A pastor friend, and a personal hero of mine, recently celebrated his 40th year of preaching and pastoring! I love being around him and fellowshipping with him and hearing his stories about his ministry and family. In a recent revival campaign, he several times shared personal stories from his own “revival” experiences. He was saved in a revival! He dedicated his life to Christ in a revival. As a result of revival meetings, he made choices that has kept him on the right path all of these years. One of the “threads” that tied all of his stories together was fervent and earnest prayer. It was fervent and earnest prayer that brought him under conviction, moved him to even attend a revival service, and then brought him to faith in Christ along with his young wife in that very service. It was a fervent and earnest prayer meeting that literally delivered his wife from her two-pack-a-day cigarette addiction once and for all. It was even fervent and earnest prayer that brought God’s presence very close in our recent revival in his church. The building was packed in every service and, out of all those who prayed to be saved, at least two ladies were gloriously converted as a direct result of our earnest prayers. Don’t you think we need some more of that kind of praying?
James 5:16-17 speaks of that kind of praying: “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” He prayed fervently and earnestly! These words almost possess an onomatopoeia feel to them (meaning that the words themselves suggest the source of their sound). Read the word slowly and with feeling: fervently. Now try the other one: earnestly. Whereas there is nothing wrong with normal, everyday kind of praying (Give us day by day our daily bread), I am convinced that the Bible speaks of a kind of praying that goes beyond normal, everyday kind of praying.
Wouldn’t the kind of praying mentioned in Matthew 17:21 be that kind of praying? It involves fasting! Deliberately setting aside the normal activities of our life in order to seek something from God instead. It involves faith and power to do the impossible! Isn’t that one of the great needs of our day. Faith that God still does the impossible and power to see it done? Wouldn’t any of us like to see God’s hand at work in a miraculous sort of way? It will undoubtedly take fervent and earnest praying.
Fervent and earnest praying is certainly seen throughout the book of Acts. In chapter 1 they continue “with one accord in prayer and supplication” (verse 14). In chapter 2, as they are in one place in one accord, they are filled with mighty power from the Holy Spirit and three thousand converted additions are the result. In chapter 4, they were forbidden to preach about Jesus, and as a result got together and “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (verse 24) and the answer from God was that “the place was shaken . . . ; [and] they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (verse 31). In chapter 10, it was while praying that Peter falls into a trance and was given a vision and understood that God wanted him to preach to the Gentiles too! In chapter 12, Peter is arrested and “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (verse 5). The result was a miraculous (and may I say, somewhat cool) release of Peter by a divine act of Almighty God! And on and on I could go.
It is my contention that we need more praying that is fervent and earnest. Instead of following hours of news programs and scheduling more discussion forums and worrying in our hearts about the condition of our society, isn’t it time to pray like this? Instead of wasting hours every day reading the latest blogs of all the leadership gurus and “you can be a success like me” people, shouldn’t we learn how to pray like this? How do we do it? Over the next few days I will offer three suggestions. I hope they will be a challenge and an encouragement to you.