James 5:16b The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. 17 Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.
The prayer of the righteous has great power in its effects… That’s interesting isn’t it? It raises two questions:
1- What does it mean to be ‘righteous’ so that one’s prayer may be effective?
2- If the prayer of the righteous has great power so as to be effective, what does this imply about the prayer of the unrighteous?
On the first question the answer is stunningly simple: to be righteous is to be right with God. That is, things between one and God are on an even keel. God is loved, served, worshiped, and adored. God is the source of all comfort and the righteous person is walking ‘in the paths of righteousness’, i.e., practicing behavior that demonstrates the state of being on good terms and in good standing with God.
According to James, the prayer of that sort of person has great power in its effects simply because such a person is in accord with the plan, purpose and will of God (a will which is always perfect and pure).
So, what about question 2? If the prayer of the righteous is effective, what about the prayer of the unrighteous? Again, the answer is stunningly simple. The prayer of a person who does not love, serve, worship and adore God has no power to effect anything. Such a person is out of accord with the plan and purpose of God and in that state cannot and does not seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. God does not, and will not, grant the petitions of persons living discordantly and at cross-purposes to his will. To do so would be to participate in unrighteousness and that God will not do.
The consequences of what James both states and implies is that if one wishes one’s prayers to be effective one need be right with God. After all, why would or should God grant the requests of persons who will misuse the gifts he bestows?
If, for example, one is ill, and prays for wellness but is not in right standing with God; and God grants that request- the chances are high, aren’t they, that the person made well will no more be involved in prayer, worship or the adoration of God after made well than they were before. In consequence, God will have ended up lengthening the life of a person who will spend that longer life in continuing ignoring of God.
The crux of the matter, then, is that we be right with God. Then our prayers will not only be right; they will be effective.