Years ago, the editor of a publishing company asked me to write a book on prayer. The theme is a vitally important one. The publishing house was well known. To be honest, I felt flattered. But in a moment of heaven-sent honesty, I told him that the author of such a book would need to be an older and more seasoned author (not to mention, alas, more prayerful) than I was. I mentioned one name and then another. My reaction seemed to encourage him to a moment of honesty, as well. He smiled. He had already asked the well-seasoned Christian leaders whose names I had just mentioned! They, too, had declined in similar terms. Wise men, I thought. Who can write or speak at any length easily on the mystery of prayer?

Yet in the past century and a half, much has been written and said particularly about “the prayer of faith.” The focus has been on mountain-moving prayer by which we simply “claim” things from God with confidence that we will receive them because we believe that He will give them.

But what exactly is the prayer of faith?

Association with the Dramatic

Interestingly, it is in the letter of James (who has so much to say about works) that the term occurs. It climaxes the marvelous teaching on prayer that punctuates the entire letter (see 1:5–8; 4:2–3; 5:13–18).

What is even more striking is that the significance of the phrase seems to be illustrated by the experience of one individual, the prophet Elijah. In his case, the prayer of faith was instrumental in shutting the heavens. Perhaps it is not surprising, therefore, that the phrase has come to be associated largely, if not exclusively, with dramatic, miracle-like events—with the extraordinary rather than the daily.

Continue Reading