Prayer Works!!! A Lot!!!
In James 5:13-18, James makes the case that prayer is the proper response to every situation. He was the brother of the Lord and a pastor over a primarily scattered Jewish congregation that was thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament. If we are suffering, he tells us we are to pray. If we are cheerful he tells us to sing Psalms. If we are weak, he tells us to call the elders of church to pray for us. if we are together, he tells us we should confess out sins to one another so that we might pray for one another. Prayer is the proper response to whatever goes on in our lives. By the way, even a pandemic.
James then makes a very simple but profound statement. He tells his reader that “The fervent prayer of a righteous person works a lot” (The Watsonian Translation). Wow, what a promise! Passionate prayer works and it works in abundance. This motivates me to pray and hope it does the same for you.
James then gives us an example of such a person and such a prayer. He uses the story of Elijah who prayed, and it didn’t rain for three and ½ years and then he prayed again and rained. The story is found in 1 Kings 18:41-45 where we learned that Elijah prayed not just fervently and specially but also persistently because he prayed not once but 7x before it rained.
James uses Elijah and his circumstance with King Ahab as one amazing example of prayer working a lot. He could have used countless other examples though. The Scriptures are full of examples of people praying and God answering specially because prayer works a lot. For instance:
- Abraham prays for his nephew Lot and his family, bargaining with God.
Request – Genesis 18:25 – Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
Answer – Genesis 19:15–16 – As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
- The people of God were under bondage to the Egyptians for 400 years and they cried to the LORD for deliverance from the world’s only superpower at the time.
Request – Exodus 3:7–8 – Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.”
Answer – Exodus 14:30–31 – Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
- The people of God squared off against the Amalekites and Moses raises his arms to pray for victory.
Request – Exodus 17:10–12 – So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
Answer – Exodus 17:13 – And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
- Joshua spoke to the Lord when the armies of the five kings of the Amorites came up against the nation of Israel to let him defeat his enemies that day.
Request – Joshua 10:12 – At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
Answer – Joshua 10:13 – And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.
- Hannah was barren and felt abandoned, so she came to the house of the Lord to pray for a son.
Request – 1 Samuel 1:15–16 – But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”
Answer – 1 Samuel 1:20 – And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”
- David and the Plague
Request – 1 Chronicles 21:26 – And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering.
Answer – 1 Chronicles 21:27 – Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.
- Hezekiah is confronted by the deadly threats of the King of Assyria
Request – 2 Kings 19:14–15 – Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
Answer – 2 Kings 19:35–37 – And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. 37 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.
- Nehemiah, the Kings cupbearer in Persia heard about his people the Jews and their plight back in Jerusalem
Request – Nehemiah 2:4 – Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.
Answer – Nehemiah 2:8 – And a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
- Esther, when her people are about to be destroyed because of the wicked man Haman.
Request – Esther 4:16–17 – “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Answer – Esther 5:2–3 – And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. 3 And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.”
- Daniel, when he needs understanding regarding the future of the Jews in the Babylonian Captivity
Request – Daniel 9:2 & 20 – In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years…. While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God…
Answer – Daniel 9:21 -22 – While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding.
- The King of Nineveh when hearing of God’s degree against Nineveh from Jonah
Request – Jonah 3:6–7 – The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water…9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
Answer – Jonah 3:10 – When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
- Simon and Anna looking for the Messiah’s coming
Request – Luke 2:25&36-37 – Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him… And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
Answer – Luke 2:28–30 – He took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation…. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
- Blind Bartimaeus as Jesus walked by
Request – Mark 10:51 – And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
Answer – Mark 10:52 – And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
- The Thief on the Cross a few hours from death
Request – Luke 23:42 – And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Answer – Luke 23:43 – And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
- The 120 in the Upper Room before Pentecost praying for the power from on high Jesus spoke of.
Request – Acts 1:14 -All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Answer – Acts 2:1–3 – When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
- The Apostles and the first church when beaten and threated regarding preaching Jesus
Request – Acts 4:29 – And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness….
Answer – Acts 4:31 – And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
- A Gentile named Cornelius and an Apostle named Peter both seeking God’s next step
Request – Acts 10:3–4, 9 – About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. ….9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
Answer – Acts 10:34–37 – So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed:
- The Church at Jerusalem having lost James and having seen Peter imprisoned.
Request – Acts 12:5 – So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Answer – Acts 12:12–14 – When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.
- The church at Antioch when praying and fasting concerning its role in world evangelization
Request – Acts 13:2–3 – While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Answer – Romans 15:18–19 – For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ…
- Paul is imprisoned in the midst of all his success. In two letters he writes to churches while imprisoned, he asks them to pray for him to have opportunities and boldness regarding sharing Jesus Christ.
Request – Ephesians 6:19–20 – And also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (see Also Colossians 4:2-4)
Answer – Acts 28:30–31 – He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
I really could go on and on with more examples from Scriptures beyond the 20 I have just listed. The truth is that prayer works, and that it works a lot. I could give examples from our church getting a building or our associate Pastor Schooling going from stage 3 cancer to stage one to our church paying of it mortgage. All are examples of prayer working and prayer working a lot.
We are presently seeing the “curve flattening” in regard to this pandemic. It looks like the models are all wrong. It looks like the loss of life will be less than expected, a lot less. Praise God. Many politicians are saying it was their strategies. Maybe. But I think I know why the models were all wrong and wrong a lot. God’s people have been praying and prayer works and prayer works a lot.
Pastor Dave Watson