“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)
The apostle Paul writes, “you are restricted by your own affections” (2 Corinthians 6:12). Determining what our “own affections” are must therefore be a useful exercise. Where our thoughts go when not otherwise occupied is one means of insight in this regard. Another is to reflect on our prayers.
There are many possibilities but as an example and thought starter let us consider just three; health, weather and government. This should give us a means of evaluating all affections.
Concerning health we note that there are a number of people in the Bible who prayed concerning health issues. However, none of those people are alive today so presumably they all died from some other cause and therefore their healing was only of a temporary nature.
If we consider the prayers of the Apostles we will notice that their prayers had to do with spiritual health. They prayed for the salvation of people, their spiritual growth and their maturity in Jesus Christ.
Concerning the weather we note that there are few prayers in the Bible. Elijah did pray for rain but we should take into account that he also prayed that it would not rain for 3½ years.
We are commanded to pray for our daily food (Matthew 6:11) yet it often pleased God not to provide for the ungodly. The prayers of the Apostles are that men would receive the Bread of Life which is for their eternal souls.
Concerning government we are asked to pray for those in government. In a country where we have democratically elected government we get the government we collectively ask for. If we want godly men in leadership they must be elected by the people. If we want godly government we need more godly voters and that means more effective evangelism.
James knew the human heart when he wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). We should look at our motivation for the things we pray. Is it for things eternal (spiritual health, spiritual food and Christ’s leadership) or for things earthly and temporal? It isn’t wrong to pray for the temporal things and there is plenty of precedent and command in the Bible that affirms we should but we should not neglect the weightier matters that are eternal.
Let us be fervent in prayer for the spiritual health and maturity of believers; that they would be nourished by spiritual food (the Word of God) and that God would enable us to lead men and women, boys and girls to Jesus Christ.