“The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16b
Effectual prayer is prayer that brings about the desired effect. It is prayer that makes an impact. It is prayer that is “obviously answered.” But it is rare. It is rare because men who pray are common, but men of prayer are rare. Listen to a man pray and you learn much about his spiritual depth. No man is greater than his prayer life, both public and private. Most prayers are ritualistic. This is so because people learn to pray primarily by listening to others pray. As a result, cliches, catchy phrases, and repeated epithets are prayed which have little or no meaning to the person praying. Phrases that sound good to others and catchy cliches that enhance the sound of our prayers mean nothing to God. God is moved by truth and fervency. Thus, if we would pray effectively, we must pray out of a knowledge of God’s Word, which is His will, and we must pray with fervency. In other words, praying that moves God is the praying of a man or woman who has been moved by God’s Word.
Daniel prayed fervently in Daniel 9:19: “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive, O Lord, hearken and do.” You can feel the warmth and intensity of those words. He had been reading from the book of Jeremiah about the seventy years of captivity and how God’s judgment on Israel would be finished and they would return to their land after that time. He was moved by what he read. He discerned God’s will and prayed with fervency according to it. Later in the passage you see that the very moment Daniel prayed, God sent Gabriel to speak to him and instruct him. Now that’s effectual praying!
Charles G. Finney, who was Arminian in his theology and thus promoted man’s will over God’s will, was correct though when he said, “When Christians offer effectual prayer, their state of feeling renders it proper for God to answer them.” Charles Spurgeon said, “We must get rid of the icicles that hang on our prayers.” Fervency is not just the raised voice; it is the intensity, the feeling behind our prayers. All of us know what it is to be intense when we want something badly or are affected by a situation to the point of tears—that is fervency.
Our situation in America ought to make us fervent in our prayers. The lost condition of those around us should cause fervency. Paul was stirred when he saw the idolatry of the city of Athens in Acts seventeen. Jesus was moved by compassion when He saw the multitudes without a shepherd. David prayed, “Lord, I cry unto thee.” Do you ever cry to God? Scripture makes it plain that God loves to hear the cries of His people. Perhaps our praying is not effective with God because we are not much affected ourselves. When the truth affects us emotionally so that we pray fervently, with passion, maybe even with pain—then our praying becomes effective.