Sunday, May 9, 2021

Effectual Fervent Prayer

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
--James 5:16

Another interpretation of this saying is, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." In other words, prayer works. God hears all prayers, but the prayers of a righteous person who keeps the commandments and is in tune with the Holy Spirit get more attention because they are already in harmony with the Lord's will. They are easy for God to answer.

I do not claim to be a righteous person, or that my prayers are always fervent or effective, but I try to pray regularly for others, and I like to think that others are praying for me. I need the prayers of others to bolster my own pathetic prayers. Most importantly, I rely on the prayers of Jesus on my behalf:

"I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them." (John 17:9-10)

"Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him— Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life." (D&C 45:3-5)

The only truly righteous person to have lived on the earth is Jesus, and surely His prayers are effectually fervent. Though I fail in many ways every day, I have hope because Jesus is praying for me.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Prayer of Faith

In his general letter to the primitive church, the apostle James admonished the saints to exercise "the prayer of faith" in praying for ill family members and friends. 

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
--James 5:15

The prayer of faith is prayer motivated by faith. We pray with faith that God hears, and then we act on our prayer and on our faith as instruments of the Lord.  In other words, the prayer of faith is a prayer followed by works of faith as we are directed by the Spirit. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Unanswered Prayers

In the Apostle James's open letter to the saints in the primitive Church of his day, he reminded them (and us) why our prayers sometimes go unanswered. 

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
--James 4:3

To ask amiss is to ask for the wrong things. God will not give us things He knows are harmful for us. If a child asks for a bottle of whisky, a wise parent will refuse to give it because of the harm it can do, despite the child's protestations that he thinks it would be fun to get drunk. "No" can be a loving, merciful answer.

In other places we are told to let the Holy Ghost guide our prayers. Without the Spirit's guidance, we may very well pray for things not in harmony with God's will. 

I am grateful the Lord is kind enough to ignore my misguided and self-centered prayers. I am reminded of Garth Brooks's lyric, "thank God for unanswered prayers."

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Nothing Wavering

The Apostle James wrote an open letter to the ancient Church in his day with counsel for the saints. Those in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are very familiar with verses 4-5 because they triggered young Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord and receive the visitation from the Father and the Son that inaugurated the Restoration. We do not as often read verse 6, which contains an important element of effective prayer: 

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.
--James 1:6

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I may doubt what I know, but I ought not doubt that I can get an answer. I must be firm and unwavering in my desire to receive knowledge. The Lord may pause in His answer to let me feel the need more keenly, so that I may prize the answer more fully when it comes, but He will always answer a sincere request. 

Faith is a belief in things unseen and unknown. I demonstrate my faith when I persist despite the void of evidence that I have been heard. Faith grows as I carry on in what I believe is right even when my efforts seem futile. 

God's primary goal is to increase my faith. In His wisdom and love, that may mean that He must delay His response. "Faith worketh patience," which is a critical virtue. In patience I will find my answers.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Where and Who I Am

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The Apostle Paul taught his young apprentice, Timothy: 

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
--1 Timothy 2:8

The message is simplepeople everywhere should pray. My circumstances and surroundings have no bearing on whether or not I can pray and be heard. My inner circumstances, however, have everything to do with the effectiveness of my prayers. My hands should be holy, meaning my actions should be pleasing to God and in line with His will and doing His work. I should be at peace with those around me, not quarreling and disputing and bickering. The Holy Spirit cannot work on a heart that is full of anger or bitterness. So, where I am when I pray is not the issue, but rather who I am and how I am when we pray.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

No Stopping

In Paul's letter to the saints in Thessalonica, the apostle listed in concise terms the way followers of Christ should live. Within his list is found this simple instruction. 

Pray without ceasing.
-- Thessalonians 5:17

It is a mystery to me how one can pray without ceasing, 24x7, and go about normal life. I am a single-minded individual with a one-track mind. Multi-tasking is not an option for me. I can do multi-switching, jumping from one track to another, but I am never on more than one track at a time. Switching, for me, is an inefficient process. I find myself expending more effort changing tracks and picking up the thread where I left off than I do getting the task done on either of the tracks.

I can pray in the gaps, however. Every day includes moments that are not occupied, minutes where I am not engaged in any particular task. Rather than wander in daydreams or look for some nonsense to occupy my thoughts, I can turn my neutral thoughts to prayer. 

For me, praying without ceasing means not giving up on prayer. Answers do not always come the way I want and in the time I want. Nevertheless, I must not stop praying.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Work of Prayer

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In closing his letter to the saints in Colosse, Paul mentioned one of his missionary companions from that city: 

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
--Colossians 4:12

Prayer done right is work. Effectual prayer entails effort, albeit spiritual effort, but effort none the less. The Book of Mormon prophet Enos "wrestled" before the Lord in his mighty prayer (Enos 1:2) When I read the words that Ether prayed as he asked for help in lighting the barges he had built to cross the ocean to the promised land, I hear him struggle with great effort to beseech God for a blessing. When Jesus knelt with the Nephites to pray with them, He "groaned within himself" as He began his prayer, indicating the tremendous effort He exerted as He prayed for His people.

God approves of work, and He Himself also works. He rested on the seventh day from the work of creation (see Genesis 2:2). Isaiah prophesied God would do a "marvelous work and a wonder" (see Isaiah 29:14), which work and wonder we see today in the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the true Church of Christ, and the gathering of Israel. God works in us and through us (see Ephesians 3:2, Philippians 2:13, Colossians 1:29). He works constantly, and He expects me to work as well.  

Prayer is a good work, but it is nevertheless work.