Effectual Prayer

James 5:16b

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Effectual – Fervent – Avails

Albrecht Dürer, Study of Praying Hands, 1508Three simple words that are easy to understand and full of meaning.

  • Effectual – producing or capable of producing an intended effect.
  • Fervent – having or showing great warmth or intensity of spirit, feeling, enthusiasm.
  • Avail -to be of use or value, to profit, advantage.

Basically –  pray specifically, pray like you mean it, and pray with a valuable purpose.

As I continue to think upon the verse, I find that the words effectual and fervent are not only mere adjectives but are descriptive words that lead to a promise.

What might that promise be?  To “avail much.”

So with that good news in mind why does it seem that there are times that my prayers aren’t “availing?”

In search for the answer, I first had to acknowledged a few things;

  1. Do I have a relationship with God?  Yes.
  2. Do I believe in the power of prayer?  Yes.
  3. Have I had experiences that can validate the effectiveness of prayer?  Yes.  And it is through those experiences that I have learned that God answers with either yes, no, and wait.

Yes and no are self explanatory answers, but Wait often trips me up because it is the one response from God that ask something from me in return.  And that something is……patience.

By nature I am a fairly patient person, however, I still fall short and admit that the act of waiting is somewhat uncomfortable.  Regardless, time continues to prove that no matter how much I fuss and fret,  it does not, and will not quicken the waiting process.  So the faster I resign to it the better off I am.

In accepting this reality a new thought came to mind as to what I perceive as God’s answer of “wait.”  What if while I am sitting on the patient seat of “wait,” that I am actually sitting in the wrong seat?  And I wait amiss?

James 4:3a
You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss,

  • Amiss -out of the right or proper course, order, or condition; improperly; wrongly; astray.

So what then?  Well recently I got my answer as God used an opportunity to enlightened me on a matter that I have been praying on for several years.

The answer came after I had entered into a few hours of irritation, exasperation, and a high level of disappointment with a person.  Simply put, I was mad.

In fact I was so fed up with this fellow christian that I had “had it!” And the feeling of  hopelessness was commanding my attention and was leading me to question the effectiveness of my prayers.

To question the effectiveness of my prayers, now this is dangerous ground!

As I began to understand this, I sought God’s forgiveness for my attitude and started working on tempering it.  It was then that God took me back to the basics and once again asked me to pray for this person.

“Say what?!  Isn’t that what I have been doing?  In fact, isn’t that what I have been doing for years to no avail?”  Then I heard it.  I simply heard these words, “You have asked amiss.”

“Wait, what? I have asked amiss?”  But no matter how much I questioned this statement the answer remained the same.

Then the reason became clear.  It was because I had based my prayers on an assumption, on false perceptions.

When I recognized this, I heard, “think of him as a babe in wisdom,” and as soon as I received that, compassion and sympathy flew into my heart for this person and I instantly found all of my former angst dissolved.

I now realized that my prayers for him had been inadequate, they indeed were “amiss.”

I had made the assumption, due to his spiritual education, leadership, and responsibilities, that he was wise.  I had mistaken knowledge for wisdom.

This mistake made my prayers ineffectual because I was praying for the wrong things for him.  Things, I might add, that were based on assumptions which I now see as being judgmental.  So who needs the prayers and forgiveness now?  Talk about humbling.

This lesson taught me that the first thing I need to do in order to have effectual prayer is to fervently ask God how I should pray, leaning on His understanding and not mine.

I also need to clear myself from any assumptions that I may be under in order to avoid becoming judgmental and harsh.   Those things prove to be stumbling blocks that will inhibit effectual prayer –  causing me to ask “amiss.”

I believe that these lessons will improve my prayer life and that they will become more effectual and availing.  And who knows, perhaps the duration of my sitting on the “patient seat of wait” will not be as long as it has been in the past, for I am now asking more fervently.



8 thoughts on “Effectual Prayer


  2. You have dissected a much loved and desired scripture verse. The first place that made me stop was . . . “pray with a valuable purpose.” The second place was . . . “And I ask amiss?”

    A most interesting and probing post. One I will put in my notes of notes.  You have a gift of finding the lowest denominator for the real answer. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Thanks for the encouragement! Wow, It’s true how hard it can be to accept another persons apparent hard heart. But if we’re not careful, we may be judging when what they really need is LOVE..It’s hard to love a person when we see them sinning because we think they should know better or we feel like we have failed or maybe we didn’t set a good enough example. But if we love God with ALL our heart, the door will be open for them too. I don’t know how or understand why sometimes our effort to see someone get what we already got takes longer than we want. But maybe, just maybe God is not working on that detail in their life, but another. Thanks for the reminder…I love you friend!


  4. Pingback: The Power of Asking | Beit T'Shuvah

  5. Very insightful. There are things I have prayed for for a long time and the answer so far has been ‘no’ or ‘wait’. I had to realize that my priorities are not the same as God’s. Things I may think should be added or subtracted from my life, He has chosen to either leave or leave out for my eventual good. I have seen many answers too, which reinforce to me that when we pray according to His will, he answers in the affirmitive because, in that case, our desires are in tune with His.


  6. Good post! Fortunately this verse is not “gender specific” as the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous woman is just a effective as that of the opposite gender.


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