Charles Finney delivered 22 lectures on renewal of the church and society. What follows are highlights from his fourth lecture.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much.
There are two [ways] to promote a revival: the one is to influence people, the other to influence God. The truth is employed to influence people, and prayer to move God.
Prayer is an essential link in the chain of causes that lead to a revival, as much so as truth is. Truth by itself, will never produce the effect, without the Spirit of God and that the Spirit is given in answer to prayer.
Prevailing, or effectual prayer, is that prayer which attains the blessing that it seeks.
II. Essential Attributes of Prevailing Prayer
1. Pray for a definite object
2. Prayer, to be effectual, must be in accordance with the revealed will of God. God’s will is revealed by promises in the Bible, by spiritual discernment, by God’s Spirit.
3. To pray effectually you must pray with submission to the will of God.
In the case of an impenitent friend, the very condition on which he is to be saved from hell may be the fervency and importunity of your prayer for that individual.
4. Effectual prayer for an object implies a desire for that object commensurate with its importance. If the desire for an object is strong, and is a benevolent desire , and the thing is not contrary to the will and providence of God, the presumption is that it will be granted.
5. Prayer, to be effectual, must be offered from right motives. Prayer should not be selfish, but should be dictated by a supreme regard for the glory of God.
6. Prayer, to be effectual, must be by the intercession of the Spirit.
7. Christians who have backslidden [often] cannot fix their thoughts so as to hold on till the blessing comes. Do not deceive yourselves with thinking that you offer effectual prayer unless you have this intense desire for the blessing.
8. If you mean to pray effectually, you must pray a great deal.
9. If you intend prayer to be effectual, you must offer it in the name of Christ. If you should go to the bank with a draft or note, endorsed by John Jacob Astor, that would be giving you his name, and you know you could get the money. When you pray in the name of Christ the meaning of it is that you can prevail just as well as He could Himself and receive just as much as God’s well-beloved Son would if He were to pray Himself for the same things. But you must pray in faith.
10. You cannot prevail in prayer without renouncing all your sins. Leave them off, and in the purpose of your heart renounce them all for ever.
11. You must pray in faith. You must expect to obtain the things for which you ask.
IV. Such Prayer Will Avail Much
A blacksmith – his agony became so great he was induced to lay by his work, lock the shop door, and spend the afternoon in prayer. [At a meeting two days later] It was found that persons from every quarter of the town were under deep conviction. And what was remarkable was, that they all dated their conviction at the hour that the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful revival followed.
A great deal of prayer is lost, and many people never prevail in prayer, because, when they have desires for particular blessings, they do not follow them up. Do not be diverted to other objects. Follow the leadings of the Spirit till you have offered that “effectual fervent prayer” that “availeth much.” (James 5:16)