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. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit (James 5:16-18. KJV).We pray in accordance with our doctrine of God. The higher our theology of God, the more devoted to prayer we ought to become. The higher we regard His majesty, the more we are driven to His throne. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. The higher we esteem ourselves, the less driven we will be to such an 'unproductive' and ethereal act as prayer.
Is it possible that some prayers are hindered by our faulty, sloppy, or lazy theology of God's holy nature?
I think that, more often than not, we pray in accordance with our actual view of God. The kind of 'god' we believe in deep down. Not with the doctrine we SAY we profess. Not with the doctrinal statement that we assent to on paper. Not with the creed or confession to which our denomination subscribes. But we pray in accordance with the doctrine of God that we actually believe.
This doesn't mean that those with a high view of God will always pray 'from strength to strength.' Even the most godly men fail when it comes to prayer! We all do. Even our best prayers need to be washed in the blood of Jesus. But too often, I would suggest, we utter feeble prayers (if we pray at all) when we lose our zeal for the greatness and supremacy of God.
Allow me to illustrate.
Imagine two sliding controls on a console before you. The first toggle represents our view of God; the second our view of self. The higher the first slide is positioned, the lower the second must necessarily be. If I slide one up, I must slide the other down in a corresponding fashion. I cannot hold both God's sovereignty and my own sufficiency in the same esteem.
If we pray halfheartedly, without fervency, lacking conviction, or not at all, we are simply revealing that our theology is weak no matter how orthodox we claim it to be on paper. We are then revealing that our confidence in self is where our true reliance lies. We pray weakly when we believe in a weak, small, and finite deity.
But if we pray in accordance with our understanding of the true nature of God--His omnipotence (limitless power), omnipresence (ubiquitous presence), and omniscience (all-encompassing knowledge)--we are praying to a God who has inestimable power. We are praying like Elijah. No wonder he prayed fervently. No wonder the Heavens broke open and gave rain!
A Mighty God is worthy and able to handle mighty prayers.
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Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Follow on Twitter at @matt_everhard.