How to Pray with Power
How to Pray with Power
I received a call from someone in our church. He wanted me to go and pray for his wife who had suddenly been admitted to hospital for an operation.
As it happened, I myself had an appointment nearby to have an injection in my shoulder. I’d had a ‘frozen shoulder’ for almost two years. However, in the previous couple of days, it had suddenly got better. I explained what had happened to the consultant. He looked at me and said, ‘It’s a miracle!’ I said, ‘Don’t frozen shoulders suddenly get better?’ Over and over again, he repeated, ‘No, it is a miracle.’ Here was a secular doctor trying to persuade a rather faithless pastor that what had happened could only be explained by the supernatural power of God!
I thanked him very much for raising my faith, as I was about to go and pray in the hospital. As I walked through the corridors, I passed a hospital porter who was singing (quite loudly!), ‘Lay your hands on the sick and they will be healed.’ I said, ‘That is exactly what I am about to go and do.’ He looked deeply shocked and surprised. He obviously didn’t think I looked like the sort of person who could possibly believe that!
I went upstairs to pray for the woman and explained why my faith was riding high. She then said she had been reading James 5 (our passage for today), which says, ‘Is any one of you sick? Call the elders of the church to pray over you… And the prayer offered in faith will make you well’ (James 5:14–15). By now the Lord had given (even me!) enough signs to pray in faith. The Holy Spirit came upon her with great power. She was not immediately healed (although she is better now), but it gave me a greater understanding of ‘the prayer of faith’.
Watchman Nee wrote, ‘Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.’.
How then can you pray with power?
Pray honestlyPsalm 130:1–8
Have you ever felt like you were in the depths of despair? Have you felt that ‘the bottom has fallen out of [your] life’ (v.1, MSG)? The psalmist says, ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy’ (vv.1–2).
Your prayers and God’s mercy are like two buckets in a well. When one goes up, the other comes down.
There is an honest desperation about this prayer. Don’t try to gloss over the difficulties of your situation, but instead recognise your dependence on God for help.
Trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness:
‘If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit’ (v.3–4a, MSG).
If God does not keep a record of your wrongdoings, you should not keep ‘lists’ of other people’s offenses against you. Love ‘keeps no record of wrongs’ (1 Corinthians 13:5).
You do not need to get your life sorted out before you approach God. He wants to hear the cry of your heart.
However desperate the situation, you can be confident that help will come from God (Psalm 130:6). Bring your request to God. Wait patiently (v.5) and trust in his unfailing love (v.7).
Lord, out of the depths I cry to you for mercy and help. Thank you that with you there is forgiveness and unfailing love.
Pray in all circumstancesJames 5:1–20
One of the obstacles to the power of God in our life can be trusting in things other than God. In some ways, faith and wealth are like oil and water. They are hard to mix and do not often go together.
There is nothing wrong with having money in itself. But there are great spiritual dangers inherent in having wealth – arrogance, greed, self-indulgence and disregard for the needs of others (vv.1–6).
The greatest danger for the wealthy (which probably includes most of us in the West today) is that we put our trust in wealth, rather than in God (1 Timothy 6:17). Why is it that there seem to be far more miracles of healing in some of the poorer parts of the world? Perhaps wealth is a potential barrier to faith, leading us to put our faith in the wrong place. You are called to put your hope in him who provides for all your needs and to pray in all circumstances.
The readers of this letter are clearly going through difficult times. James encourages them to ‘be patient and to stand firm’ (James 5:8). He points to Job as an example of someone who was patient in the face of suffering, and persevered (v.11a). He reminds them that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’ (v.11b).
Pray in all circumstances:
If you are hurting
‘Is any one of you in trouble? You should pray’ (v.13a).
It has been said that ‘most of us have much trouble praying when we are in little trouble, but little trouble praying when we’re in much trouble.’
If you are feeling great
‘Is anyone happy? Sing songs of praise’ (v.13b).
St Augustine said that ‘the thought of you stirs [a person] so deeply that [they] cannot be content unless [they] praise you.’
If you are sick
‘Is any one of you sick? Call the elders…’ (v.14).
Of course, God often heals with the cooperation of the medical profession. But also expect God to heal miraculously today.
If you have sinned
There is no automatic link between sin and sickness. However, we cannot rule out the possibility. James says here, ‘If you have sinned, you will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed’ (vv.15b–16).
Confessing our sins to each other and praying for each other helps in the process of healing and restoration. When things in our lives are kept hidden in the dark they can have a destructive power. When we bring them out into the light, we are set free. This does not necessarily mean that you have to tell the whole world. But, you need to find at least one person you can trust and with whom you can be totally honest, vulnerable and unburden yourself.
Prayer is powerful and effective. James makes this point forcefully by looking at the example of Elijah. He famously managed to control the weather through his prayers, causing and ending a drought, and yet James declares that ‘he was a man just like us’ (v.17). In other words, whatever Elijah could do, you can do!
Lord, thank you that you hear my prayers. Today, I pray…
Pray with eyes open and ears attentiveEzekiel 40:1–49
Prayer is not a monologue. It is a dialogue. God speaks to you as you pray.
Ezekiel says, ‘The hand of the Lord was upon me’ (v.1). He was called to be a prophet and a preacher. To a greater or lesser extent, this is the task of every believer in Jesus. We see what is involved (v.4):
See: ‘look with your eyes’
Look at everything going on around you with the eyes of the Spirit. As D.L. Moody said, ‘The Christian on his knees sees more than the philosopher on tiptoe.’
Listen: ‘hear with your ears’
Listen to what the Lord says about it all. In your two-way communication with God, what he says to you is more important than what you say to him.
Attend: ‘pay attention’
‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,’ wrote Simone Weil. This applies to all relationships including your relationship with God.
Tell: ‘tell… everything’
It is not enough just to see and hear. We must obey. Be willing to say what God tells you to say.
Ezekiel receives a vision of a new temple. It is a visionary temple intended to be symbolic. In this, it is like the city described in Revelation (Revelation 21:16). There is a symmetry and perfection about it.
At the heart of the temple is a room where the priests ‘draw near to the Lord to minister before him’ (Ezekiel 40:46). To ‘draw near to the Lord’ was restricted to a small number of a small tribe in the Old Testament.
Now, through the blood of Christ, you may draw near to the Lord to minister before him (Ephesians 2:13). What a great and wonderful privilege this is. Keep your eyes open and your ears attentive to hear what God is saying to you. Have the courage to speak and the faith to pray the prayer of faith. You are a much-loved child of God. Your prayers are powerful.
Lord, thank you for the extraordinary power of prayer. Please speak to me today as I draw near to you.
‘Elijah was a person just like us.’
I don’t feel very like Elijah. He prayed that it wouldn’t rain for three and a half years. And it didn’t. I prayed it wouldn’t rain for our daughter’s wedding. It didn’t. It snowed!
Verse of the Day
‘Is any one of you in trouble? You should pray’ (James 5:13a).
Richard Cook, quoted in Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World, (Tyndale House, 1992) Quotation 8975, p.493
Mark Hopkins, Draper, Quotation 8884 p.488
Watchman Nee, Draper, Quotation 8886, p.488.
Simone Weil; Joë Bousquet, Correspondance, (Lausanne : Editions l'Age d'Homme, c,1982) p.18.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.