The New Church Lady

Weightier Matters

EFFECTIVE AS OF TODAY

Life cycles through good times and bad for each of us individually. Right now, so many, many people I know are suffering trials and troubles. Our prayer list at church is long. I am on a couple of email lists for prayer requests and via a variety of personal and group connections my Facebook feed is full of prayer request as well. Cancer, terrorist attacks, school shooters, miscarriages, divorce, job loss, natural disasters, car wrecks, and so much more. We pray for them all, don’t we? We labor long and hard in pleading with our Heavenly Father for relief for friends and family, church brethren, neighbors and strangers.

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Oh, how I have wished for the effectiveness of prayers like Jesus prayed – those that resulted in the immediate calming of storms, healing of the sick, providing of bread to thousands of hungry souls and raising of the dead.

It was in light of this desire for a prayer that is effective, that many years ago, as a relatively young Christian, I sought to dissect the “magic” formula for effective prayer as outlined in James 5:16 [KJV] The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. [Emphasis mine] 

I reasoned, that if I could really understand what kind of a prayer was being outlined here, by diving into their Greek root meanings, and then pray the specific way that their meaning indicated, perhaps my own prayers could be more productive. By that I meant, that they’d have immediate, dramatic and positive results every time. 

So, sisters, let me share with you what I learned in my dissection of this potential formula for prayer that really works.

“Effectual fervent” – These words are translated from a Greek word meaning “to be operative, to be at work, to put forth power.” That’s exactly the prayer we are looking for – one that works – one that is powerful.

“Righteous man” – Prayers that work are prayers that come from a righteous man. Are you thinking “Houston, we have a problem”? Me too. Because a few scriptures immediately come to mind. Romans 3:9-10 [NKJV] What then? Are we better [than they]? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; and verse 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Thankfully, we know that, while none of us is righteous on our own, righteousness is ours if we confess our sins. I John 1:9 [NKJV] If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Once I confess and ask forgiveness, all my unrighteousness is taken away and at that moment I am righteous before God.

Also, by the very act of showing faith in Him, and belief in the promises of God, we do receive the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, our Lord, just as Abraham did. 

Romans 4:20-25 [NKJV] He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

So, confessing my sins coupled with the very act of reaching out by faith-filled prayer, makes us righteous women. Whew! We’ve got this righteousness covered!

Okay, now that we have the requirements outline, we need to ask what the scripture means when it says that a prayer like this “avails much”

If we look at James 5:16 in the English Standard Version, I think it clears things up a bit. James 5:16The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. [Emphasis mine]

Our prayers have power even as they are working toward a specific result – whatever that result. That power, in part, I believe, is the power to change ME as I focus on petitioning the Father for someone else – as I accept the imputed righteousness of Jesus and use it to focus on the needs of another – as I spend precious time on behalf of a friend, family member or even a foe. As I do that, I am changed to be a more outwardly-focused person. I grow in love for and tenderness toward the person suffering. I become more like Jesus Himself, who prayed fervently for each of us during His time on earth and petitions for our sakes before the Father even now.

There is power in the act of praying for another person. 

I was much younger in the faith when this idea came to mind – that there might be a special formula for answered prayer. Yet, even now, as a seasoned follower of Christ, who has experienced many answered prayers – “no” and “yes” and “later” answers – I confess that I still feel it would be really nice to always get an immediate “yes” from the Father to my best petitions on the part of others. That just is not going to happen in this life. 

However, the effective prayer of a righteous person, is powerful, even before it brings about a result. Prayer changes the people who pray and that, after all, is the whole point of this life, isn’t it?

Keep praying, sweet sisters. There is power in your righteous prayers. 

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.

P.S. A note about praying for our own healing: If we back up a little in James 5, we find a specific requirement to have effective prayer for my own healing. James 5:14-15 [ESV] 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. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. If I am the one who is ill, I have a responsibility to contact an elder to be anointed. This act is simply an outward show of inward faith – similar to baptism. The oil itself has no power. But this display of trust in God, is part of what He asks me to do in order to bring a prayer to Him for my own healing. This prayer does double duty, in that it not only brings about healing, but also forgiveness if any sin has been involved. Anointing is not required, however, for me to pray for the healing of others.