Is There Really any Power in Prayer ?
Our lesson today is on the power of prayer. Is there power in prayer?
We’re urged by God to pray. As a matter of fact, we’re told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing”. So in other words, make prayer such an integral part of your life, that your practice of praying, never ceases. It’s the same as saying.. Don’t “forsake” the practice of praying.
I’d like you to open your bibles to James chapter 5, verse 16. In the KJV, the verse reads like this.. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I want to focus on the last part of that verse, the last sentence. Here’s how the NASB phrases it.. “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”.
Both of those translations have changed around the order of the wording from the original text. The LAST word of those translations, is actually the FIRST word in the original. The first word of the verse, is the word “Much”. So, in this lesson, I’m going to show you the literal word order of the verse, and also, the very plain and straightforward meaning of the verse.
Five Greek words..
There are five Greek words that make up that last sentence in James 5:16. And here’s the literal word order, and the literal translation, of those five words..
“Much power, by the prayer of the righteous, is made to work”, or you could say.. “Is accomplished”.
Here’s the breakdown of the five Greek words..
The first word in the Greek, is translated “Much”.
The second word is translated “Power”.
The third word is translated “by the prayer”.
The fourth word is translated “of the righteous”.
And the last word is translated “is made to work”.
And here’s how we would typically word it in English.. “Much power is made to work, by the prayer of the righteous.”
The phrase, “much power is made to work” conveys the idea of “energizing”, or “putting into action” a great power, so that it’s benefits can be utilized. In this verse, God is telling us that our prayers can unleash the power of God, to bring about “needful changes” in our lives. Listen again, to the words of this verse..
In the original Greek text, the verse begins with a word meaning, either “many” as in a great number, or “much”, as in a great amount. “MUCH” is the meaning here; A great amount.
Next we have a word meaning “to be strong”, or “to have power”. The NASB uses the word “effective”, and I guess that’s okay; Because something that’s strong and powerful, is usually also very effective. The KJV uses two words, “effectual, and fervent”. “The effectual fervent prayer”. But the original text doesn’t have any words in it that convey the idea of fervency. The idea in the original text, is “power” and “strength”. Some versions use the word “prevail”. Of course “to prevail” means to overcome something, no doubt with power. So that’s not a bad translation. Much prevailing can come from prayer, “much overcoming”.
Several translations DO use the words “power” or “great power”. And this is the EXACT meaning of the word in this verse.
Here’s the next word.. “Made to work”. In the Greek, it’s the last word, but we would put it next. This great power, is “put to work”, it’s “unleashed”, and “turned loose” to bring about results. The original Greek word means exactly that. The root word is “en-erg-eh’-o”, and that’s where we get our word “energy” from. It means.. “to be at work, to do work, to accomplish work”. It’s just like the power of electricity flowing through wires; and when it reaches a lightbulb, the bulb LIGHTS UP. Or when it reaches a bell, the bell SOUNDS OFF. The energy, is “unleashed”, and it creates a result!
That’s how God is describing prayer. There is this great power that is energized, and “made to work” by our use of prayer! The power that’s energized of course, is God’s power. God’s power to DO anything He pleases. And it’s our prayers, that can unleash that power of God. The power to do anything that God chooses, is “right”.
That’s a tremendous tool isn’t it? A tool that can turn loose the power of God! Prayer is a “tool” that we can use, to “energize” the unlimited power of God, to help us, in our needs. That’s almost too good to be true. But it IS true! The bible SAYS it’s true..
“Much power is energized (is made to work), by the prayer of the righteous”. James 5:16 That’s exactly what this verse is saying.
I heard preacher once say, that the prayer itself doesn’t HAVE any power, because it’s the power of God that really causes things to be done; It’s God’s power effects a change, you might say. In other words; If God chooses to intervene, and heal someone for instance, or to cause some “change” in a situation, it’s strictly God’s power that has effected that change. And so the prayer really didn’t have any part in it at all. Since God already knows beforehand, what He’s going to do, and since God knows what we’re going to ask, even BEFORE we ask. Therefore, it’s all God’s doing.
That’s what I heard a preacher preach one day.
Well, that preacher had it correct, in saying that the power spoken of was God’s power. But what he failed to recognize, is that it’s OUR prayers, that energize and unleash that power, and “put it to work”. God’s power is always there, but the prayers of the righteous CAN, and DO cause that power to be “turned on”.
Did you know that you had that kind of power? If you’re among the righteous you do!
By minimalizing the role that prayer plays in this whole scenario, do you see how that preacher was really “undermining” the whole purpose of James 5:16 ?
What IS the purpose of this verse? The whole purpose is to tell us, that our prayers have their OWN power; and the purpose is to urge us to USE that power. Prayer is a very powerful tool, that God encourages us to use, in receiving blessings from Him.
YES, it is God’s power that brings about healing. It’s God’s power that causes changes in a situation. It’s God’s power that will cause His providential care to be “realized” in our lives. It’s God’s power that can do absolutely anything, that He deems “right” to do. But our prayers can “energize” that power.
God WANTS to do good things for us. That’s one reason WHY, He wants us to pray. He wants us to be blessed with good things. He wants us to be healed, especially spiritually. But it’s not God’s will, to heal all of us physically, so that we live forever, is it? But it IS God’s will that we all live forever spiritually.
But our focus today is on God’s desire to help us in THIS life. And it’s our focus today, to realize the value, and the power of prayer, as a tool, to “energize” and to “unleash”, and “turn on”, and to “put to work” God’s unlimited power IN our lives.
James 1:17 assures us, that “Every good thing, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variance, or shadow of turning.” Every good thing in our lives, is a gift from God. And God wants us to be blessed with these good things.
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” 2 Cor 9:8.
Do you know what Moses told the people of Israel, that God would do if they obeyed God? He said, in Deut 30:9.. “Then the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body, and in the offspring of your cattle, and in the produce of your ground; For the Lord will again REJOICE over you for GOOD, just as He rejoiced over your fathers.”
Don’t you think that God will rejoice over US for good, the same way He rejoiced over them; if we obey Him, just like He told THEM to obey Him? God wants to bless us!
Isn’t that why Jesus said, in Luke 6:38.. “Give and it will be given unto you; Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.”
What will pour into our lap? God’s blessings will! I know this verse isn’t talking about prayer; but the point is, God wants to bless us so richly, that we won’t even have room for all the blessings that he wants to give us.
You know, all these verses that we’ve been looking at, having to do with blessing us; and even the verse we started with.. James 5:16; they all have something in common. The blessings promised, and the power of God that’s “energized” by our prayers; All these things, are DEPENENT on our obedience to God.
“Give and it will be given to you..” We GIVE, as the Lord has told us to do, (in other words, we obey) and He blesses us beyond measure.
You obey the Lord, “and He will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand..”
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that you’ll have all sufficiency in everything..” Why? “So that you may have an abundance for every good deed.” In other words; So we can obey God, and do His will. So we can do every good deed.
And what about James 5:16 ? “Much power is made to work..” What puts that power to work? What energizes that power? Our prayers do, right? Who’s prayers? Just anybody’s prayers? No, not just anybody. Not just anybody can pray to God, and have their prayers unleash His great power, to cause the blessings that we desire, to come to us.
Who’s prayer has that kind of power? The scripture says.. “The prayer of the righteous.”
The prayers of righteous Christians; Christians who are DOING God’s will. Christians who are LIVING as God wants us to live. Christians who are TRYING their best, not to sin. Christians who are REPENTING when the do sin. And Christians who are putting their TRUST in God, and using their prayers, to petition God, to intervene for them. To help with problems that seem to be hopeless. Problems that ARE hopeless, and futile, if we try to solve them on our own. But when we unleash the power of God, to help us, NOTHING is hopeless or futile.
It’s just like when the disciples said to Jesus, in Mathew 19:25.. “Then who can be saved?” And Jesus answered and said.. “With men this is impossible, but with God, ALL things are possible.” V-26.
Those verses were talking about how man can’t be saved on his own, but you know as well as I do, that when Jesus says.. “with God all things are possible”, He means ALL THINGS!
When you are living a life of obedience to God, and you pray to Him, because you’ve got a problem that can’t be solved by ANY person.. you are “putting to work” the power of God, that makes ALL things possible.
And you might as well just figure, that if your prayer is according to God’s will, then it’s “a done deal”. There’s no sense doubting; because God tells us, in James 1:6-7..
“But let him ask in faith, without any doubting; for the one who doubts, is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect to receive anything from the Lord..”
But if you ask with faith, THEN, “Much power is energized, the power is brought about, it’s accomplished, it’s made to work.. all by the prayer of the righteous.”
If you need a little extra incentive, to obey God, then the power of prayer should be enough for anyone. The power, to unleash GOD’S power, in our lives! What more could anyone ask?
We could ask for salvation, couldn’t we? And if we obey God, He’ll bless us with that too.
God wants to bless you..
If we would hear His word, and believe His word. Rom 10:17. And that includes believing in the power of prayer..
But most specifically it means believing that Jesus is the risen Christ, the Son of God. Mat 16:16
And if we repent of our sins, as Jesus has commanded us to do, in Luke 13:3 and 5.
And if we would be willing to confess our faith in His name, as He tells us to do in Mathew 10:32
And if we would simply be willing to be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, just like Jesus said in Mark 16:16.. “He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved.”
THEN, if we would just do those things, we WILL be saved. And THEN, we will have the power of prayer, at the tip of our tongues, and in the front of our minds. But you MUST be a Christian.
God wants to bless you with good things in this life, and with eternal life, when this life is over. You can obey God, and have it all.
May God bless you in the study of His word.