The past two weeks we have taken a look at intercessory prayer how we operate in it as believers. This is a year of harvest and and advancement for our church. How much we harvest and how far we advance will be determined by how much we prayer and intercede for God’s will to be done in and through our church. Let’s look at the prophet Elijah and see how we can learn from him and how to pray effectual fervent prayers.
James 5:16-18 (NKJV): The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
James 5:16 (Message): The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.
As we begin our study on fervent prayer, it is best for us to look at two initial points that James introduces. First, he describes this kind of prayer as “effectual fervent” prayer. The Greek word used here is energeo. The literal definition is “to be active or efficient”; notice the connection to our English word energy. This is prayer that is energetic! In fact, for the concept even to be communicated in English, the translators used two words to translate energeo — “effectual fervent.” It may also help our understanding to look at the English definition of those two words.
Fervent is defined as “exhibiting or marked by great intensity or feeling." Effectual is “producing or able to produce a desired effect.” The kind of prayer James is writing about here has great intensity and great passion — but it produces the desired effect!
Second point: James turns us toward Elijah, describing him as “a man subject to like passions as we are.” This is a man like us; in other words, every one of us, according to James, has access to this same kind of influence through prophetic prayer. Just like Elijah.
Again, it has to do with recognizing that God has called and authorized all His children to pray this kind of prayer. He does say a righteous man avails much. You may be thinking, "This disqualifies me. I’m struggling with... I'm guilty of..." According to Scripture, the righteous person is anyone who has been forgiven and made right with God through the blood of Jesus Christ and is following in the way of the Lord.
Background on Elijah
1 Kings 17:1: Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”
King Ahab had led Israel down a path where they worshiped false gods. He set up places of worship to Baal, a religion of perversion and death.
God was making a statement to Israel through this drought - go ahead a see what these gods can do for you. You think about stories like the prodigal son. The father allowed his son to squander his inheritance on wild living, which led him to a place of desperation.
1 Kings 18:1-2: Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.
God sends Elijah before King Ahab to challenge his prophets of Baal and to end the drought at the command of the Lord.
1 Kings 18:16-18: So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.
Ahab calls Elijah the troublemaker of Israel. It's interesting that anytime we confront the enemy, he is the one calling us names - trying to put the blame on us. Elijah did not let that deter him one bit and reminded Ahab that Israel was in the condition that it was in because of him. He ignored the commands of the Lord and he is the one that set up these altars for Baal.
I. Rebuild broken altars
1 Kings 18:30-33: Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.
Something that gets overlooked in this story: when Elijah's turn comes in this challenge, the first thing he does is rebuild the altar that was torn down. If you are seeking breakthrough while facing the enemy, then begin by rebuilding the places where altars are broken. Broken altars could be in nations, churches, families or in your own life. We should always start with ourselves. This could be any area that we have let slide - it could be personal disciplines or obedience to the Lord.
Importantly, if we will learn to enter into confrontational, fervent prayer and see the workings of evil broken down, we must begin by building an altar of prayer.
II. Call on the Name of the Lord
1 Kings 18:32: and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord.
Elijah rebuilt the altar in the name of the Lord.
1 Kings 18:36-39: At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”
He prayed in the name of the Lord and asked God to demonstrate His power so that people would come to know Him.
Philippians 2:9-11: Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
God works through prayer. The power is released through His name because of what He accomplished through the cross.
III. Deal with the Enemy
1 Kings 18:40: Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.
They were all killed. This seems harsh, but this was the terms of the Old Covenant. God is not telling us to plow up abortion clinics or burn down adult bookstores. We defeat the enemy through prayer - our battle is against spiritual principalities.
Luke 10:19-20: Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”
God has given us authority over the enemy. If the enemy has any authority over your life, its because you have given it to him. Walking in authority is not up to us looking good - it's about kingdom advancement.
One thing that can happen when we begin to see breakthrough is that we let up on the enemy. We need to make sure pray until everything is accomplished that God wants accomplished.
After the previous three things have taken place, we still must seek God until the final breakthrough comes. This is not a time of confronting the Adversary. It is a time to prayerfully seek God’s order of things to be reinstated.
1 Kings 18:41: Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!”
At this point in the story there was not even a cloud in the sky. Where did Elijah hear thunder? Where did he hear wind and oncoming rain? He heard it in the Spirit; he saw it in the invisible realm.
His prayers were not out of desperation, hoping that everything would work out. Rather, Scripture tells us that he cast himself on the ground and put his face between his knees. That was nothing other than the squatting position taken in that culture for a woman laboring to give birth. Elijah was entering into travail.
1 Kings 18:43-44: Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’ ”
I have thought of this verse often, since we have been here in Sioux Falls. I see that little rain cloud and I know that God is sending His rains to bring life and to restore life here in our city.
If we are going to seek the introduction of God’s works of power into those circumstances where an overthrow of the Adversary or an entry of God’s miracle grace is needed, we must be bold in prayer. James writes that what accomplishes much is effectual fervent praying. We are talking about a man, a woman, even a child whose heart is learning to beat with that same heart of passion God has to see His Kingdom come and will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
“There is a world of difference between praying with expectancy and praying with presumption. Praying with fervency and expectancy requires that we live as people becoming more and more familiar with the voice of the Lord, so that we know how to pray. Expectancy hears the voice of the Lord and then moves into prayer to see His will done on earth. In contrast to praying expectantly, presumption or presumptuous prayer tells God what we think ought to happen and demands that He act. In the case of Elijah, the Spirit of God was causing a man to understand God’s desire for righteousness to be made manifest for the redeemed. When God’s people stand before the Lord and sense His heartbeat, when they realize that He desires for His people to come out from under the bondage of hell, then they will declare and experience deliverance.”
- Penetrating the Darkness, Jack Hayford
Many people in our city are suffering from terminal illnesses. I know that God can heal them and it is causes me to all the more go after God to release His healing power. We need a move of God and God is waiting for us to fervently prayer for His Spirit to be poured out on our city.