is referred to as a theophany. It means an appearance of God in human form. In other words, God showed up and wrestled with Jacob.
Wrestling is just a metaphor in this area for effective, intense, fervent prayer. Imagine wrestling all night with the Lord. Jacob has one prayer request. One focus that he’s praying about. He’s crying out to God. This is the focus and crux of effective praying.
Effective praying is when you say I’ve stopped praying on other matters, but not this one. I’ve given up before, but not this one. I’ve quit praying at different times, but not now. God, I don’t care whatever is going to go on. I’m not going to let you go. God, you promised me.
God, I need you to show up. I’m not going to stop until I get a breakthrough. And when you’re praying like that, there comes a time in that prayer where you feel something break. It’s almost like a balloon when the air is let out and the pressure is gone.
When that break takes place, you know that you have prayed through.
I have experienced that many times in my life over these years. I’ve walked with Jesus, and I want you to recognize that you have to learn how to do that. You cannot be a weakling when it comes to prayer. Most of us were very weak. We prayed a 30-second prayer. We pray when we’re driving to work, and that’s the extent of our prayer life. And I’m challenging you. You can’t become a powerful soldier if that’s the extent of how you pray.
Will you learn to pray through?
What must you do to get some time alone?
Maintain a fervent perspective to say, “God, I’m hungry for you to accomplish this.”
You can become a powerhouse in prayer.