James, writer under the Holy Spirit’s superintendence, of the powerful New Testament epistle of James, half-brother of Jesus, could not have said it more emphatically when, in urging his readers to practice praying persistently, he said “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) Literally, the word order in its original could be rendered “A prayer of a righteous man is very strong, being made effectual.”
Can you think of anything believers and churches and communities with their governing bodies need more than powerful prayers that are made effectual? If you are a Christian striving to live spiritually, you must know that your spiritual life will not rise above the level of your prayer life. If you worship and serve your Savior in a local church which strives to effectively impact its community for Christ, you must know that no local congregation’s impact will ever be greater than the level of its corporate prayer life. Nor will the composite, corporate prayer life of the body in whole be greater than the prayer life of each individual member; and each individual member of any local church will not achieve an effective prayer life greater than his daily time with God in His Word. Selah.
Note the admonition of James in chapter 5 verse sixteen which focuses on a prayer that is “made effectual.” That’s what we surely strive for—effectual praying, i.e., praying that gets results, praying that changes things. So, how is one’s praying “made effectual?”
The prayer of which James speaks when he uses the “passive voice”, translated “made effectual,” is a prayer that is dependent upon an external force or power, outside of the one who is praying, to make the prayer effectual. We know that the only power that can cause a prayer to become effectual is God. And that truth should be the most compelling reason to “pray without ceasing,” knowing that God Himself not only hears our petitions but is also able to work supernaturally to make our praying effective!
First, God the Holy Spirit does His powerful, energizing work as we pray. Sometimes we are too weak to even frame the verbiage of a prayer to God and it is during those times when we find ourselves too weak to lift a prayer to God, emaciated mentally, emotionally, physically and or spiritually, that we can be assured that God’s Holy Spirit reads our soul’s yearnings and desperate cries to the heavens and will translate our heart’s feeblest pleas into the language of heaven with “groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:16). We in our own strength could never do that, but His Spirit does it on our behalf as only He can, thus, making our prayers effectual!
Second, God the Son is working to make every prayer of ours effectual. He is ever living to make intercession for us as He is seated at the right hand of His Father in Heaven. He, being the God man, can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, so in a way unique and supernatural, our High Priest, Jesus, is always mindful of our needs as we are praying and He is making those prayers effectual. (Hebrews 7:25; 4:14-16)
And, finally, God the Father, our Heavenly Father, who made us in His own image and can understand our thoughts from afar, is making our praying effectual. He is anxious and able to bless us; He longs to give us good things out of His storehouse of riches in glory. He Himself taught us that if we have had fathers here in the flesh that have known how to give us good gifts, how much more our Heavenly Father? Were we to ask our father here for a piece of bread would he give us a stone? Or a serpent instead of a fish or a scorpion were we to ask for an egg? Never! And in so much greater, indeed infinite, way does God the Father grant us our requests and more when we are in need and asking for His intervention! (Luke 11:13) Our great God who loves us and gave His only begotten Son for our very life can and will make our praying effectual in a way that will be exceeding and abundantly more than we would have dared ask as He daily loadeth us with benefits!
The only remaining question concerning this prayer prompt in James 5:16 is the issue raised when James identifies the praying person as a “righteous” man. Who is “righteous?” Or, as Job put it, “How can a man be just (righteous) with God?” (Job 9:2) And, the good news is that any living person can qualify as a “righteous” or “just” person. Those who have put their faith in God, repenting of sin and believing in Christ as Savior, are judicially declared righteous by God as revealed in His Word! (Romans 5:1) Even as God made His holy Son, Jesus, to be sin for our salvation, so He is able and willing to make us, judicially, righteous! (2 Cor. 5:21) So, any seeking sinner, trusting Christ and Christ alone for salvation, is “righteous,” positionally, before God. That does not mean you will never again sin; practically we do sin; and if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves (I John 1). We need on a daily basis to do a “heart check,” heeding the Psalmist’s admonition that “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Ps. 66:18) Sin will never change the standing of a believer for that is “sealed” by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. (Eph. 4:30) But sin does alter the “state” of a believer putting us out of fellowship with God until that sin is confessed and forsaken. And, again, the Psalmist has the solution for that altered state: “For I will declare (confess) my iniquity. I will be sorry for my sin.” (Ps. 38:18) The moment we do that, we have forgiveness, fellowship is restored and we can once again rest assured that the Godhead is active in making our prayers effectual! So, do remember His words: “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1)