Go to God First
Prayer is good. Prayer is necessary. Pray is essential to our Christian life, and to those statements we would say “yes” and “amen” to be sure. In fact, we are called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), living our lives with an attitude of prayer.
So, as prayer is imperative in our walk with the Lord, it’s also imperative in our outreach to others.
As soldiers of the Lord in a spiritual battle where our evangelistic efforts are opposed, we must pray. Then we must pray again and so on. You get the idea.
Prayer and evangelism must go hand in hand.
It’s just not enough to pray, and it’s just not about how to pray. It’s also about the condition in which we pray.
James 5:16 is simply one of many starting points as we ponder the essential of evangelistic prayer:
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
In recent days I have meditated upon this verse as it pertains to our witness. Although the context of the previous verses (James 5:14-15) is about praying for the sick, I think there can be application for our witness for Jesus.
You see, the fervent effective prayer of a righteous man avails much, but not just when the prayer is offered up for physical healing. It seems to me we may also reflect on this verse in light of the spiritual healing of a lost individual in salvation and our petitions to the Lord for that end.
The idea of confession of sin implies keeping a short account with God. We need to walk in the light as we seek to shine and share the light with those walking in darkness (John 8:12 and 1 John 1:5-8). And part of walking in the light is confessing our sins to God.
And praise God, when we confess our sins He’s “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John1:9). We also should praise the Lord because He has imputed to us the righteousness of God through our faith in Jesus (Romans 4:5, Romans 3:20-21, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
The scripture states in the second part of James 5:16, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”. Though various translations render this statement differently, the constant is the connection between the righteous person and accomplishing of much.
James used Elijah as an example of the fervent effectual prayers of a righteous man availing 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.
Elijah’s praying availed much. Yet, notice James encouraging the audience with the phrase, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” You see, Elijah, a sinner like you and me, was prone to weakness. There were times in his ministry he wanted to quit. At one point in his life, immediately following the great victory God gave him on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18:20-45, he simply wanted to die as Jezebel pursued him (1 Kings 19:1-14):
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
Whether you’re walking victoriously, praying fervently in your witness today, or walking in weakness, discouraged and feeling like a failure in your testimony, take heart. God is for us. He is our resource, and in prayer we acknowledge our utter and complete dependence upon Him. For without Him, “we can do nothing” (John 15:5). But with Him, we can “do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Philippians 4:13).
Yes, evangelism should begin on our knees to be sure. Yet, I submit that our witness to others is most effectively expressed when our own walk with the Lord is healthy.
Note the connection between our witness to others and our walk with the Lord in 1 Peter 3:15:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
We begin a series on evangelistic prayer with this principle: Go to God on behalf of people before you go to people on behalf of God.
Before we go to God on behalf of people, may we first go to God seeking intimate communion with Him. For as we walk closely with Him, our witness to others will be more effective. Amen.