We benefit from reading the longer prayers of the Bible (the prayers of King David in 2 Samuel 7, King Solomon in 2 Chronicles 6, and Greater King Jesus in John 17). We also enjoy reading the prayers of others written in verse, like what we find in the Valley of Vision. The Apostle James makes the case for simple prayers of faith.
In James 5:16 we read, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power and accomplishes much.” To illustrate his point, James tells us that Elijah prayed that it would not rain, and it did not rain for three years and six months. Elijah prayed again and the rain came from heaven. When you read the narrative in which the prayers appear (1 Kings 17-18), we see that the word of the Lord came to Elijah and said it would not rain as punishment on Israel and her king for idolatry. Using just a few words, this is what Elijah prayed for and proclaimed, and it happened.
Elijah’s experience and the reference to it in the letter of James do not answer all our questions about prayer or remove the mystery around prayer, but they do get us to the point. The Lord works through his people who pray simple prayers of faith.
What qualifies as the simple prayer of faith?
Simple prayers are prayed by people of faith, from a heart of faith. The “righteous person” is the one whose faith in God expresses itself in the work of prayer (James 2:22-23). These people believe that God will accomplish his word, so that’s what they ask for. They understand that their prayers are God’s way of doing his will.
Simple prayers are prayed according to God’s word and will. Elijah did not pray about the weather because he was going on vacation. His prayer was connected to God’s kingdom call for his people to repent and return to him. He knew the coming drought was God’s way of getting his people’s attention. He kept his prayers focused on what God said.
Simple prayers are prayed simply. Simple prayer is not loaded with words. According to James, the word count of Elijah’s prayer was small, but it stopped the rain. This is what Jesus meant when he said not to pray like people who think they will be heard because they use many words (Matthew 6:7). The simple prayer of faith simply asks God to do his will.
There are times when we need to spend hours in prayer. Using well-written prayers can help us and teach us to pray. But, let’s not forget that God hears the simple prayers of his children, prayed from a heart of faith, who are longing and looking for his will to be done.
What simple prayers of faith will you pray this weekend? I look forward to praying with you on Sunday.