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Effectual and Fervent Prayer - Part 1
Revival through Prayer
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)
James directs us to seek healing by confessing to and praying for one another. While James 5:16 does not specifically refer to personal revival, would you agree that a fault of many Christians is that they do not seek revival for their lives? Would you agree that a fault of many Christians is to fail to pray for others, especially for revival in their lives? Samuel mentions in I Samuel 12:23, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you . . . .” Some may not see this, but to not live in the very presence of God is sin making revival necessary. We have a responsibility to confess our need, and pray for others as well. Why? To be healed.
The Church - The Body of Christ
The church is the body of Christ. No one person lives unto themselves, but each has an effect on the others. We read in I Corinthians 12:14-17, “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?”
We also know from Galatians 5:9 that a “. . . little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” If one member of the local body of Christ is sin-sick, the whole body suffers. For years I have had arthritis building up in my knee. Certainly the annoyance is focused in my knee, but in reality, my whole body is affected. At times I favor my left knee which puts more strain on my right leg. Still, at other times the pain from the knee shoots down the whole length of my leg. I can feel the pressure in my hips and back. Just as my body is affected by one sick member, so is the body of Christ – His Church. If I properly take care of the ailing member (in this case my knee), my entire body feels the relief and can function normally.
I said that to say this. You and I have a responsibility to confess our faults one to another, and then pray one for another. The healing will occur according to God’s time table and plan for each individual’s life. He will do the work, but we have an obligation to fulfill.
The word faults as used by James in James 5:16 can mean either an unintentional error or a willful transgression. Either way the body suffers and must be healed. For one to hide his transgression and remain in secret sin will only cause more damage. Consider the story of Achan in Joshua chapter 7. Notice in verse 11God tells Joshua, “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.”
God attributes the sin of one man to the whole nation. Achan will pay for his fault with his life. His fault also cost 36 warriors their lives (verse 5) as well as the lives of Achan’s family (verse 25). No man is an island, and it is the proud and stout of heart who believes he can live in rebellion to God’s law, and get away with it.
It is the humble man after God’s own heart who confesses his sin and allows God to strengthen him through the prayers of the brethren. The Biblical Illustrator puts it this way – “no one has a right to fancy that his faults concern himself alone, and that no one else has an interest in his being a good man”. There may be pleasure in sin for a season, but be sure your sin will find you out.
The Chains of Sin
Sin will own a person until it is wrapped in chains of confession. Sin can and will permeate every part of a person’s life until it is brought into captivity. There is freedom in confession. We are made free by “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). There is power in the forgiveness and prayers of the body.
But the truth of the matter is the 21st century church is sick. For the most part, today’s church gives assent to the major Christian doctrines without living them out. Webster says of assent: “The act of the mind in admitting, or agreeing to, the truth of a proposition.”
It is entirely possible to admit, or agree to the doctrine without truly believing or living it. Jesus promised in John 15:26 to send the Comforter. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” It is the intention of Jesus that the Spirit testifies of Him. Even though Christ returned to Heaven, He still desires to live His life out on earth through you and me. That requires more than intellectual assent on our part. It requires action.
What Would Jesus Do?
We have, in a real sense, become Jesus’ hands, His feet, His tongue. He, through the Holy Spirit, longs to live through us. In 1897 Charles M. Sheldon wrote the timeless classic, In His Steps. Within the book, he poses the question, “What would Jesus do?” As used in the book, the question was never meant o be a popular cliché used by many to attempt to sound spiritual. Rather, it was a heart searching question; a question not only to search the heart, but to break the heart. What would Jesus have you to do? Where would He have you to go? What would He have you to say?
If you are not living in light of this question, perhaps He would have you to confess your fault, and seek the prayers of others on your behalf, that you may be healed. Perhaps there is someone you need to lift up in prayer. Pray that God would use them and infect their spirit with Himself, that they may be healed; that they may be a mighty instrument in the hand of the Lord.
James makes the statement in James 5:17, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”
We often think of God’s men in the Bible as superheroes. Oh, but notice what James says of the prophet Elijah. He was a man of like passions. He was no different than you and me. Moses was just a man. David was just a man. Samson, Joshua, and the Apostle Paul were just men. They did however learn to live a life of effectual prayer.
Elijah stopped the heavens. Moses opened the Red Sea. David won unlikely battles. Samson single-handedly conquered the enemy. Joshua claimed and took the Promised Land, and Paul took on world missions. Do you suppose for a minute the same God of these men does not desire to work in your life also. He does, and He will, but you must be willing to effectually pray. That necessitates quantity as well as quality.
We will continue our discussion in Part 2, soon to come.