Which Prayer is Effective? By Babatunde Olugboji
The book of James overflows with practical guidance for dealing with every situation in a believer’s life, urging believers to “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.” (James 5:16 KJV) The Bible assures that prayers will heal the sick. (James 5:13-15)
The Book of James suggests that sometimes sickness is the result of unconfessed sin, not that every illness is the consequence of sin, only that some ailments are rooted in sin. Whatever the situation, we should confess our sins and seek forgiveness from God. Here is how the NLT puts it: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16)
The Bible says we should front load our prayer for healing with confession and repentance, that turning away from evil “will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:8). Like David, whose hidden sins sapped him of strength and caused his bones to waste away (see Psalm 38: 7-10), our sins, left unconfessed, can lead to physical sickness. (Psalm 32:3-5) Only after receiving the Lord’s forgiveness will our prayers for healing be heard and answered. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The word “availeth” in the KJV means “produces an advantage” or “serves in a useful way.” The original Greek word translated as “availeth” means “is able,” “is capable,” or “has the power.” The righteous person is the person who has been made right with God—the one whose sins are forgiven. So, the one who is forgiven and in right standing with God can pray in a “useful, advantageous, powerful” way and thus receive excellent results.
Prayers that are powerful and effective come from righteous people: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12) The Lord won’t listen to those who cherish sin in their hearts. (Psalm 66:18) A righteous person has a living faith that seeks to obey the Lord and his Word. The Bible warns in Proverbs 28:9: “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.”
Confession of and repentance from sin are preconditions for having the Lord’s ear. Only when we experience God’s forgiveness will our prayers have the power to avail much. Successful prayer comes from believers who passionately desire to see God’s will worked out in their lives.
James spotlights Elijah the prophet as a righteous man who prayed fervently and with power. His prayers “avails much.” (James 5:17-18) Just like us, Elijah had human weaknesses and shortcomings. But he was so in tune with the will of God that he recognized when God wanted to begin the drought and when he wanted to end it.
Elijah’s example challenges us today to seek a closer relationship with God so that we, too, can know, follow, and pray according to His will. When we are right with God, and our prayers agree with the will of God, we can trust they will be answered (1 John 5:14-15) because the prayer of the righteous availeth much!
Have a great week.
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