How to Have a Powerful Prayer Life
Read James 5:16b-18 (ESV)
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then, he prayed again, and he gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
According to James, what type of person has a powerful prayer life?
As James has been wrapping up his letter, he has focused the last few verses on prayer. He has told us to pray when we are suffering, cheerful, or sick. He said that we should pray for healing when we are unwell and for forgiveness when we’ve sinned.
Today, James follows that train of thought and adds that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful. The NIV adds that a righteous person’s prayers are “effective.” 1 Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” If we are right with God, His ears are open to hearing our prayers. But Proverbs 28:9 gives us an important warning: “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” If we aren’t right with God, our prayers are actually offensive to God. Afterall, if we are in rebellion against God, why would we think we have any right to come to Him when we are in need?
But how can we be made right with God? After all, aren’t all of us sinners? Romans 3:10 points out that no one is righteous!
Well, James gave us an example of a righteous man, Elijah, who we can read more about in 1 Kings 17 and 18. He pointed out that Elijah had a sin nature just like the rest of us. He was only human. And yet, He prayed that God would stop the rain and God answered his prayer. After 3 and half years, he prayed that God would make it rain. Once again, God answered his prayers. Why was God willing to listen to a mere human?
We see a clue in the verse. It says that Elijah prayed “fervently.” He didn’t approach God half-heartedly but with passion, persistence, and full confidence that God could do what he asked. He prayed with faith!
We see another clue in 1 Kings 18:36 when Elijah was praying during a standoff between God and the prophets of Baal. Elijah said, “I am your servant” and “I have done all these things at your word.” In other words, Elijah served the Lord and sought to do His will. He wasn’t perfect, he was just a man. But he had placed His faith in God and lived out his faith.
In Romans 1:17, Paul quoted Habakkuk 2:4 which says, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Like the other Old Testament saints, Elijah was considered righteous because he walked by faith. Likewise, we are made right with God because of our faith in what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Through Christ, we have been made righteous in God’s eyes.
Philippians 3:9 says, “...not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” In other words, Paul said that our righteousness comes from placing our faith in a righteous God. We can’t be righteous in our own power. We are sinners. We can only be made righteous through faith.
Friends, if we want to have a powerful and effective prayer life, then we need to be made right with God and by placing our faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Then, we can pray fervently like Elijah and know that God will work powerfully through our prayers.
Jesus, thank You for being my righteousness and restoring my relationship with God through Your sacrifice on my behalf. I know that because I have placed my faith in You, I can confidently approach You in prayer and know that You hear me. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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