James 5:16 The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. NASU
Prayer can seem to be a mystery to us. We know that God is sovereign so we wonder why should we even bother praying. We are not going to change His mind are we? He is always going to do what He chooses to do, right? If that is the case, why bother asking? Besides, even when I do ask, I don’t see an answer to my prayer anyway.
If you look at this verse in James, he would beg to differ with that type of thinking. In fact, just before the key verse, James tells his readers to call for the elders to pray for those who are sick. He says to confess our sins to each other and pray for healing. In verse 13 he says that if anyone is suffering, let him pray. Evidently, James believes that not only should we pray, but that our prayers bring results!
Let’s look closely at verse 16. James says the prayer of a righteous man (or woman) can accomplish much. He prefaces that with the phrase, “effective prayer.” What does that mean? The word here in Greek for effective is energeo. It is defined as “to be active” or “efficient.” It is where we get the word energy or energized. The NIV puts it this way, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
So we need to know, who is considered righteous? Simple, one who has put their trust in Christ. His righteousness has been given to us in an exchange at the cross. He took the penalty of our sin upon Himself and placed His righteousness upon us. When we pray to the Father, He considers us as righteous because of His Son and thus, hears our prayer.
Lastly, James says that these prayers accomplish much. The Greek scholar, AT Robertson says that this could be rendered, "has much force." Think about that. It may not be that our prayer will accomplish exactly what we wanted, but that does not mean it does not have force or power. It just may not have been exactly what God wanted. But sometimes, God, in His foreknowledge, has an event planned out to match the exact timing and nature of our prayer and then we get to watch what He does. We get to participate in accomplishing God’s will. How amazing that is!
James gives us an example of this in verses 17 and 18. He says that Elijah, a man just like us, not more holy or more spiritual, called for a halt to rain and the rain stopped. It stopped for 3 ½ years! Then he prayed for it to rain and it did. His prayer evidently had “much force.”
Jesus taught us that anything we would ask in His name (which means in His will), He would give to us (Jn 14:13,15:16). The key for us in asking for anything in prayer, is to first seek God’s will. We want our hearts to be aligned with His. That means asking Him each day, to lead and guide us in our prayer life by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that we lay aside our fleshly desires and ask Him to place His desires in us. When that happens, we will see that our prayers are effective, that they will accomplish much because what we are asking for, is what He wants!
The apostle Paul tell us that we ought to pray constantly (1Th 5:17). James tells us earlier in his letter, that we should pray believing that we have what we ask for (1:5-8). Jesus told us over and over again to ask, in faith, for anything in His name. I want to encourage you to continually go the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to guide your heart, helping you to pray for His will to be done in every circumstance. If you do, then your prayers will be the ones that accomplish much and your faith will grow!
God bless you