There is another very important principle for powerful prayer. We see it here in James 5:16 and 17. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much… and [Elijah] prayed earnestly that it would not rain….” Elijah prayed with passionate conviction. The Greek used here translates as “in prayer he prayed.” When the disciples wrote in Greek, their Jewish background often came out, and when a good Jew wanted to demonstrate emphasis or earnestness, they would repeat the words. In prayer he prayed means that Elijah had an earnest desire for God to respond to his prayers even though he knew that a positive response would put his life in danger. But that didn’t matter because doing God’s will was the priority in his life that nothing could dislodge.
There is something about this Christian life that I will never understand. It’s the problem that I see in many Christians who are otherwise faithful – they attend church services, they tithe, they minister to people – but they do not see prayer as a necessity. It isn’t that they don’t have time to pray; they just aren’t motivated to pray. There is no passionate conviction, and hear me. When we neglect prayer, we cut ourselves off from God’s power.
What I have come to know as truth is that so often passionate prayer comes out of personal challenge. It’s only right to admit that when we are more emotionally involved in a need that we are going to pray more fervently. For Elijah, his passion was two-fold. It was for God’s glory, and it was for his people. He knew that the continued existence of the nation of Israel was at stake. If national revival did not sweep the land, his people were doomed to face God’s judgment. If they continued to live their lives of immorality and idolatry – if they didn’t turn back to God – Elijah knew what God would do.
My friends, we need to wake up and realize that our families, our churches, and our nation is facing the very judgment that Israel faced. The same God who withheld the rain from Israel can and has withheld His blessings from us and will soon stop withholding His wrath. Our only hope is to feel the personal challenge and understand that we are the righteous and it is by our fervent prayer that God will provide the healing we so desperately need. Or not.
I’m reminded of the story. A mother went to revival services one night, and at the close of the service went forward to speak to the evangelist. Very quietly she told the evangelist that she had two sons, both of them were lost, and she could not understand why because she prayed for them daily. The evangelist looked at the woman and said, “Your sons are still lost because your eyes are too dry.” The mother, uncertain of what he meant, asked him to explain. He said, “Dear lady, when you reach the point where your heart is broken over the lostness of your son, when your soul cries out to heaven while tears are streaming down your face, God will move in your sons’ lives.” At first, the mother was taken aback. Who was this man to accuse her of not caring enough. But then, the Holy Spirit began to convict her. That night, kneeling by her bedside, she began to pour out her heart to God, and as God began to move in her life, the tears began to flow. Late in the night, this broken-hearted mother was crying out to heaven when her sons came in. As they passed her door, they heard her calling out their names to God between the sobs, asking God to save them from hell. They listened for a few moments and then headed to their rooms. The next morning, as the mother was fixing breakfast, her eyes red and swollen from little sleep and much crying, the two sons came to the table. She could stand it no more. She turned and as the tears flowed began to tell them of her concern, about Jesus’ love for them, how they needed to give their hearts to the Lord before it was too late. One son got up and stormed out the door. The other sat and listened quietly to his mothers plea. When she finished, he looked at her with tears in his eyes and said, “Momma, I’ve already done it. Last night when I came in, I heard you praying like I never heard before. I went to my room and asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me, and Momma, I know He did.” You know how her heart soared. But then, she went to find her other son. She looked and looked. Finally, behind the barn she found him, on his knees crying, asking Jesus Christ to come into his heart.
Listen, my friend. Maybe you’ve been praying for years that someone you love would come to know the Lord, and you’re wondering why it hasn’t happened. Could it be that your eyes are too dry? Could it be that you have lost the passionate conviction that leads to powerful prayer? Or perhaps the church has been praying for God to send revival for years, and it still hasn’t happened. Could it be that our eyes are too dry? That we have lost the passionate conviction that leads to powerful prayer? God help us!