Effective, Fervent, Righteous . . .

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 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 sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.James 5:13-17

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

We tend to discount prayer. To see it as a last resort. It’s that “thing” we do when we can’t think of anything else to do. We hold prayer in much lower regard than we ever should while the God’s word holds it in highest regard. Maybe it’s part of our human nature, the striving for independence and self-sufficiency, or possibly it’s because we don’t feel worthy of asking God. We don’t want to be a bother. Often, I think it’s because we think we’re supposed to have enough faith without praying in order to make things happen. We have more faith in our own faith than in the living God who gives us that faith. Prayer shows weakness, and we believe that’s a bad thing.

I would contend, however, that I am absolutely unworthy, totally unrighteous . . . in my own right, I have zero right to approach the throne of God, but the blood that Jesus shed for me has covered me and made me righteous. Because of the blood of Christ, it’s not just that I can pray effectively and fervently from a place of righteousness, it’s also that God has commanded me in His word to pray. I would further argue that prayer shows our weakness, and that’s the very best thing. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that it’s only in weaknesses we are made strong. It’s in total reliance on Christ, in embracing our weakness, that we become who we are meant and created to be.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 9-10

Our prayers are powerful, but they’re not magical. They’re powerful in spite of us not because of us. They’re powerful, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of Who it is we pray to.

Our prayers are righteous and effective, but that righteousness is not something we’ve earned. We can never do enough or be good enough to be truly righteous. The effectiveness comes not because we are perfect in our words, actions, and thoughts. Our prayers are righteous and effective solely because of the blood of our Savior.

Our prayers are earnest because the King of Kings is on the receiving end of our words. When you look up the word “earnestly” from James 5:17 it means “prayer to God”.  “Elijah was a man (one of the human race*) with a nature (of like feelings, having similar passions and feelings, of like infirmities*) like ours, and he prayed earnestly (prayer to God*) . . .”. We over complicate what it looks like to pray earnestly, to be righteous, to pray fervently. We give ourselves way too much credit and God way too little. We forget that it really has nothing to do with our own abilities and everything to do with His.

We have to stop discounting prayer. We have to stop putting in the place of last resort. We have to stop leaning into our own self sufficiency and our own meager abilities realizing that without Christ we are nothing. We have to glory in our weaknesses knowing that it’s in our weakness we become strong through the blood of Jesus. We have to hold prayer in the highest regard because it literally takes us before the throne of our Creator, it moves the Holy Spirit to speak to us, in us, and through us. It changes things.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. We often say “all we can do is pray” but prayer is not just “all we can do”. It’s everything we can do. It should saturate our lives and fill our days. Prayer isn’t some magical mumbo jumbo of conjuring up the right formula or code to get what we want. Prayer is communication with the One, True, Living God. It’s not about just getting what we want or bringing a wish list for the “big guy in the sky”. It’s about developing a close, personal, and intimate relationship with Him. I wonder what our lives and our world would look like if we took the call to pray seriously? I wonder what level of change and transformation we would see, starting in our own hearts and growing outward, if we truly sought to live in continual and constant communication with our Savior, our Father, and the Holy Spirit?

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

* https://biblehub.com/lexicon/james/5-17.htm

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