How to Pray with Power
I received a call from someone in our church. He wanted me to go and pray for his wife who had suddenly been admitted to hospital for an operation.
As it happened, I myself had an appointment nearby to have an injection in my shoulder. I’d had a ‘frozen shoulder’ for almost two years. However, in the previous couple of days, it had suddenly got better. I explained what had happened to the consultant. He looked at me and said, ‘It’s a miracle!’ I said, ‘Don’t frozen shoulders suddenly get better?’ Over and over again, he repeated, ‘No, it is a miracle.’ Here was a secular doctor trying to persuade a rather faithless pastor that what had happened could only be explained by the supernatural power of God!
I thanked him very much for raising my faith, as I was about to go and pray in the hospital. As I walked through the corridors, I passed a hospital porter who was singing (quite loudly!), ‘Lay your hands on the sick and they will be healed.’ I said, ‘That is exactly what I am about to go and do.’ He looked deeply shocked and surprised. He obviously didn’t think I looked like the sort of person who could possibly believe that!
I went upstairs to pray for the woman and explained why my faith was riding high. She then said she had been reading James 5 (our passage for today), which says, ‘Is any one of you sick? Call the elders of the church to pray over you… And the prayer offered in faith will make you well’ (James 5:14–15). By now the Lord had given (even me!) enough signs to pray in faith. The Holy Spirit came upon her with great power. She was not immediately healed (although she is better now), but it gave me a greater understanding of ‘the prayer of faith’.
Watchman Nee wrote, ‘Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.’
How then can you pray with power?
A song of ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
Have you ever felt like you were in the depths of despair? Have you felt that ‘the bottom has fallen out of \[your\] life’ (v.1, MSG)? The psalmist says, ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy’ (vv.1–2).
Your prayers and God’s mercy are like two buckets in a well. When one goes up, the other comes down.
There is an honest desperation about this prayer. Don’t try to gloss over the difficulties of your situation, but instead recognise your dependence on God for help.
Trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness:
‘If you, God, kept a record of wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit’ (v.3–4a, MSG).
If God does not keep a record of your wrongdoings, you should not keep ‘lists’ of other people’s offenses against you. Love ‘keeps no record of wrongs’ (1 Corinthians 13:5).
You do not need to get your life sorted out before you approach God. He wants to hear the cry of your heart.
However desperate the situation, you can be confident that help will come from God (Psalm 130:6). Bring your request to God. Wait patiently (v.5) and trust in his unfailing love (v.7).
Warning to Rich Oppressors
5 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
Patience in Suffering
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
The Prayer of Faith
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Pray in all circumstances
One of the obstacles to the power of God in our life can be trusting in things other than God. In some ways, faith and wealth are like oil and water. They are hard to mix and do not often go together.
There is nothing wrong with having money in itself. But there are great spiritual dangers inherent in having wealth – arrogance, greed, self-indulgence and disregard for the needs of others (vv.1–6).
The greatest danger for the wealthy (which probably includes most of us in the West today) is that we put our trust in wealth, rather than in God (1 Timothy 6:17). Why is it that there seem to be far more miracles of healing in some of the poorer parts of the world? Perhaps wealth is a potential barrier to faith, leading us to put our faith in the wrong place. You are called to put your hope in him who provides for all your needs and to pray in all circumstances.
The readers of this letter are clearly going through difficult times. James encourages them to ‘be patient and to stand firm’ (James 5:8). He points to Job as an example of someone who was patient in the face of suffering, and persevered (v.11a). He reminds them that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’ (v.11b).
Pray in all circumstances:
If you are hurting
‘Is any one of you in trouble? You should pray’ (v.13a).
It has been said that ‘most of us have much trouble praying when we are in little trouble, but little trouble praying when we’re in much trouble.’
If you are feeling great
‘Is anyone happy? Sing songs of praise’ (v.13b).
St Augustine said that ‘the thought of you stirs \[a person\] so deeply that \[they\] cannot be content unless \[they\] praise you.’
If you are sick
‘Is any one of you sick? Call the elders…’ (v.14).
Of course, God often heals with the cooperation of the medical profession. But also expect God to heal miraculously today.
If you have sinned
There is no automatic link between sin and sickness. However, we cannot rule out the possibility. James says here, ‘If you have sinned, you will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed’ (vv.15b–16).
Confessing our sins to each other and praying for each other helps in the process of healing and restoration. When things in our lives are kept hidden in the dark they can have a destructive power. When we bring them out into the light, we are set free. This does not necessarily mean that you have to tell the whole world. But you need to find at least one person you can trust and with whom you can be totally honest, vulnerable and unburden yourself.
Prayer is powerful and effective. James makes this point forcefully by looking at the example of Elijah. He famously managed to control the weather through his prayers, causing and ending a drought, and yet James declares that ‘he was a man just like us’ (v.17). In other words, whatever Elijah could do, you can do!
The Temple Area Restored
40 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city —on that very day the hand of the Lord was on me and he took me there. 2 In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. 3 He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. 4 The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see. ”
The East Gate to the Outer Court
5 I saw a wall completely surrounding the temple area. The length of the measuring rod in the man’s hand was six long cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth. He measured the wall; it was one measuring rod thick and one rod high.
6 Then he went to the east gate. He climbed its steps and measured the threshold of the gate; it was one rod deep. 7 The alcoves for the guards were one rod long and one rod wide, and the projecting walls between the alcoves were five cubits thick. And the threshold of the gate next to the portico facing the temple was one rod deep.
8 Then he measured the portico of the gateway; 9 it was eight cubits deep and its jambs were two cubits thick. The portico of the gateway faced the temple.
10 Inside the east gate were three alcoves on each side; the three had the same measurements, and the faces of the projecting walls on each side had the same measurements. 11 Then he measured the width of the entrance of the gateway; it was ten cubits and its length was thirteen cubits. 12 In front of each alcove was a wall one cubit high, and the alcoves were six cubits square. 13 Then he measured the gateway from the top of the rear wall of one alcove to the top of the opposite one; the distance was twenty-five cubits from one parapet opening to the opposite one. 14 He measured along the faces of the projecting walls all around the inside of the gateway—sixty cubits. The measurement was up to the portico facing the courtyard. 15 The distance from the entrance of the gateway to the far end of its portico was fifty cubits. 16 The alcoves and the projecting walls inside the gateway were surmounted by narrow parapet openings all around, as was the portico; the openings all around faced inward. The faces of the projecting walls were decorated with palm trees.
The Outer Court
17 Then he brought me into the outer court. There I saw some rooms and a pavement that had been constructed all around the court; there were thirty rooms along the pavement. 18 It abutted the sides of the gateways and was as wide as they were long; this was the lower pavement. 19 Then he measured the distance from the inside of the lower gateway to the outside of the inner court; it was a hundred cubits on the east side as well as on the north.
The North Gate
20 Then he measured the length and width of the north gate, leading into the outer court. 21 Its alcoves —three on each side—its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as those of the first gateway. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 22 Its openings, its portico and its palm tree decorations had the same measurements as those of the gate facing east. Seven steps led up to it, with its portico opposite them. 23 There was a gate to the inner court facing the north gate, just as there was on the east. He measured from one gate to the opposite one; it was a hundred cubits.
The South Gate
24 Then he led me to the south side and I saw the south gate. He measured its jambs and its portico, and they had the same measurements as the others. 25 The gateway and its portico had narrow openings all around, like the openings of the others. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 26 Seven steps led up to it, with its portico opposite them; it had palm tree decorations on the faces of the projecting walls on each side. 27 The inner court also had a gate facing south, and he measured from this gate to the outer gate on the south side; it was a hundred cubits.
The Gates to the Inner Court
28 Then he brought me into the inner court through the south gate, and he measured the south gate; it had the same measurements as the others. 29 Its alcoves, its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as the others. The gateway and its portico had openings all around. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 30 (The porticoes of the gateways around the inner court were twenty-five cubits wide and five cubits deep.) 31 Its portico faced the outer court; palm trees decorated its jambs, and eight steps led up to it.
32 Then he brought me to the inner court on the east side, and he measured the gateway; it had the same measurements as the others. 33 Its alcoves, its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as the others. The gateway and its portico had openings all around. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 34 Its portico faced the outer court; palm trees decorated the jambs on either side, and eight steps led up to it.
35 Then he brought me to the north gate and measured it. It had the same measurements as the others, 36 as did its alcoves, its projecting walls and its portico, and it had openings all around. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 37 Its portico faced the outer court; palm trees decorated the jambs on either side, and eight steps led up to it.
The Rooms for Preparing Sacrifices
38 A room with a doorway was by the portico in each of the inner gateways, where the burnt offerings were washed. 39 In the portico of the gateway were two tables on each side, on which the burnt offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings were slaughtered. 40 By the outside wall of the portico of the gateway, near the steps at the entrance of the north gateway were two tables, and on the other side of the steps were two tables. 41 So there were four tables on one side of the gateway and four on the other—eight tables in all—on which the sacrifices were slaughtered. 42 There were also four tables of dressed stone for the burnt offerings, each a cubit and a half long, a cubit and a half wide and a cubit high. On them were placed the utensils for slaughtering the burnt offerings and the other sacrifices. 43 And double-pronged hooks, each a handbreadth long, were attached to the wall all around. The tables were for the flesh of the offerings.
The Rooms for the Priests
44 Outside the inner gate, within the inner court, were two rooms, one at the side of the north gate and facing south, and another at the side of the south gate and facing north. 45 He said to me, “The room facing south is for the priests who guard the temple, 46 and the room facing north is for the priests who guard the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who are the only Levites who may draw near to the Lord to minister before him. ”
47 Then he measured the court: It was square—a hundred cubits long and a hundred cubits wide. And the altar was in front of the temple.
The New Temple
48 He brought me to the portico of the temple and measured the jambs of the portico; they were five cubits wide on either side. The width of the entrance was fourteen cubits and its projecting walls were three cubits wide on either side. 49 The portico was twenty cubits wide, and twelve cubits from front to back. It was reached by a flight of stairs, and there were pillars on each side of the jambs.
Pray with eyes open and ears attentive
Prayer is not a monologue. It is a dialogue. God speaks to you as you pray.
Ezekiel says, ‘The hand of the Lord was upon me’ (v.1). He was called to be a prophet and a preacher. To a greater or lesser extent, this is the task of every believer in Jesus. We see what is involved (v.4):
See: ‘look with your eyes’
Look at everything going on around you with the eyes of the Spirit. As D.L. Moody said, ‘The Christian on his knees sees more than the philosopher on tiptoe.’
Listen: ‘hear with your ears’
Listen to what the Lord says about it all. In your two-way communication with God, what he says to you is far more important than what you say to him.
Attend: ‘pay attention’
‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,’ wrote Simone Weil. This applies to all relationships including your relationship with God.
Tell: ‘tell… everything’
It is not enough just to see and hear. We must obey. Be willing to say what God tells you to say.
Ezekiel receives a vision of a new temple. It is a visionary temple intended to be symbolic. In this, it is like the city described in Revelation (Revelation 21:16). There is a symmetry and perfection about it.
At the heart of the temple is a room where the priests ‘draw near to the Lord to minister before him’ (Ezekiel 40:46). To ‘draw near to the Lord’ was restricted to a small number of a small tribe in the Old Testament.
Now, through the blood of Christ, you may draw near to the Lord to minister before him (Ephesians 2:13). What a great and wonderful privilege this is. Keep your eyes open and your ears attentive to hear what God is saying to you. Have the courage to speak and the faith to pray the prayer of faith. You are a much-loved child of God. Your prayers are powerful.
James 5:17 says, ‘Elijah was a person just like us.’
I don’t feel very like Elijah. He prayed and it wouldn’t rain for three and a half years. And it didn’t. I prayed that it wouldn’t rain at our daughter’s wedding. It didn’t. It snowed!
Verse of the Day
Psalm 130: 1-2a
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
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Simone Weil; Joë Bousquet, Correspondance, (Lausanne : Editions l'Age d'Homme, c,1982) p.18.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.