Pondering Prayer #3

Today, God is leading me to explore a scripture that has baffled me through the years. It’s found in James 5:16.

James 5:16(KJV)

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

When pondering scripture, it’s important to read verses within their context. So, let’s see what James is addressing here. He’s comparing how to live God’s way as opposed to focusing on the things people think are valuable. Verse 1 says:

James 5:1(KJV)

5 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Many people actually trust in their wealth and possessions instead of God and His way. Here, James warns those that think they are secure that they truly aren’t. Further down, he points out how the rich can take advantage of those that work for them (verse 4)

In verse 6, he gets to the heart of the matter. The wealthy have condemned those that don’t have and have “murdered” the just.

In verses 7-8, he exhorts the brethren to be patient and prepare themselves for the time of Christ’s return and subsequent deliverance. Then, he gives them pointers on how to live God’s way: In verse 9, he exhorts the brethren not to grumble against each other because judgment is coming. Life is hard, and James exhorts the brethren to model the prophets “as an example of suffering and patience” (verse 10).

In verse 13, he asks “Is anyone among you suffering?” and teaches them (and us!) how to handle it. “Let him pray.” God is all-powerful and can help us endure suffering even if it’s His will not to remove it at that time. There’s something about going through a hard time and having the circumstances unchanged but being strengthened through contact with God that’s special, encouraging and empowering. Jesus knows. He went before the Father’s throne in emotional agony pleading with the Father to change the circumstances of His upcoming crucifixion. He yielded to the Father’s will and plan and was strengthened to do what He was tasked to do for us all. We do well if we follow His example.

Now for verse 16:

James 5:16(KJV)

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

The first part of the verse deals with illness and its spiritual components. It’s fascinating to me to understand that James teaches there can be a spiritual component to illness and that a believer needs to be in a right attitude (humble, for confession and pride can’t coexist) to be healed. In Luke 4:18-19, Christ said He came to restore us physically and spiritually, and this teaching from James reflects Christ’s declaration. The second part of the verse reflects Christ’s admonition for us to bear one another’s burdens: we are exhorted to pray for one another. In other words, we are to be each others’ intercessors.

So, what is an effective, fervent prayer and what makes a person righteous in God’s sight? After all, Jesus did say that there are no righteous people around. That’s a seeming contradiction, but not really, as you’ll see.

Let’s take the second part first. Elsewhere in scripture, we see that Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness. We know that faith is both a gift from God and a fruit of the spirit. We also know that without faith, it’s impossible to please God. So, there’s a faith/righteousness connection. Without God gifting us with His attributes, it’s impossible to please Him, and it’s impossible for us to appear righteous in His sight. It’s God in us that He sees and accounts for righteousness in us. Of ourselves, we truly can’t be righteous. Prayer is us connecting to and communicating with God. Without that connection, we lack the spiritual ability to see things like God does and to act in ways that please Him.

Back to the effective, fervent prayer. What makes prayer effective is us understanding and knowing God even in our admittedly limited way. If you look at the prayers or communication between men like Moses and Abraham and God, you can see that these men understood what’s important to God and could even reason with Him as He allowed. In Moses’ case, God had had it with the whining, ungrateful rebellious children of Israel and wanted to create a new nation through Moses. (see Exodus 31:9-14) Moses reminded God that if He did so, it would make a poor witness to surrounding nations that God freed the Israelites from slavery only to destroy them in the desert. God listened to Moses and changed His mind. Regarding Abraham, God shared His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18:20-33) Abraham began his countdown from asking God if he would spare the cities if there were 50 righteous men found there. As Abraham approached asking God if there were one righteous man (and he knew there was: his nephew Lot), God stopped the interaction because it was His sovereign will and decree that Sodom and Gomorrah be destroyed. In both cases, God dialogued with these men.

God hears us and actually listens to us. Who knows whether what we say to Him can make a difference in another’s life? What makes prayer effective is praying that God’s will be done and that if it be His will, to intervene and bless the life being prayed for. Fervent? We have to be sincere, involved and really mean what we pray for. I pray you can see why James was inspired to write what he did about the effective, fervent prayer of a man availing much.

So, let’s pray: Father God, Your precious word contains so much information as to how you see us and surrounding circumstances. Thanks for opening our spiritual eyes to see, really see how You led yielded instruments to give us vital information as how to follow Jesus and live His way. Everything begins and ends with You. You are the giver of love, faith and understanding. These are truly miracles because they transcend our humanity. Thanks for helping us to be so spiritually connected to You that we are so changed and see things like you do. Thanks for growing and changing us to be more like You every day. We know we can never be You, but we know we can live with Your attributes, Your likeness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

copyright 2015 Pastors George and Sharon Billington, All Rights Reserved

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We are partners in marriage and ministry and are ordained spiritual leaders and skilled, trained Christian counselors who have been God's instruments in making a difference in many believers' lives. God has led us to write an emotional and spiritual recovery workbook for Christians that's been widely praised by respected spiritual leaders like Joni Eareckson Tada. Contact us if you want a copy. We have just a few left from the second printing.
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