First we need to get our lives in order. The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous avails much, we are told in James 5:16. If you really care about the ones you are praying for, nothing will keep you from making sure you live a righteous life. None of us can be righteous by being perfect, but we can all be made righteous by forgiveness. Usually the only thing standing in the way of that is pride, and pride will form a ceiling past which your prayers cannot travel. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear, David wrote in Psa 66:18. Whatever needs fixing in your life, first get on your knees and fix yourself before you even try to pray for anyone else.
That one was obvious. This one not so much. God will never hear the prayers of a grudge-holder. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift, Matt 5:23-24. Adam Clarke says, “A religion, the very essence of which is love, cannot suffer at its altars a heart that is revengeful and uncharitable, or which does not use its utmost endeavors to revive love in the heart of another.”
Do you know the easiest way to fix this problem? Stop wearing your feelings on your coatsleeves. Stop being so easily offended and insulted. Stop seeing the worst in everything anyone says or does toward you. Love “does not keep account of evil,” Paul says in 1 Cor 13:5. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” Peter reminds us in 1 Pet 4:8. If we weren’t so quick to make something out of every little thing that comes along, maybe more of our prayers would be heard. “First be reconciled,” Jesus said. There is a definite order to these things.
And the last thing I thought of? I need to stop distracting those who are praying about this huge crisis with my own petty problems. I know that it is impossible to overwhelm God—He can handle as many problems as we feel compelled to send his way. But his people can be overwhelmed. They can be distracted. Feeling emotionally swamped can paralyze you, and keep you from the service that others desperately need. The shepherds shouldn’t have to take time putting band-aids on boo-boos when a couple of other sheep need CPR.
So, just for now, while the crisis looms, you and God handle your problems, and God and I will handle mine. God and even just one of his children are more than a match for any one or any thing. When any crisis is at hand--I must be aware of priorities, and do my best not to cause other problems. “Act like a man!” Paul told the Corinthians. “Man up!” is the current way of putting it, or just, “Grow up!” During a crisis the last thing the people of God need is someone raising a fuss or whining for attention.
I have a friend whom I have known since before I was even old enough to know her. She needs the prayers and the undivided attention of the saints right now. I do not want to be the one who fails her.
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, "Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: "Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you…2 Kings 20:2-5.