Does Prayer Really Work?

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One of the great privileges of the Christian life is the opportunity to approach the heavenly Father in prayer. God’s people are encouraged to draw near to the Father’s heavenly throne with boldness, seeking help in time of need. Sometimes, Christians get discouraged and may wonder if prayer really works. One might say, “I prayed that God would heal my loved-one, but now my loved- one is dead. Why did my prayer not work?” I suppose we all struggle with the question, “Why?” The answer to the question is not always easy to understand, and, frankly, in some instances we may never find an answer that satisfies.

Nevertheless, Christians can know with all certainty that God hears and answers prayer. Biblical proof of this is James 5:16: “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.” This passage declares that “prayer…availeth much.” In other words, prayer not only works, but it also works powerfully and accomplishes much! This should settle the issue for everyone who believes the Bible—God really hears and answers prayer. Prayer works!

But notice the kind of prayer that works. The verse cited from James chapter 5 indicates that an “effectual fervent” prayer is the kind that works. The term “effectual fervent” means “powerful or energetic.” Prayer that avails is not merely uttering words in a cold, routine manner. It is not simply “saying” a prayer, but rather it is “praying” a prayer with sincerity, eagerness, and faith. The one praying pours out his heart to God.

Another characteristic of prayer that works is that it is prayed by “a righteous man.” A righteous man is one who is just and holy, one who is a faithful child of God. God does not promise to honor the prayers of those living in rebellion to his will (Psalm 66:18), but the prayers of his righteous children avail much.

God does not always answer prayers with a “yes.” However, God’s people have assurance that God hears; He cares; and He answers according to his divine will. In view of these thoughts, how comforting it is when a righteous child of God says, “I’ll be praying for you.” No wonder Paul encouraged, “Brethren, pray for us” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

Mark Lindley
Chapman church of Christ
Ripley, MS

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