Seven Keys to an Effective Prayer Life

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 TEXT:  James 5:16

TOPIC:  Seven Keys to an Effective Prayer Life

Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama

January 11, 2009

Major portions of this message along with the outline come from Dr. James Merritt


            One Sunday the following obituary reading was distributed at the First Neglected Church.  This is how it read:


                  Mrs. Prayer Meeting died recently at the First Neglected Church on Worldly Avenue.  Born many years ago in the midst of great revivals, she was one of the most influential members of the church family. 


                  For the past several years Mrs. Prayer Meeting has been failing in health.  At the last she was but a shadow of her former self.  Her last whispered words were inquiries concerning the absence of her loved ones, now busy in the markets of trade and places of worldly amusements.


                  Experts, including Dr. Works, Dr. Reform, and Dr. Joiner, disagreed as to the cause of her fatal illness.  They had administered large doses of organizations and socials, but to no avail.  A postmortem showed that a deficiency of spiritual food, coupled with the lack of faith and general support, were contributing causes.  Only a few were present at her death.


                  In honor of her going, the church door will be closed on Wednesday nights.


         Unfortunately, that obituary could be read over many churches and over many Christians.  But pray to God such an obituary may never be read of First Baptist Center Point.


         God has done everything possible to incite us to pray, to excite us to pray, and to invite us to pray.  But strangely enough, we do everything but pray.


         I want you to open your Bible this morning to one small but monumental verse found in James chapter 5.  In fact, it’s not even one verse that we’re going to look at this morning, but a half of verse.  James 5:16.  (Read the verse)


          Now I find in this one simple verse "the theology of kneeology."  I find in it a comprehensive theology of the most powerful force in the universe, the power of prayer.


 And let me say up front church that the reason I am preaching this message this morning is because I sense God saying to me, and to every member here at First Baptist Center Point, that if we hope to see God move upon us again in awesome power, we are going to have to get on our knees. 

            The Christian life is won or lost in the consistent, faithful, practice of the basics of our faith (i.e., prayer, witnessing, fellowship, worship, discipleship, ministry, bible study, and giving, to name a few). 

            I want to talk to you about talking to Him.  Because if we don’t get on our knees, God won’t get on His feet.  We bow our heads to look up.  And when the church prays, God gets involved!

I am preaching on seven keys to effective praying or seven keys to an effective prayer life.




Sanctified prayer has to do with one’s position.  Do you understand what position God expects from you before He will hear your prayer?  I’m not talking about body position.  You don’t have to be down on your knees for God to hear you pray.  You can stand on your head if you want to and God will hear you.

            Sanctified prayer is prayer that is uttered through the lips or lifted from the heart of one of God’s blood bought saints.  Through the death of Jesus, we have been given access to the very throne room of God Almighty. 

            James said the prayer of a “righteous man” is effective. I love Hebrews 10:19 and the verses that follow.  Listen,   “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 This is the new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us.

21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s people, 22 let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean,”




       Steadfast prayer relates to persistence and perseverance in prayer.  Too often we give up or become discouraged when God doesn’t answer our prayer the way we think He should or as quickly as we want Him to.

            I learned a long time ago that God answers all prayer.  He answers all prayer and He answers our prayers in one of four ways:

1.      He sometimes answers directly our prayers.

2.      He often delays in answering our prayers.

3.      Because God is sovereign He occasionally answers our prayers differently.

4.      And He sometimes denies our prayers.  We don’t always get what we want.


God will answers our prayers but we must first pray and we must pray steadfastly. 

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up. 2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who was a godless man with great contempt for everyone. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, appealing for justice against someone who had harmed her. 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but eventually she wore him out. ‘I fear neither God nor man,’ he said to himself, 5 ‘but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’

6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this evil judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when I, the Son of Man, return, how many will I find who have faith?” (New Living Translation)


      Charles Hadden Spurgeon said, "Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God.  Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope.  But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might.."


         If I told you that I had a telephone that was a direct hookup to heaven, I could guarantee you that if you picked up your end of the phone, God would be on the other end, that telephone would be priceless.  There would be people who would be standing in line waiting to talk to God.


        Well I want to tell you that prayer is man's hotline to heaven.  The minute you pick up your end of the line, God picks up his end of the line.  God’s word says, "call unto me."  Call, call, call.   Knock, knock, knock.   Steadfast prayer.



How we pray is important and with whom we pray is just as important.  God wants us to pray specifically and He wants us to pray in unison with our brothers and sisters. 

In Matthew 20, tucked away at the very last of the chapter is this account of two blind men who prayed specifically and prayed in unison.

29And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. 30And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. 31And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. 32And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? 33They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. 34So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

      Every major move of God in history was preceded by a unified and focused prayer effort.



Effective prayer is prayer that is sensitive to God.  Did you know that prayer is a two-way street?  When you pray, God listens.  But often, God talks back!

We need to learn to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us during prayer.  We need to be still and seek to know what we are being led to pray about.

      Just last evening a call came to the church while I was working on this message.  A young man identified himself and said he didn’t know what to do.  He said he was 22 years old and that his wife of less than one year had suffered a massive stroke.  He said I got this brochure in the mail and I felt I should call. 

      Of course I prayed with him for his young wife.  And I want you to do the same.  Right now, let’s bow our head and ask God to spare this young woman, to bring healing and to restore these young people back to God.


            (Have a moment of silence)  Amen.  Sensitive prayer.



Spirit-filled prayer is prayer that is lead by the Holy Spirit.  It is Spirit-lead, Spirit-controlled and Spirit-empowered praying.  When you pray in the Holy Spirit, He (the Spirit) focuses, fashions, and filters your praying.  This kind of praying only occurs in the lives of those that are walking in the Spirit and living transformed lives. 

Jude 20 tells us, But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,

But you, dear friends, must build up your lives ever more strongly upon the foundation of our holy faith, learning to pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. (Living Bible)




This key pertains to the believer’s willingness to submit to the Lord’s will in prayer. 

Now many Christians believe today that whatever we pray for God is somehow obligated to do it.  They say as long as we pray in Jesus’ name, and have enough faith that God must answer. 

My friends let me say that that is just not true.  That is false doctrine and false teaching to dare claim authority over God.  My God is too big to be put in a small box of “name it claim it” theology.

What these well meaning believers often forget is the need to surrender to God’s will.  We must learn to pray according to the will of the Father.

Did you know that even Jesus didn’t have every prayer He prayed answered by the Father!  He prayed that the Father might take the cup of His suffering, His shame and His sacrifice from Him.  But He prayed, “nevertheless, not my will but thy will be done.”

Oh that we all can learn to pray with such a surrendered heart!  I don’t know about you, but I’m glad God doesn’t always give me everything I ask for.

It was Shakespeare who so wisely wrote:

                          We, ignorant of ourselves,

                            Beg often our own harms,

                          Which the wise powers

                            Deny us for our good;

                          So find we profit

                            By losing of our prayers.


  One man stood up and gave this testimony in a conference.  He said, "I prayed for fifteen years, as a young man, for God to give me a big church and a pretty wife."  He said, "He almost answered my prayer.  He gave me a big wife and a pretty church."



Service-centered prayer is prayer that is offered to God as one’s essential ministry of life.  We can do many good things, but few are more important than prayer. 

We are instructed in I Timothy 2 how we ought to pray.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. 2 Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior,


            God is pleased with a church that learns the important ministry of prayer.

            God is calling us to pray.  God is calling us to pray effectively.  To do so our prayers must be sanctified, steadfast, specific, sensitive, Spirit-filled, surrendered and service-centered.


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