Pray-ers are a lot like sneezers—there are all kinds.
For instance, some sneezers are “blast-a-hole-in-the-wall” sneezers. There’s no art. Just suck in a week’s worth of air and “Ahhhhhhhh-CHOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Woe be to the person who steps between this sneezer and the wall.
The air current from the sneeze registers about seven on the Richter scale.
If all you want to do is expel whatever is tickling your nose, I guess this is okay. It’s not pretty. If others aren’t expecting it, you may give them a heart attack, but hey, it works.
Some folks pray like this. No art, just get it out. When they pray the rafters rumble, the windows rattle and dust floats down from the ceiling. If Jesus had prayed like these folks when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, James and John wouldn’t have slept instead of praying.
Sleeping would have been impossible.
Other sneezers are much more artful. Instead of trying for the big bang, they aim for style and understatement. “Ah-choo!” they squeak and daintily dab at their nose with a handkerchief.
And some folks pray like this. They want to express themselves in a sophisticated fashion so they seem to pray with one pinky in the air, like cultured people used to drink tea in the pre-Starbucks world.
Your style probably has more to do with your personality or the church you attend than anything else, but there are some tremendously important things when you pray. Important because the right kind of prayer gets incredible results. Listen:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray… And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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. 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 (NKJV)
The effective prayer of a righteous man avails much. Hmm … you mean to tell me that some prayer isn’t effective? So how do you pray effectively?
Effective prayer is fervent prayer. Fervent comes from the Greek word “energeo.” It means effective, efficient and active. If some prayers were sneezes they wouldn’t have enough power to blow our noses (or something like that). We’ve got to feel a stake in the outcome of our prayer. If we’re indifferent as to whether God answers us or not, our prayers are going to be ineffective.
Here are some other characteristics of effective prayer:
–it lines up with God’s Word
–it’s free from play-acting and self-justification
–it’s absent of meaningless words and attempts to impress God
–it’s often offered after confession of sin
–it’s offered in faith
–it’s often offered in tandem with other people (James 5:16)
–it proclaims what God has said in His Word
–it’s full of thanksgiving and praise
–it lines up with God’s mission for our lives.
J.B. Phillips renders James 5:13b like this, “Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer.” Whoa!
So, we all have a sneezing style, but what is your prayer style? Even more important, what is the substance of your prayers?
I don’t dare ask you about the substance of your sneezes.