Effective Prayer

James 5:13-16

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Note the first sentence… If you are suffering, pray. If you are happy, sing psalms. No matter our state, our communication is to be with God.  With verse 14, we see that prayer isn’t always prayed alone, either. We can call for others (not always required to be elders, as exampled in this verse) to pray with us.  As Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, ” For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”  Ecclesiastes  4:12 says “And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” However, we must remember that the power of the prayer is not ours, it is God’s. It is the Lord who raises him up (in this example of the sick man). Our only job is to pray, believing that He is, and that He rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

The requirement, we’ll note, is not the oil or the elders, but faith. It is the prayer of faith that will save (the sick). This prayer comes from the righteous man. Without a relationship with Jesus, we are not righteous, and while God will hear prayers for salvation, that is only the first step of surrender which is necessary for us to be righteous, and for us to have faith (which is given by God:  See Romans 12:3) for our prayers to be effectual. If we have sins which are “blocking” our prayers, those can be forgiven. Remember, we do not have to earn our own righteousness and be perfectly pure for our prayers to be effective. Jesus earned our righteousness for us at the Cross, and with that, the prayer of faith is of Him because of the righteousness He gives. James 5:17-18 speaks of Elijah, who was a man just like us, who because of the righteousness given him by God had effectual prayer to stop and again start rains upon the earth.  The Greek for the NKJV’s “prayer of faith” is “the prayer of the faith” – the faith that God gives. The depth of the faith that we need is simply to believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

However, for many, it often appears that prayers are not answered. It seems too simple to believe that with mere faith we can become warriors in prayer. In all cases, though, we must let God be true and every man a liar (see Romans 3:4). Some reasons for apparent unanswered prayers:

1: Wavering.  James 1:6-7 says that when we ask (in this example, for wisdom), we must ask in faith, without wavering. If we waver, we will not receive what we ask for. In all cases, we should ask for Wisdom to know God’s will. God’s will will always conform to His Word.

2: God is waiting on us (see A Midnight Friend and an Unjust Judge). He is waiting on us to address whatever it is in us that He is bearing long with before He can respond quickly to our prayers. He wants our hearts pure before He moves to action.

3: Asking amiss. See James 4:1-3. What is our heart’s attitude towards what we are asking for? Two people in the same circumstance could ask for the same thing, and because of differences in attitudes, one may receive, and one may wait, as God “bears long” waiting for the second person to come to a better attitude. Are we asking in desperation, simply wanting to be relieved of dire circumstances so that we can feel better? Maybe God is waiting for us to ask for the same deliverance, but with an attitude of basking in His love for us and protection of us in dire circumstances.

4: The prayer may simply “appear” unanswered. God, however, may have answered our prayer according to His wisdom, and we simply do not see it. We need to pray for His will. How that comes to affect in our world may not be how we think it will come to affect. God will ultimately answer prayers for His glory, even if that glory does reveal His love for us. See Jeremiah 33:3; John 14:13, John 15:7, James 4:3.

5: Not delighting in God. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” This verse is two-fold. First, in our delighting in the Lord, He will give us His desires, and then after we have received His desires into our heart, He will then give us those desires. If our delight is not in the Lord, but rather in ourselves, there is no promise that He will give us those desires.

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