22 February 2012
"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." James 5: 13-18
There is one part of this passage that I would like to pick apart and examine: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." There are many times in my life where I am frustrated or just in need of prayer and I end up feeling as though my requests haven't been dealt with. Before I jump in to what I'm about to say I need to be clear, I do know that God has his own method for answering prayer that doesn't always mesh up with ours. He also has His own timing to do so. I also understand that God's will is going to get done above all else. So leaving those cases aside, I'm going to try and talk about the times in between.
Its so easy to give up and get discouraged during the hard times: to say that God doesn't care about our problems in day to day life. It is at critical times like these when we must take a serious look at our own hearts, minds, and actions. Perhaps the reason that we are not praying powerfully and effectively is because we aren't living RIGHTEOUS lives (righteous, as defined by merriam-webster : acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin). We are just expecting God to clean up all of our garbage for us (which He can do). As we know from our own salvation though, God not only wants to save us, but to PARTNER with us as well (go and make disciples of all nations...= our part [along with sanctification]). I believe this is just one of the mediums in which God works, partnership, and I believe prayer is no different. As it says in James, it should be an expectation that if we want to pray effectively then we should go out of our way to live righteously. And of course God can do it all on His own, he doesn't need us in the slightest... But he WANTS us. So the next time that we get flustered over the fact that our prayers haven't been answered, remember to seek after God's righteousness (as opposed to 'righteous' in man's eyes).
And finally, there are other factors involved in prayer, sometimes healing is needed among other things, so I'm not implying a 1 to 1 ratio of "righteousness to effective and powerful prayer." I think that in any circumstance however, righteousness definitely helps. Are you living the righteous life that God desires? Ask yourself. Ask your friends. Ask your pastor. Unless the collective answer is a resounding "yes," it seems as though we have got some work to do.