Prayer is not to be devoid of power. In the Bible are records of the power of God that is invoked by praying. Yet, this kind of power is extremely rare in this world today. When the religious, theological blinders are removed and cast aside, the Bible can reveal exactly how prayer is to work.
18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
Is the tree withering a normal physical response to human speech? Do you expect plants to instantly respond to your voice and the words that you speak? The instantaneous, remarkable work that was done here was beyond the normal, natural laws. The words which were spoken invoked spiritual power.
20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”(They saw the effect, but did not discern the cause.) 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith (believing) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith (believing).”
Verse 22 is a “promise of God” often referenced when teaching about the power of prayer. Once hearing or reading this verse I would start again, praying various prayers, without the type of results Jesus demonstrated here. Then the self condemnation would start – “oh, I just must not be believing…”. By the context of this section, we know that whatever is asked for in prayer here in verse 22, the expected result is the invocation of spiritual power in order to have the impossible come to pass at our command. So, what kind of prayer is this?
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints (believers) according to the will of God.
We have a weakness. By the senses, in the flesh, we do not know what to pray for as we ought. It requires the operation of holy spirit to overcome this weakness. The instruction, the wisdom is this – as the gift of holy spirit is operated, it intercedes for us, it intercedes for the saints (the believers) according to the will of God. This intercession is associated with speaking in tongues – that is one way in which we act upon these instructions from God and overcome this weakness.
The Epistle of James is written to Hebrew believers whose background and culture is the law and the Jewish religion. In most instances they continued to practice this religion. So there are references in this epistle which we may have difficulty understanding.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith (believing) will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven
Here is a promise of God, again related to prayer. There is nothing magical about oil. Anointing with oil does not initiate the energizing of holy spirit power. This is a custom that the Hebrews practiced in their culture.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Is our flesh righteous? No! Our righteousness is in the new creation in us, the inner spiritual self. It is spiritual. This confession to one another is not a religious act, it is that we minister to each other and strengthen each other.
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
In this record in James, Elijah is given as a practical example, an illustration of one who prayed, with the result that spiritual power went into operation. This illustration applies to this context of prayer, here in James 5.
To the people raised in the Hebrew culture, this record of Elijah would be very familiar, and would communicate clearly to them. The word 'prayed' here in the Greek is the root of the word 'pray' used in Matthew 21:22, so these verses are referring to the same thing. Remember we are examining the Word to find out what kind of prayer this is that results in the invocation of spiritual power.
Lets briefly check the record of Elijah in 1 Kings 17 so we can see what James is referring to.
1 Kings 17:1
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab (the king of Israel), “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years (he did not say how many – but the length of time would be in years) , except by my word. (or 'except at the command of my word')”
Elijah communicated the promise of God which had been given to him. This record does not mention Elijah praying, but until he gives the command of his word there would be no rain. James says that he prayed and the rain stopped. At the time of 1 Kings 17:1, the rain had stopped; the spiritual power of God had been invoked by the words of Elijah.
1 Kings 18:1
1 After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”
They were close to the end of the three years and six months. Here God give Elijah word of wisdom and word of knowledge by the operation of holy spirit which was upon him.
1 Kings 18:41
41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. 44 And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man's hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” 45 And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. 46 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
How did Elijah know what to pray for? How did he know when to pray? He knew because of revelation, word of knowledge and word of wisdom. God taught him what to pray for, how to pray, and when to pray.
This is the nature of prayer that the verses we examined are referring to, not prayer initiated in our flesh, by our senses! Remember Romans 8, that we have a weakness – we do not know what to pray for as we ought. It is by way of the operation of the gift of holy spirit that this weakness is overcome.
Revelation is one way in which we can know what to pray for according to the will of God. Then, as we move according to the word of wisdom, spiritual believing is energized, and God's will comes to pass.
So, back in James, the Elders are to pray for the sick, and the believers are to pray for each other. What kind of prayer is to be prayed? This prayer is according to the will of God, as he directs by the operation of the gift of holy spirit, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and spiritual discernment. That is the kind of prayer which produces the spiritual power to bring deliverance to those in need.
Back in Matthew, what kind of prayer allows the believer to bring to pass the impossible at his command? The same kind of prayer as in James; prayer which God teaches by way of the operation of holy spirit. Then spiritual believing goes into operation and the impossible comes to pass. This is how we learn of the specific promises of God to us, or those we minister to. This is how these promises come to pass in our lives.
Excerpt from the book "Godly Abundance and Prosperity" (C)2014 Keith S. Radcliffe
(C)2014 Keith S. Radcliffe