The question on the heart of the person who has been praying for a specific request for a long time without seeing progress is, ‘how can I pray more effectively’.
We know James 5:16 by heart: “The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power.” When we read that we think that our prayers must not be working because we are not righteous. However, taken in context, the meaning is completely different. James’ whole point in chapter five was to say that prayer is effective. Period. He says that whether you are sick or anxious or in need, you should pray. Why? Because prayer works. He goes on to say that Elijah was just a man, who prayed and was heard. Why? Not because he was super righteous – not at all, because his nature was just like ours – but he was heard because he prayed. He was answered because prayer is effective.
So what does righteousness have to do with prayer? Everything. But it’s not really about our personal righteousness. The bible makes it very clear that even on our best days, our righteousness is absolutely worthless. But God has made us righteous and justified us through Jesus Christ. That means that when we pray, we can come to God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ and our prayers will be heard. Why? Take a look at Romans 4:5. “To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” To put it quite simply, our faith in Christ grants us righteousness through Christ.
Therefore, the criteria of James 5:16, that the prayer of the righteous person is effective is met because we have been given the righteousness of Christ through faith in him.
So then what gives? Now the question becomes, if the prayer of the righteous person is effective, and I have been made righteous in Christ, why aren’t my prayers affecting anything?
There are three levels to receiving answers to prayer – asking, seeking and knocking. Sometimes, we can simply ask and God will answer us. Other times we ask but God remains silent. This is when we begin seeking, pursuing God to answer us.
As we seek, God may direct us to a sin that is hindering us from getting the answers we are looking for. In that case, we must repent of the sin and turn away from it. Or he may direct us to his word and give us insight about a specific way to pray for the situation, perhaps he might move us to fast and pray for our breakthrough or to claim a specific promise in his word. As we mold ourselves to the Lord and what he reveals to us as we seek him, he will answer our prayer.
Sometimes, though, God will continue to delay. We will know in our hearts that his answer is not “no”, but rather “wait and keep knocking”. This is what Daniel had to do in his twenty-one days of prayer. The answer was sent out to him the first day he asked, but he did not receive it. He moved into seeking and clung to the promise of God but still without answer. Then he began to knock and he continued to knock without ceasing until at last his answer came.
When we are seeking and knocking God will usually direct us to fast while we pray. When we fast, we are building up spiritual walls of defense against the enemy, defending our territory in Jesus’ Name, guarding those walls as watchmen.
As a watchmen on the wall, we are to spend our time on guard against the enemy. But we must remember that we are not alone. We are the watchmen, yes, but God is the fortress around us. We can do nothing apart from him. When we spend our time in prayer and fasting before the Lord, the Sprit will warn us when the enemy is going to attack. We don’t know exactly when, and we won’t know how Satan will make his move, but we are not to be unprotected. God has given us his armor for a reason. It is to help us withstand the enemy in the day of trouble so we can stand strong and immovable in the Lord.
We use the Word of God to come against the enemy. God has equipped us and trained us so that we can fight effectively and strategically through prayer. When you are unsure what to pray or how to pray, take heart, God has you covered there as well. The Spirit of God will pray through us in our weakness, especially when we don’t know what to pray for.
It is easy to become overwhelmed in prayer, especially when we are in the knocking stage, and think that there is something more we must do or we are lacking in some way. What we must remember though, is that God is the one who must lead us. If he is not, we can fast and pray all we want, claim every promise, try to break every curse, don the armor time and again without avail and without success. We will only succeed in wearing ourselves out.
We must allow God to lead us. Only he can see both sides of what is happening in the physical realm and spiritual realm and he will guide us accordingly. He is the lamp that lights our darkness and only with him can we scale the walls of the enemy’s fortress. The key to praying effectively and strategically is to follow God and God alone. With God, all things are possible but without him, all things are impossible. It’s not going to be easy to trust God to lead you and at times you will wonder if he is even around. When that happens, remember that his promise is to never leave you or forsake you. Trust in him and he will lead you to victory.
 Isa 64:6
 Rom 3:21-24
 Mat 7:7
 Dan 10:2, 12-13
 Isa 62:6
 Psa 18:2
 Eph 6:11, 13
 Psa 18:33-40
 Rom 8:26