How to Pray For Friends and Influence People

The Power of Prevailing Prayer

James 5:16-18

Could I overstate the importance of prayer? There is no possible way. And I pray you will never underestimate it. How important is it?

Andrew Murray said,
In relation to His people, God works only in answer to their prayers. It is in prayer that we change our natural strength for the supernatural strength of God.”

Notice the word “only.” Only in answer to their prayers.

The great Bible teacher Dr. R. A. Torrey said,
Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies beyond the will of God.”

Dr. A. C. Dickson points out: When we depend upon natural things—like organization, education, finances—we get what they can do. But when we call upon God, we get what He alone can do.

What this world needs is what God can do. What your city, your home, your church needs is what God can do.

You don’t have a failure in your life that is not somehow a prayer failure. You don’t have a need in your life but what earnest, persistent, believing prayer could supply that need, and this will be the focus of our study.

1. Turn to James 5:16-18 and fill in some key words:

16 ______________ your faults one to another, and _________  one for another, that you may be healed. The _________________   _______________ prayer of a ________________ man ________________   _________.

The apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus, has several recurring themes in his epistle, and one of them is the power of prevailing prayer. Intercession. Not just getting things we need, but helping our friends to have their needs met. This is why James mentions our fellow believers (“Confess your faults one to another.”)

All of us want to make a difference for God’s Kingdom. We want to win friends. We want to be an effective witness to other people. How are we going to influence our friends and loved ones?


#1—the confession we must make “Confess your faults one to another.”

Most of us are not very good about confessing our faults. We’re skilled indeed at criticizing our friends/family. We’re experts at castigating our foes. But to our own harm, we’re good at concealing our faults. “To err is human, and to cover it up is too.” We don’t want anyone to know.

Do you long to see revival in your home—your church—our nation? Then you need to know that…


If you study the history of revival, you find that great revivals are not necessarily marked with great singing or great preaching but with great confession of sin, not only to God, but to one another. What occurs when there is confession?


2. Where God’s people are broken, God seems to move. James says (v. 16), “Confess your faults…that you may be _______________.”

“Healing” here does not only refer to the healing of the body. It’s a larger word. It may refer to the healing of the soul or the healing of the spirit. And whether there be physical brokenness, emotional brokenness, or spiritual brokenness—restoration is needed. When we begin to confess our sins, God begins to move in and work.

3. Turn now to Psalm 51:16-17, a key passage for insight into what God is looking for when we pray.

16 For Thou _____________ _______ sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou _______________ ________ in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken __________: a broken and a contrite ___________, O God, thou wilt not despise.

4. Turn to Psalm 66:18:

“If I ___________iniquity in my heart, the Lord will ______ hear me.”

Most of us in modern America can’t bear to waste time. We get restless when we have to wait in line. So why would we want to spend time in prayer when our prayers are not going to be heard? Are we aware that we’re wasting time if we are coming before God this way?


It isn’t simply “being aware of” sin in our heart. For a fuller understanding, see how “regard iniquity” can be translated:

Cherished sin in my heart
Cherished evil in my heart
Beheld wickedness in my heart
Entertained evil in my heart
Held onto sin in my heart
Enjoyed having sin in my heart
Considered evil in my heart
Hiding sin in my heart

One version puts it in this everyday term:  “Been cozy with evil”

Are you getting the picture? More than just “being aware” of sin, it’s being comfortable with it, letting it hang around, not taking swift action once you’re aware to root it out.

God says if we “regard” it—we’re wasting our breath and wasting our time. When we come before the Lord wanting to engage in effectual, fervent prayer, we have to do some housecleaning first or it’s useless.


5. Turn to Matthew 5:23-24:

23 Therefore if you bring your ________ to the altar, and there _____________ that your ________________ has something against you, 24 ______________ your gift there before the altar, and ______ your way. First be ____________________ to your brother, and _______ come and offer your gift.

Who is speaking here?

He is speaking to ______________________.

Before you bring your gift, God would much rather have you go to your brother and say, “I have sinned against God and I’ve sinned against you. I want to confess my faults to you.”
Heaven rejoices and the angels sing because there is fellowship and reconciliation. When a wrong is done, there can be no reconciliation until there is confession.

6. Is there someone you need to ask forgiveness of? Be honest. Name that person(s).   _______________________________________________________________________

Answer truthfully: are you willing to make arrangements to contact that person and make amends and ask for forgiveness? Write down your answer. ________________

Remember, “Not to decide is to decide.” Ideally, it would mean meeting with them face-to-face. Sometimes that’s not possible. The person may now live far away. Make a phone call. Or write a letter.

Sometimes we just want to skip over that. But God is paying attention, and He wants to answer our prayers.


Missionaries to China have told us about the great Shantung Revival. They reported that the revival began when the missionaries begin to confess their sins one to another. Where they begin to ask forgiveness and to make reconciliation, God began to restore.  A great, mighty revival, one the mightiest revivals the world has ever known, began there. The Shantung revival began when there was the confession of faults one to another.

On February 3, 1970, in chapel at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, the Asbury College Revival occurred. The Spirit of God moved upon some students who began to confess their faults one to another and pray for one another. There was such a spirit of brokenness and weeping before God, He moved in like a tornado. For days there was a mighty overflowing of the Spirit of God. It began when the saints of God began to confess their faults one to another.

This is what happens when we confess our faults.

If you want to pray for friends, win friends to Christ, and influence people, revival is a striking way to do it, and it begins with confession and reconciliation.

It will be a great day in the churches of America when confession replaces criticism and compassion replaces condemnation. “Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another that you may be healed.”


James doesn’t say “broadcast your faults,” or display your faults. And Jesus warned about “casting your pearls before swine.” Care must be taken because the devil will use anything to his advantage—even confession.

Here is a principle to follow and remember: the circle of confession needs to follow the circle of sin. What does this mean?

Private sin means private confession between you and the Lord or with a trusted prayer warrior who can pray for you if you need victory.

Personal sin needs personal confession. If you’ve sinned against me or I’ve sinned against you, we need to go and confess to one another, not talk about it to other people.

Public sin requires public confession. If you have publicly dishonored the Lord, you need to publicly repent and publicly get right with God because even though you’ve changed in your heart, your brothers and sisters may not know it. So James is saying, confess your sins one to another, your faults one to another and pray one for another that ye may be healed.

#2—the command we should mind

7. After we’ve confessed our sins, what is the next thing God commands in James
5:16?  ______________________________________________________

8. Turn to Luke 18:1:

Who is speaking? _____________. He tells us to always ____________ and not to ______________.

9. Turn to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5:

16 Rejoice always, 17 _________without ____________, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

10. Turn to 1 Samuel, chapter 12:

What is taking place here in the opening verses?

Who is the prophet taking center stage here?

Why is he upset with God’s people? What had they done contrary to God’s will?

11. Did the people realize they had gone against the will of God? (v. 19) ________

12. What did they plead with Samuel to do for them? (v. 19) __________________

Most of our lost friends and family members do not have the insight to ask this of us. We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and do it whether they ask or not. Our fellow Christians will often ask us to pray, but again, we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and uphold them in prayer whether they ask or not.

13. See verse 23. This should be a guide stone verse in the life of every believer. Write out verse 23 here: “As_______________, ___________________________

Sin against whom? Who are we sinning against when we fail to pray? _________

Prayer is the greatest Christian privilege.  You and I can talk with God. Think about it. The One who scooped out the seas, heaped up the mountains, and flung out the stars, the omnipotent God has invited us to talk with Him!

Prayer is the greatest Christian power. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”

Prayer is the greatest Christian failure.  How so? Turn again to the book of James, to chapter 4, verse 2. Why do we “have not”? Because ____ _______ _______. May God forgive us.


Have you ever noticed sometimes when a notorious sinner gets saved, gives his heart to Christ, everyone watches him like a hawk, and then the first thing you know, he slips. Perhaps he goes back into the old life. He starts drinking again.  Perhaps he had a colorful vocabulary, but he cleaned that up, then he uses abusive language again.

So often Christians say, “Uh-oh. Just as I thought. Look at him. Look how he failed.” Rather than helping, it’s as though they put their heel on his head and push him further down into the mud.

14. In situations like this, what does the Bible say to do? Turn to Galatians 6:1:

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, _________ such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

What spirit should we have as we seek to restore?

Why should we approach it that way? “…considering _____________________________________________________________________________________" 

Someone has said “The Christian army is the only one in the world that shoots its wounded. We are not to criticize, we’re to help, to lift, to edify one another, to encourage.

#3—the conditions we should meet

James has been telling us about the conditions for answered prayer. Beginning with chapter 1, he has explained the conditions we believers must meet.

6 But let him ask _____ ___________, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

15. We have already seen in James 4:2 that often we fail to ask.  Then in James 4:3, we “have not because we ask ____________. That is, he tells us to ask for the right things. But verse 16 adds two more conditions we should meet:

The intensity of the asking and the integrity of the asker.


“…the effectual, fervent prayer…”

It takes two words, effectual and fervent, to express the meaning of this one Greek word. It literally means stretched out, like a horse jumping over a barricade or an athlete running for the finish line who bursts the tape as he stretches himself out for the goal.

In Latin, fervent means to boil and froth. It is hot, not lukewarm or cold. James says this is the way we are to pray. Striving, eager, earnest, fervent, impassioned.

God forgive our cold, lukewarm, milquetoast, take-it-or-leave-it prayers. They’re to be on fire, stretched out.

#4—the character we SHOULD manifest

16. From the description in verses 17 and 18, can you tell which Old Testament prophet James is referring to?


If you want to look it up, turn to 1 Kings chapter 18. James uses this episode in the life of the prophet to illustrate effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man. This prophet lived a life of such integrity before God that he literally could call down fire from heaven, stop rain from falling, and then ask the Lord to send rain—and He did.

You see, he was God’s man. He had integrity.

17. As we close this study on how to pray effectively, turn to Proverbs 15:29:

The Lord is far from the wicked but He _____________  the prayer of the _____________.

You must have personal integrity.

18. And for further evidence (we’ve already dealt at length with this in Psalm 66:18), turn to Isaiah 59:1-2:

1Behold, the Lord’s arm is not shortened that He cannot save; neither is His ear heavy that He cannot hear, 2but your _____________ have separated between you and your God, and your __________ have _____ His face from you, that He _____  _____ hear.

God doesn’t have ear wax…He is choosing not to hear your prayer.

I can give you in one simple word why most of our prayers are not answered. Sin.  Just plain sin. Do you want your prayers answered? Then you must be a righteous person.

How did Jesus pray?

“And He offered up prayers and supplication with strong cryings and tears.” Hebrews 5:7


George Mueller was a great man of faith.  He prayed for a man for many years to come to know Christ. That man was not saved until the day of Mueller’s funeral. But Mueller never stopped asking.

When was the last time you shed a tear over a soul who was mortgaged to the devil? When was the last time you prayed as Jacob, “Oh God, I will not let You go, except You bless me.” When was the last time you labored with God in prayer as the Bible says?

Prayer is not just getting ready for Christian service. Prayer is Christian service. You are serving God when you pray. I serve God more when I pray than when I preach. The choir director serves God more when he prays than when he sings.

You can do more than pray after you pray.

But you can do no more than pray until you pray.

Intercession and prayer are hard work, friends. For the energy it takes, I’d rather preach than pray. I’d rather study than pray.

So often we give without sacrifice, pray without fasting, witness without tears. Is it any wonder we sow without results? How God has convicted my heart again as I’ve studied the book of James. I’ve had to bow my head, confess and say, “Oh, God, forgive my cold, lukewarm, indifferent prayers.

God grant that we might pray with fervency, frequency and fruitfulness. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


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