Do Your Prayers Have Power?

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” —James 5:16

Do your prayers have power? When you pray, do you consistently see the power of God manifested on the earth? Does your experience in prayer match God’s descriptions of prayer’s power given in His Word?

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective,” we read, in James 5:16. Is that how you would define your prayer life — powerful and effective?  The words “powerful and effective” are translated from a single Greek word meaning capable of producing results; to have or exercise force. Prayer, James says, has force and produces results. Prayer impacts lives and situations on the earth. True prayer works.

Many believers are discouraged about prayer

Secretly, many have reached the conclusion that prayer doesn’t work or that prayer only works sometimes. Promises in the Bible regarding prayer seem unreliable, the outcome of prayer unpredictable. As a result, we have watered down or scaled back the scripture’s descriptions of the power of prayer.

We expect less from God than He longs to give. After all, how silly we felt having prayed boldly and with great conviction, believing with all our might, only to see our prayers go unanswered. Our faith takes a hit from which it never recovers. Next time, we are more circumspect with our requests. Next time, our expectations are more in line with reality.

Having reached this point, we need to look for ways to explain away the power promised in scripture. “It's not for today” is a favorite saying. How did we reach that conclusion? What is the authoritative basis of it? Certainly not Scripture. Trying to explain the lack of powerful praying, we have tried to reduce prayer to an activity that will match our experience, rather than looking for the source of prayer’s failure in ourselves.

Suppose you consult a doctor about an ailment and he prescribes a medication. Imagine that the doctor promises that this medication will cure your ailment. “Take this medicine in the prescribed dosage three times a day every day for ten days,” he instructs. Suppose that you go home and follow his instructions for a few days. You see little or no improvement, so you begin to doubt the efficacy of the medicine. You take it haphazardly and finally quit taking it at all. When you return to the doctor for a check-​up, you say, “That medicine didn't cure me as you promised it would.” Is your accusation accurate? Did the medicine fail? Of course the medicine did not cure your illness. You didn't apply it correctly. You made your own rules. You wanted the medicine to work on your terms. The failing is not in the medicine but in your method of applying the medicine.

This is a picture of how we have come to think of prayer

“Prayer doesn't work like the Bible says it will work,” we say. Why not? Could it be because we have tried to make prayer work on our terms and that the failure is not with prayer itself but with our way of praying? Remember that God’s Word clearly states that God’s power produces results on the earth when a righteous person prays. (James 5:16)

I challenge you to look at your prayer experience honestly and without pretense. Set aside your past experiences that have caused you to feel disillusioned about prayer and its effects. Would you be open to God's Word as He speaks it through His Spirit into your understanding? In response to His Word, are you willing to change the way you view prayer? Would you put your life at His disposal and give Him access to your mind so that He can bring understanding?

Spend time today, on the National Day of Prayer, meditating on the power of prayer.


Read more about the power of prayer:

About Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Jennifer Kennedy Dean is executive director of The Praying Life Foundation and a respected author and speaker. She is the author of numerous books, studies, and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Her book, Heart’s Cry, has been named […]

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