In the book of James, we read about a wonderful qualification on prayer:
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.
The above passage says the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” In this single sentence, a man could be effectual, fervent, and righteous. By simple word re-organization, if we remove the word “effectual”, it becomes the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. That means the righteous man could pray fervent prayers that are not effectual.
Likewise, if we remove the word fervent, the sentence becomes ‘the effectual prayers of a righteous man availeth much’. This also means that a man could pray effectual prayers that are not fervent – there are problems again. ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a man availeth much’. Here, we have omitted the word righteous. And if we do that, nothing happens still, meaning that all three qualities must work hand in hand in man for his prayers to be effective.
When I was a young Christian, the verse quoted below used to bother me a lot.
James 5:17: Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
So, there was a turmoil within me. I used to quarrel with myself, saying, “You see, Elijah was a man like you; he prayed that there should be no rain in the land, and it came to pass. He was not a super-man, but a human being like you. It is therefore a shame that you cannot do likewise.” This single feat of Elijah bothered me a lot in those days.
From the passages we have read, we can see that prayer has principles – “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” By fervent prayer, I mean concentrated prayer; focused prayer where your mind does not wander about. So, if you refuse to learn to pray fervently you will allow your enemy to have a free run.
It is very easy for a man of God to stand on the pulpit, stretch forth his hands and pray for the entire congregation for thirty minutes or more. Yes, God will honour it and things will happen. But he is not helping the congregation; neither is he training them. “Give a man a piece of fish, you give him a meal, but teach him how to fish, he will eat all his life”, so goes the old adage.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, means that your prayer must be focused and fervent in order to move the hands of the Almighty.
If you are a righteous Christian, your protection from God Almighty is also guaranteed as shown in the scripture below: Isaiah 54:17: No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.
God is saying here that your righteousness is of Him and that all you need to do is to come forward with boldness to the throne of grace. Perhaps you are righteous in Christ; and you pray fervently, yet you cannot say that your prayer availeth much. Are you puzzled and do you keep asking yourself why you always obtain very little results from your prayers? Why God does not speak to you; Why He does not instruct you on which step or way to go? The answer could simply be lack of understanding of the principles of prayer.
For prayers to be effective, it has to be fervent and said by a righteous man.
1 Cor. 2:13: Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
God always gives examples as symbols to make us understand. For example, in the book of Genesis, God used skin to cloth Adam and Eve: First it was leaves they used, and then the skin of animals. Physically, it could look ordinary, but a spiritual eye will see it differently.
A spiritual eye will see that animal(s) were slaughtered before the skin cloth was obtained, that blood was shed when the animal was slaughtered, and that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood.
Noah’s ark is another example. I am sure you have read about this. Simply, it could mean that Noah preached to the people but they never heeded to him, then the flood came, and they all perished, except seven people. But it could mean much more than that. Right in that ark, we can see a picture of the rapture; God will taking His own people away to heaven, and after a while, they come back with Him. And just as the percentage of those that entered the ark was so insignificant compared to the entire population, so also is the number of people that will be raptured with Christ compared to the entire population. This is a depiction of the ark of Noah.
Some people will read the story of Abraham, Isaac and the ram and conclude that it was no big deal: “The funny man just wanted to kill his son, and a ram was provided to replace him, that is it.” But they do not know the spiritual implications of that incident: We see in that ram “Jesus crucified” – just as replacement for us.
The Bible gives us these symbols so that we can understand some deep spiritual truths. We must have read about tabernacles in the wilderness. A deeper understanding of the tabernacle is this: The Bible is simply saying that a time will come when God will call-up people by Himself, and will call the body “church of the living God”. These will be the only ones that can enter the Holy of Holies.
God took the Israelites through the Red Sea. This could be likened to the water baptism that we now practice. A spiritual eye will see the symbol of Christ’s words, “eat my flesh, it is bread” as meaning salvation.
Let us look at the word incense in the same way.
Exodus 30:6-7: And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
Even though many people have turned the use upside down, we would analyze it as a principle of prayer. Let us look closely at the statement in the above passage: “Sweet incense every morning where I will meet with thee”. Every word in the Old Testament scripture has a spiritual meaning that teaches us how to live a New Testament life. It shows that God meets with man at the burning of incense.
Acts 13:2: As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
Please take note of this: “as they ministered to the Lord.” They ministered to the Lord and then, they heard from heaven. This meant that whatever they did in that place brought results. And what did they do? “They ministered to the Lord.”
Praise and Thanksgiving – The New Testament Incense
What does it mean to minister to the Lord? The answer can be found in what we have been talking about – incense. These men burnt new testament incense, which by now we know has something to do with prayer and worship.
Psalm 141:2: Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. It is evident from the above passage that incense is speaking about prayer. It comes from the Hebrew word called ‘Quota’.
‘Quota’ means fumigation, that is, evacuating or driving out unwanted occupants. No wonder the Bible said, “the most high God dwelleth not in temples built by hands.” And that temple of God is our body, soul and spirit.
Therefore, in order for you to pray effectively and worship God in the spirit, you must offer the new testament incense, which will in turn, chase out other occupants. And when these other occupants are chased out, then you can go into the presence of the Lord freely.
Man is filled with his own devices, imaginations, doctrines and fears. And many times, we take these problems into our prayers. When we do this, it seems as if heaven becomes brass when we pray.
Someone wants to pray, but is thinking and worried about academics, husband, wife, armed robbers, travel documents, cooking and such business. And all these things are inside the heart. It will then amount to self deception if such a person now sits down and says I want to pray. One must first of all carry out a fumigation exercise. This is the work of new testament incense. It chases out all evil occupants, and then one can flow with God without hindrance.
The reason why many people cannot pray alone at home is because of their burdens, worries, fears, insecurity and uncertainties. Sometimes they try so hard but the prayers would not pick-up until they try for about thirty minutes or so. This is because the fumigation has not been done at all or it has not been properly done.
Some people sometimes pray and tell God how terrible things had been for them: They say “ah-ah, and You are the Almighty. You call Yourself the Almighty and things are going on like this in my life. Look at my colleagues in the university, they have all become general managers; just look at the people that I weaned, they are married now. Look at everything, O God, why?”
If you started your prayer like this, then it is a pity. You have not fumigated anything, but have only succeeded in breeding more insects and worms. And instead of the glory of God to fill the house, doubt would have taken over, and no one can pray successfully in this state.
Do not tell God how great your problems are, but tell your problems how great your God is.
Do not look at the Goliath and scream, rather, you should say and believe that you will not miss your target once you throw your stone.
God said that David was a man after His own heart, and David himself said these:
Psalm 100:4: Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
David was a giant killer; he was a winner, why? Because his prayers were scented with incense, with praises. Therefore, as a prayer principle, you must enter into the presence of the Lord with thanks and praises. Leave your troubles behind, open your heart unto the Lord, and enter into His gates with thanksgiving.
However, this is not because you think that all that you request of the Lord are already yours, but because your name is written in the book of life, and this cannot be exchanged for anything. Any other request you will be making should be secondary to thanksgiving and praises.
It appeared as if David knew how to “bribe” God with his prayers because of praises. When you want to pray at home, you do not begin your thanksgiving to God with warfare songs. Start with the incense: God has been good to you, and you need to tell Him so.
Paul the Apostle was a winner, a champion and conqueror. If you ask Paul what one can do to be able to light the spiritual incense, he would say ’Give thanks’! Paul gave thanks inside the prison. Apostle Paul was also ship-wrecked. For three weeks they never saw the light; the whole place was in disarray, and still, he thanked God. When you give thanks, your imprisoned circumstances will change for the best. It drives out doubts, grumblings, murmurings, and complaints. Then, you start hearing from heaven, at the altar of incense.
This is the New Testament incense and the first principle of prayer. Do not think that you need to buy the physical incense before you can offer thanks and praises to God. In this context, we need to understand and interpret the meaning of the incense by the New Testament stand.
Rev. 8:3-4: And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
You can now see that the incense is something that accompanies your prayers, which is praises and worship unto the Lord.
Confirming God’s will
The second principle of prayer which cannot be shoved aside is to always confirm God’s will before praying. Ephesians. 5:17: Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. Do not ask God for too much. Find out whether what you are asking for is God’s will for your life. You do not go to God asking that you want to marry a fifth wife. Of course that is not God’s will for your life and He is not going to answer it. Again, you might get a little slap if you are asking for too much.
Identify Your Needs Specifically
The third principle is that you must identify your needs and be specific. What many people want is not what they need. Somebody who is asking God to make him very rich, promising to sponsor the work of the Gospel to any level may not need to be rich after all. May be all God wants to do is to turn his life upside down and drain all the impurities in his life to make him more useful. But he wants to be rich.
Another person might say, O God, I want to be prophesying; I want to be seeing visions so that people can be praising God for my life. That is what he wants, but his need could be that the spirit of anger in his life should die. There may be someone else whose need is marriage. But that may not be God’s will for that person. It may be that God wants the person to go and complete the deliverance already embarked upon in order to drain out all evil deposits in the person’s life.
So, you must identify your needs and be specific. Blind Bartimaeus prayed an unspecific prayer: “Jesus the son of David, have mercy on me”. He cried loud unto Jesus. But there are so many mercies in the Bible, and Jesus had to ask him, what he really wanted. And he answered and said, “that I may receive my sight”. He now spoke specifically.
Meditate on Scriptures
Principle number four is this: gather scriptures promising what you need and meditate upon them. These scriptures are the spring board to stand in order to claim what you need. There are about 7,487 (Seven thousand, four hundred and eighty seven) promises in the Bible, and you must be able to identify the one you want.
Gather them together, meditate upon them, and make sure they become part and parcel of your life. If you open to psalm 37, there are 40 promises in this psalm alone. With scriptures, things happen!! Our old pentecostal fathers were fond of reciting psalms.
Why did they do that? Because in reciting the psalms, they were cleverly memorising the word of God and later they can apply any portion of it to their specific situation.
It is very sad now that the number of people interested in memorizing scriptures are dwindling by the day. They believe it is for Sunday School Children. Some old men and women (so they claim) believe they are too old and too big to start memorizing the scriptures. But I put it to you that you are not too old, even at 80 years of age; if you cannot read it, let someone else read it to your hearing.
Pray with An Expectant heart and with faith
1 Cor. 15:58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Let us examine again the first sentence in the above passage: therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. So, always pray to God with an expectant heart and faith.
Present Your Case Systematically before God
Do not pray vagabond prayer points. Ask for one thing at a time. Do not pray like this: “O Lord, I thank You for keeping and saving me from the wicked. I ask that You lay Your hands upon me, and that my work should prosper. I pray for our Church. I pray that my pastor would live long and grow old. I also pray for my town and village, in Jesus’ name”. This is nothing but vagabond prayer. It has no focus.
A good prayer warrior takes up a prayer point and would pray it to a level of assurance before he or she moves on to the next one. In fact, as that person prays, he or she feels the assurance of answered prayer; as the prayer goes on.
Isaiah 41:21: Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.
The above passage is telling us to present our reason(s) systematically.
Isaiah 43:26: Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.
This means you should tell the Lord your reasons systematically, and without wavering.
There was a man in the Bible who did this very well. Three men visited Abraham, and were well entertained. After these men had had their fill, they told Abraham about their mission: “Well, we have come to destroy Sodom and Gommorah, for it will be unfair if we do this without informing you.” And Abraham quickly did a little of mathematics: Lot was there, his wife, daughters and sons-in-law. He now said, “far be it from You, O Lord, that You would destroy the righteous with the unrighteous.” And God answered and said, “alright , if I find just fifty righteous men in a city, I will leave that place.”
Abraham now said, “Lord, supposing you find forty righteous people, will you still destroy the city?”
God replied in the negative. And Abraham said, “O God, do not be angry, what about thirty people? And God said He will not destroy the city. And Abraham said, “Please, Lord, just this once, what if you find, twenty people?” God still said He would not destroy the city for twenty righteous men and women.
However, Abraham was targeting ten people; he was working to reduce the number to ten. Why? There was lot, his wife and two unmarried daughters at home. It is believed that there were also three married daughters and their husbands, bringing the total number of people to ten. But at the end, Abraham’s ten people became four, because Lot’s sons-in-law would not believe that God was going to destroy the city. And in fact, it became three and a half because somebody got half way and became a pillar of salt.
Do Not Be Selfish in Your Prayers
Job 42:10: And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
James 4:3: Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
There was a man that came to us for prayers. He was doing very well, until the powers of the emptiers entered into his life. It was then he ran to Jesus, and if you had seen the way this man used to pray then, it was as if his shirt was going to be torn off his body.
But suddenly we did not see him again. By the time we saw him, he was seated in a beautifully furnished restaurant, dining. He even bought food for others seated in that restaurant.He no longer attends prayer meetings again.
Be Serious with Prayer
It is a warfare, and not a joking matter: you want to talk with the creator of heaven and earth, it is warfare, a bend or break, make or mar affair – not a joking matter at all. And the Bible says we should come boldly to the throne of grace.
Fast Along with Your Prayer
Fastig beats down the flesh and this allows the spirit man to arise. However, fasting does not force God. Fasting has to be done purposefully and not compulsively or competitively. I would not talk much on this as it will be discussed intensively in another sermon.
Do Not Dictate To God
Do not dictate to God how He should answer your prayers. Just let Him do it His own way – after all, He is God. Do not try to help Him answer your prayers. If you go through your Bible very well, you will see the various kinds of ways that God used in answering prayers – amazing kinds of ways.
Moses at the Red Sea thought that was the end of the road, for there was nothing he could do. He called unto God and He answered saying, “What is that in your hand?” God asked him. “Was it not with this same rod that you battered all the gods of Egypt to submission? Was it not with this rod that you disgraced all the kings and princes of Egypt? Now, use it.”
Moses used it and things began to happen. God disgraced the enemies; He parted the Red Sea and made a way where there was no way. This singular act became one of the greatest miracles in the Bible.
God has various strategies He uses to answering us. He has the whole world in His hands. God told the children of Israel to march round the wall of Jericho seven times. This they did and the wall sank. But if they had tried to help God, it would not have happened the way it did. Do not try to help God, because you will get into more trouble if you do.
John 4:46-53: So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.
So, once the word of God comes forth, you just receive it wholly without question. Sometimes, a word of knowledge might come for a particular person and the very clever ones tap from the overflow. They even claim them faster than the person it was meant for.
Your prayer must be persistent.
God’s delay is not God’s denial; each day brings you closer to the realisation of your dreams.
Deut. 3:25-26: I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.
This means “Shut up! Do not pray that prayer again.” Christ taught us persistence in prayers in Luke 18:1-5
which says “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;  Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:  And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.  And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;  Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
It is not as if God is difficult to approach, or hard to convince, but because of the powers of hindrances in the second heaven; the satanic angels that are fighting Christians day and night. This is why we say that prayer is a battle. Look at blind Bartimaeus, he refused to stop crying; same with the widow, she kept harassing and pestering the judge until the man gave in. What about the woman who wanted Jesus to heal her sick daughter? She harassed Jesus to the extent that she got what she wanted.
Most of the prayers in both the Old and New Testaments could be seen as holy cries: “O God, You must do what You have said.” This is the prayer of those who must get away with an answer. And one beautiful thing about God is this: He never discourages anybody. All He wants is for you to ask because His word is ‘Yea and Amen’.
You can also be sure that every discouragement and distraction in prayer is from the devil: he pinches the baby and makes the child cry so that you cannot pray; he does the same thing to the dog and makes it bark all night in order to disrupt your prayers, he makes both husband and wife angry with each other.
Pray to a Level of Assurance
Finally, you must pray to a level of assurance and then begin to praise God for the answer. But if you pray and doubt is still in your heart, then go back and continue.
Sometime ago, I was listening to a European preacher on the television. He was talking about faith in prayer. He said once you ask God for something, He has already given it to you. Therefore, you need not ask Him again. No, it is because he does not understand our terrain. How I wish he was brought to Nigeria so that he can learn one or two other lessons that God can pour out His blessings, and household wickedness will say no one would not get it. But as long as God was concerned, He had poured out His blessings, and from here, the battle begins.
- Every evil bird stealing my blessings, fall down and die, in the name of Jesus.
- Let my breakthrough appear and let my failures disappear, in the name of Jesus.
- Let the head of every marine power fashioned against me be broken, in the name of Jesus.
- Let every evil trend directing my affairs be reversed, in Jesus’ name.
- O Lord, uproot evil things from my life.
- O Lord, plant good things in my life.
- I cancel every unconscious negative agreement, in the name of Jesus.
- Lord, make me Your sharp battle axe.
- Let every spiritual weakness in my life receive termination, in the name of Jesus.
- Let every financial failure in my life receive termination, in the name of Jesus.
- Let every sickness in my life receive termination, in Jesus’ name.
- Let every architect of problems receive termination, in Jesus’ name.
- I refuse to reap any satanic harvest in any area of my life, in the name of Jesus.
- I paralyze all spiritual wolves working against my life, in Jesus’ name.
- That which hinders me from greatness, begin to give way now, in the name of Jesus.
- Every imprisoned and buried potential, come forth now, in the name of Jesus.
- I command all unfriendly helpers in every area of my life to depart, in the name of Jesus.
- I render null and void the effect of any interaction with satanic agents moving around as men and women, in Jesus’ name.
- I pull down the stronghold of evil strangers in every area of my life, in the name of Jesus.
- Any negative transaction currently affecting my life negatively, be cancelled, in the name of Jesus.
- I command all the dark works done against me in secret to be exposed and nullified, in the name of Jesus.
- I loose myself from any dark spirit, in the name of Jesus.
- Let all incantations against me be cancelled, in Jesus’ name.
- I command all oppressors to retreat and flee in defeat this moment, in the name of Jesus.
- I bind every strongman having my goods in his possessions, in the name of Jesus.
- I break the curse of automatic failure working upon my life, in the name of Jesus.
- Let the anointing to prosper fall mightily upon me now, in the name of Jesus.
- Let every anti-progress altar fashioned against me be destroyed with the fire of God, in the name of Jesus.
- I command my destiny to begin to change for the better, in the name of Jesus.
- Let my hand become the sword of fire to cut down demonic trees, in the name of Jesus.
- Let the stamping of my feet defeat the camp of the enemy, in the name of Jesus.