James, the brother of Jesus, once wrote: ‘the prayer of a righteous man avails much’ (James 5:16). This slightly obscure phrase (not actually helped much by the alternative ‘accomplishes much’) has in many translations hidden the Greek word ‘dunamis’ which is present in the original text. This word which you would be right to think sounds like ‘dynamite’ is usually translated ‘power’ in the New Testament, when speaking of miracles and wonders performed by Jesus and the apostles. The Amplified Bible has it, thankfully: ‘the earnest…prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available.’ This I think is the best understanding we can have of this verse. It has always helped and encouraged me to know that when I am praying, power is being made available in the heavens to resource me and for me and those I am praying for to lay hold of.
I guess what I have been discovering with this is that prayer often carries a supernatural effect, in the heavenlies, which can manifest in different ways. I know that we talk a lot about simply ‘answered prayer’ – and answered prayer is great! When you’ve been asking God for something, and then it happens in a way that only God could have achieved, you know it’s Him and are grateful.
But you might find that your spirit also becomes more alive at times when prayer is answered. Or even before it is actually manifestly answered. Because when we pray, we’re opening lines of communication with heaven, and tearing a bigger and bigger hole in the heavens to bring heaven to earth. At Jesus’ baptism Luke writes, ‘and as He was praying, heaven opened’ (Luke 3:21). Now that’s what I call prayer! Again in the record of the transfiguration it states that it was as He was praying, that His appearance began to change into a heavenly, glorious appearance (Luke 9:29).
I know at times in my life when I’ve really been making a conscious effort to ‘pray more’ (whatever that means or looks like for me), I’ve known a greater release of dreams and visions, and of hearing God’s voice. I’ve heard too a number of stories like that of a child, who while in the womb was possibly at jeopardy of not surviving until birth because of various problems. This required continual prayer to be made for him by the church, and miraculously he made it to birth and was born healthy. As he grew up his parents became aware that he seemed very sensitive to the presence of God and what went on in church. And when on one occasion when he was only four or five years old, his dad walked past his room, he heard his son talking. He entered and asked if he was talking to himself! “No,” the boy replied. “I was talking to Jesus, and He was talking to me and telling me what to do.” Profoundly impacted, the father knelt and told his boy to make sure he always did this, and to never lose it.
When I was hearing that story told, we all felt sure it was because of the measure of prayer that had been poured out over his young life.
There are many other stories too, surrounding those who have been given to prayer, whose lives witness that they knew a profound measure of the supernatural in their lives. This could be no more true of Jesus, of course, whose ministry in many way remains unparalleled for the release of miracles and the supernatural. I have been studying the book of Luke especially and have written elsewhere of how His life was so riddled with occasions of deep prayer, and how it was the one thing that moved the disciples to beg Him to teach them about it. They must have begged Him because they likely saw what a profound place of power it provided in the life and ministry of Jesus, and if they were to follow Him and do and say the things He did, they ought to have it in place in their lives too!
So it should be with us. Above all the privilege we are granted through prayer is to know God and have fellowship with Him. It takes time to develop and grow, because often we need to break through the flesh, and break through the heavenlies, but if you begin on this journey, after a time I hope you should be able to see that you’re not where you started, and that there is a greater measure of God’s presence in your life because of prayer.