Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ineffective Prayer

Ineffective Prayer
May 24, 2010
James 5:17 "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years."

The prophet Elijah was probably one of the most effective prophets in the Old Testament. He was a man who developed a deep and personal relationship with God and served Him all the days of his life. The Lord even entrusted Elijah with a great degree of power, physical power, enabling him to perform miracles. Elijah, moved by the Spirit of the Lord, declared there would be a drought for several years. The Bible says that, "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years." That is a pretty powerful miracle, causing a drought for such a long period of time. I know I can't make the rain stop for three years----or can I? If Elijah was a person, just like me, just like you, then how did he make the rain stop for three and a half years? The answer: the Bible says he prayed earnestly for it.

If I were to ask you if prayer helped any given situation, you would probably answer yes. If I asked you if praying for ten minutes in the morning would help your day go better than yesterday, you might say yes. If prayer helps, then why don't we do more of it? If ten minutes of praying helps, then why not pray for an hour? If one hour of prayer would help a situation, then why not pray for three hours? I wonder how long Elijah had to pray to stop the rain for over three years? Since I have never stopped the rain, it would probably take more time in prayer than I have ever invested. I say invested, because, to describe Elijah's prayer as earnest is to use a financial term. If something is said to be earnest, it is a representation of the whole amount invested. I imagine receiving an investment of three and a half years of drought would require a large amount of earnest deposit. In this case, the earnest deposit was prayer. If I want a return on my time spent praying, I'd better be willing to spend more time praying. There is another financial word, "spend."

I've heard that the pastor of the largest church in the world, currently a single congregation of over 830,000 members, spends a great deal of time in prayer. He is reported to spend at least three hours a day in prayer, oftentimes more. I don't have three hours a day to spend in prayer because of all the tasks I have to accomplish. Or do I? Maybe if I spent three hours a day in prayer, the work that I must accomplish would be easier or more productive, freeing up more time to pray. Maybe if I spent---I mean invested---three hours a day in prayer, I might have a more profitable job or much larger readership to my Devotional Bytes? Maybe if you invested three hours a day in prayer, that problem you're trying to solve on your own might be resolved by God instead? Maybe if you invested more time praying during the day, you would alleviate all your anxieties and have a fuller, richer life?

While I don't know the number of times a prayer is required or how much time in prayer is required to accomplish what I would like to accomplish, I do know the Bible recommends how I can make my prayers more effective. It is found in the verse just before it talks about Elijah's prayer being earnest. Scripture says that, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." It tells me that the only thing special Elijah had going for him was his righteousness. It tells me that if I want my prayers to be effective, I had better start with a righteous lifestyle and complete it with earnest time in prayer. While I don't have the answer regarding the prayer required for your specific situation, I do know that prayer, if not used, is ineffective. And just as much time as Elijah had to invest into stopping the rain for over three years, he had to invest much prayer to get it to start raining again.

I have decided that I would like to die with one regret; I would like it to be that I invested "too much" time in prayer. This is a good goal for you, too.

1. How much time are you currently investing in prayer every day?
2. Could your quality of life improve if you invested more time in prayer?
3. How can you make it a habit to invest more of your time in prayer?

Add. Scriptures for Study: 1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 18:41-45, 1 Thess 5:17, James 5:16

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