Effectual Fervent Prayer – What Does it Mean?

This is an honest question, what does “effectual fervent prayer” mean? As someone read James 5:16 recently I wrote down in my ever-present notebook, “what means effectual?”

I know what I think it means, but I finally got around to looking it up today. According to several dictionaries I read, the essence of ‘effectual’ is, “sufficient to produce a desired result.”

The verse in full reads:

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

—James 5:16

The context is praying for one another, especially those who are struggling physically and spiritually. The follow-up verse says that Elijah was a man like we are (i.e., he had problems too), but he was able to pray and accomplish God’s purposes.

It seems to me that verse 16 is not talking about a way to pray (as I always thought), but about answered prayers. When you pray and it produces the desired result then it is effectual. That seems to say to me that not all prayer is effectual. Not all prayers are “sufficient to produce the desired result.”

Availeth: While the word “avail” is used today to mean “take advantage of” or “to be of benefit” it used to mean “to have value or worth.”

Does this mean that we don’t pray in an effectual way which avails much; rather, that when we pray and it is of worth or value it is therefore an effectual prayer?

Does that question even make sense to anyone besides me?

In other words, the result of “effectual prayer” is not what “availeth much,” but prayer that “availeth much” is “effectual.”

Then there is the word “fervent” in there. Literally the etymology of that word is “boiling, hot, glowing.” Figuratively it means “violent, impetuous, furious.” One of the early uses of the word (according to Etym Online) is “empassioned.” While our prayers probably should not be “violent, impetuous and furious” they certainly should be passionate.

Taking the whole phrase “effectual, fervant prayer” we can draw some thoughts to apply to our prayer life.

  • Prayer may not always be effectual
  • To be effectual, prayer should be passionate
  • You can’t have prayers that have value or worth without it being something you are passionately concerned about

What are your thoughts on these words? I have not done a Greek word study on them yet to see what their original language meanings are. Maybe I will do that and let you know the results. In the mean time, do you have any comments on what this verse seems to be saying? Write them below.

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30 thoughts on “Effectual Fervent Prayer – What Does it Mean?”

    1. I am glad this was a help. I keep bumping into this thought in church and with friends. I continue to see new truths in these words. I will have to write a follow up post sometime with my thoughts.

      Thanks for your comment Ekenena.

  1. Yeah, this is awesome. Thanks so much. I’ve been reading about “Father Nash” with Charles Finney and how they were deeply impacted by this verse. God is highlighting it again. Thanks so much.

  2. Been musing on this scripture myself recently due to a big family problem that touches the heart and emotions– and frustrated at not seeing or understanding Gods answer. Especially when trying to see the fulfillment of promises made by God in his word. In reflection on this verse is the availing and effectiveness to do with the specific restoration of relationship between believers rather than a general principal for all prayer? We know that unity of the brethren is on the Lords heart so in this case we know we are praying the Lords will. There are many prayer matters that it is hard to be fervent about as we are sometimes remote from them. Fervancy is often from the heart rather than just the mind and words.The other problem in this verse is “righteous man”. Ok if you can get Christ to intercede for you! Certainly makes you want to get things right with God and get washed in the blood and have Christs righteousness imputed to you–at least god can listen to your prayer then. Fellowship with God is broken if we are living unrighteously-even as believers. Bless

    1. Thank you for your comment Rob.

      You raise a couple of good questions. One is the question of whether this commentary on prayer is for all prayers, or only applicable to prayers for restoration of fellowship with one another. I would take it as a commentary on all prayers as it is consistent in other teachings on prayer. Specifically in the prayers of those who prayed persistently (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8).

      And your other question pertained to who is righteous. Of course we go to God through Christ as our mediator. My righteousness is not from myself, but because of what Christ has done on my behalf. I think maintaining good fellowship with the Father is important. In Sunday School at my church we are going through 1 John and discussing the great fellowship we are afforded in Christ with God. It is a wonderful book to study.

  3. I to have been praying over family matters, mostly my wife wants a divorce after 34 years of marriage. This verse is one of the ones I have read regularly for months. At times I am confused with what is going on and what I read in the Bible. This helps explain some. There has been no affair by either of us, just a lot of emotional hurt. Pray for us. Thank you

    1. Marlin, my heart goes out to you so I am praying for you with passion.
      If you two really belong together, then lean into fervent prayer like a WARRIOR and refuse to give up…plus — ask her why she wants to leave, and see what you can learn.
      I had to study the female mind, and I was shocked to learn how their needs are different than ours.
      I actually married the wrong person, and when we parted it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me!
      We are with you.

  4. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”.
    This well quoted verse makes me ask a leading question. What is true prayer?

    Jesus said an hour is coming and is already is,when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. James is talking about a person, a righteous person who knows how to pray.This id someone in right standing with God who has experienced the forgiveness of God.That is why James previously says confess your faults to one another. No ill will or unconfessed sins should be allowed to hinder our prayers ad God is a Holy God.
    Effectual prayer is one that is driven by the Spirit of God. When wr know not how to pray,the Spirit helps us how to pray,with groanings that cannot be uttered. God is actually praying through us. God’s power can achieve anything. So the prayer will be powerful and effective,bringing a desired result.Only a righteous person has a good enough relationship with God to allow the Holy Spirit to birth powerful ,effective prayers through him or her.

    1. Jesus said an hour is coming and is already is,when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.
      its the same thing jesus is talking about.. the person….jesus was talking about the temple…the physical temple in jerusalem…when the the hebrew people were divided into two kingdowms ..northern and southern after solomon. the northern kingdowm built their own place of worship on the mount for the people not to go to jerusalem and worship (God did not accept their politics). This is what the woman was telling Jesus..that you say that its in jerusalem that they should worship instead of their own mount…
      so when jesus said the hours is coming and it is now…talking about the new covenant coming to action …after his death and resurrection and the pouring of the holy spirit on all flesh as promised by God in joel. Now instead of the physical building….Gods purpose from eternity was made known…that is “we are the temple of the living God because Gods spirit is dwelling in Us” ..so since God is a spirit only a spiritual man can pray to God..The spirit in you …not the flesh…
      That is why it is very important to praise worship to fill up the spirit in us.
      let me know ..how best to talk with you on questions with my comment….thank you jesus for this person..

    2. Thank you for this. It has blessed me and answered some questions.
      You explained this so well. God bless you.

  5. Thank you! Looking at this inevitably links sin to many problems,therefore before proceding with prayer,the one who sinned need to confess their trespass, whoever then prays for then should pray in relation to their confession(be specific no miss direction) thus producing the desired results,this effective prayer should not forsake fervency(passion/desire for change) lest the lack of fervency/desire make the prayer ineffective. Sum-confession precedes prayer,effectual,fervent prayer precedes results.

  6. ” While our prayers probably should not be “violent, impetuous and furious”
    I think you are missing the point here with your above quote. This is one of the reasons why we are having many unsolved problems among believers…when you make a comment like that…it means you are now trying to give your own opinion about what the word of God should mean or what it should mean.. The holy spirit that directed these people to write these thoughts ..literally wants the thoughts to be understood they way they were understood then ..not the way english or any language or theologian for that matter will define it..it literally means hot ..violent and the meaning that that word carries..please do not comment on the word of God when it is so clear..
    compare what elijah did…that was a violent,hor, furious prayer he did ” he shut the heavens down for 3 and half years ” basically putting the keys in his pocket for there and half years. and then prayed again ..then there was rain in the land…
    please be careful…lets God’s word speak for itself..
    do not make God A lair.
    he is not talking about ice cream prayers here…. he is talking about a righteous man’s prayers…. “a righteous mans prayer” is what the accent should be on.
    let me know if you have issues with my comment and may the lord almighty open your spiritual pipes and fill you with his wisdom in Jesus Mighty name.

    1. Disciple John, You referred to Elijah as praying violently. can you go back and read 1 kings 18. It lets us know that when Elijah wanted the rain to fall he climbed the mountain to pray and bent down, putting his head between his knees. That doesn’t look violent. I guess we should define what we mean by violent.

  7. My thoughts on it are when we pray for something that is in line with the word and will of God that is am effectual fervent prayer instead of praying for something worldly like more money or nicer things etc. That is what I thought l after reading your thoughts on that verse

  8. I totally agree you have to pray from a point of passion and the prayers we need are almost aggressive ht fire flamed prayers….. The tree of leg is guarded by a flaming sword which makes me realise that to that to that place you must go through fire, a flaming sword and a refining which is life lessons…. The product of this is one whom submits to Yahweh and will pray from a throne room point and released kingdom prayers in authority and dominion and see a manifestation of what has been prayed… After all if we are in His image we should speak and then see as He spoke then there’s was!

  9. The word u r skipping is fervent, which means passionate. When there is a passionate prayer, this means u r putting ur heart in it. U r laying down ur life, ur wants at the moment and fighting a spiritual battle on ur knees for someone. This is what makes it effectual, among other things. Passionate also connotes a constancy, u dont stop till u get it kind of passion. This is the kind of prayer (including being in line w Gods will as we read in other verses, and not asking for things that satisfy our own lusts and passions) that has success. A passionate, won’t stop till I drop, prayer for my fellow man. This is my thought on the matter.

    1. Elaine, I agree with you completely!! There are times in our lives where we pray more fervently than others- that’s just a fact. We should try to pray fervently all the time, but during great distress, duress, etc our entire body and mind and soul are amplified to another heightened passion. I know that when my mother prays for me, especially in the past – re my health situations or especially when I’m obviously under attack- she goes into a mamma bear beyond fervent prayer mode where the Angels might need earplugs! I jest, bc JESUS works with me so often thru humor. Have you not prayed so hard, so fervently- that you become filled up with The Holy Spirit and have “the KNOW” that oh yes, your prayers heard, logged in, in the works!! I do add that I feel it’s important to add, “if it be your will Dear Lord..” Or my ever so human approach, ” if it can be worked into your perfect will bc I don’t want any of my prayers for myself or anyone else to be answered if the DONT WORK IN MY( his/her/their/our best interest ACCORDING TO YOU LORD!!! BECAUSE I know YOUR WILL and DECISIONS, PLANS, are PERFECT.” Intervention in healing, etc so awesome- yet I feel I must let Him know that I recognize HE KNOWS BEST!! Ignore my prayers if they are not aligned with your plan and/or if answering my prayer (s) not in best interest. I’ve FERVENTLY prayed for the wrong thing more than often and Thank God for unanswered prayers. Sounds childish to add that “clause” to even the most fervent prayers? God knows we are children, so human. I trust his decisions, plans, far more than my own. Heard a funny quote the other day: “Nothing ever OCCURS to God”. I love that.

  10. The bottom line is that one must be righteous in order to be an effectual fervent prayer. One should study Honest and the rest will follow, it`s all a matter of the heart and that starts with being honest with yourself.(Scary Honesty)

  11. This passage as I understand,shows us how are needs will be met in accordance with our effective,prayer in faith.Yes not all prayers are effective. But we are all made righteous by the precious blood that was shed for our redemption. So as we believe in our redemption and humbly, we claim our righteousness in Him and bring our needs before the throne of grace, we need to be in a position to articulate our specific need that we are entitled to being met in faith. Our relationship to the one who answers our prayers, our entitlement to the request, our fervent and persistent ability not to give up, till answered are criterial in having our prayers being effective.

    This I saw is very clearly brought out in, Mathew 15: 21 – 28. In this passage a gentile woman gets a prayer for healing answered by, she working out her position of entitlement in faith and persistence. The following need to be noted in this passage.

    1. First She came boldly but presumptuously demanding healing for her daughter. This was corrected by her worshiping Jesus , and acknowledging Him as Lord.vs.24
    2. She changes her request to that of a personal ‘help me’. Vs 25 and no more demand for healing.
    3. When she was referred to as dog by Jesus, she persisted, in humbly accepting her position as a dog, but pursued her entitlement as dog who also has privileges of the droppings on the floor.

  12. This has given me some insight that I should’ve already knew. If God looks at the heart of a man rather than the outward appearance it should apply to everything man does. In prayer it is not the amount of time spent, or how you pray (kneeling, standing, or while walking) what’s the motivation for the prayer. Self gain, someone’ request, prompting of the Spirit to help someone else. Thank you for sharing.

  13. In my study of the Old and New Testaments, God’s true believers prayed and received answers. I believe it was indeed because they were “true” believers and their prayers were prayed with intensity expecting expecting results from God. Before there were so many books and experts on prayer our ancestors prayed and got results. Therefore, if “true” believers pray earnestly, God will answer. I believe God answering defines what is an effectual fervant prayer is.
    Betty October 6, 2015

  14. Although I appreciate this explanation it appears to be an excuse as to why we pray for healing yet healing doesn’t happen in a lot of cases… Healing doesn’t happen because we lack faith! What’s the difference between us and the apostles who were healing with God’s power as if they were God? In short… Nothing!

  15. Thank you for this discussion. I learned so much. I feel like my simplest pray doesn’t go no hight than the ceiling. I have a lot of soul searching to do.

  16. Thank you for this. I’m really struggling with allowing myself to come into fellowship with other believers. I want to, I just feel like I can’t. Thank you for the idea that prayer must come from a passionate place in order to be effective. I feel like this was really important for me to realize. My history is one plagued with mental illness and while I sense Christ’s love for me despite it all, I’m really struggle with being able to be honest with others about it. It’s a very lonely place.

  17. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    The only way to the Father is through His Son Jesus Christ. And, because it is the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man that can accomplish much, when we pray to the Father, it is in His Holy Spirit that we pray; we can’t pray on our own. It is the “unction” of His Holy Spirit, urging us, and leading us to pray in the first place. So, because He never leaves us nor forsakes us, He is with us as we pray.

    Jesus SPOKE with words of FAITH that he himself BELIEVED would come to pass and simply went on his way casting that care upon his God and Father in heaven knowing that he would HAVE whatsoever he spoke in FAITH BELIEVING.

    When we pray we bring glory and honor to His name or our prayer is of no effect and is not Holy Spirit led. When we pray to the Father, it is from the heart of God; realizing that the Lord will plant His desires in our heart and then causes those desires to grow so that we will seek Him because our God is a mission God.

    His mission is to reconcile all back to him. When we pray, we are continue God’s mission; we are on mission; rendering not our will but His will be done; interceding, a submissive and will yielding spirit, in a state of utter and total dependence on Him.

    Yes, the righteous man or woman prays with compassion and prays passionately as he or she prays for themselves or intercedes on the behalf of others, making sure our desires line up with God’s will for our lives and are backed by His Word.

    A passionate and compassionate prayer is an effectual fervent prayer, the only way to pray a prayer that reaches our God in Heaven; and the only prayer that we should pray.

    Also remember: God wants us to stand in our AUTHORITY and use the name of Jesus to change the circumstances that come against us in life.

  18. Most of the time my prayers begin in desperation and fear because the enemy has attacked my mind to the point of spiritual heaviness but as I begin to cry out to my Heavenly Father, speaking His Word and knowing His will concerning the situation, my faith level reaches a supernatural plateau (that’s when the anointing power of the Holy Ghost kicks in high gear!). At that point, I feel like Clark Kent in the phone booth! This is a supernatural transformation that only comes through the power of God Almighty! I can feel the flames of fervent fire rising up within me, knowing, without any doubt, the effective power a passionate prayer can produce. By the way, I Always begin a prayer with humble repentance and sincere honor and praise to The Most High God, ending in the mighty name of Jesus. Hope this helps someone .

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