The Prayers of a Righteous Person

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) The Bible has a lot to say about prayer. After all, it’s the way we communicate with our Lord. And all of it promises that God hears and answers prayers, especially those offered by two or more in agreement (Matt. 18:19). The Lord personally promised His disciples that He will do whatever we ask in His name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father (John 14:13, 15:7, 15:16). So why do so many otherwise faithful Christians have difficulty submitting their requests to God and waiting in faith for an answer? Why do we often pray only as a last resort after all our other strategies have failed, and then get upset when we don’t seem to get an answer?

Peace Beyond Understanding

In Phil. 4:4-7 we’re promised that if we rejoice in all our circumstances and fearlessly present our requests to God with thanksgiving, He’ll provide a peace that surpasses human understanding to guard our hearts and minds. There’s a lot of good stuff in those few verses, and by sincerely following this advice I’ve seen miraculous answers to prayer, in my own life and in others.

First, rejoice in all circumstances, even those you’d rather not be in. Remember the Lord warned that we’d have some difficult times in this world, but to take heart because He had overcome this world (John 16:33). He could have said, “Cheer up, this too shall pass.” Moreover, by rejoicing in all circumstances, not just the pleasant ones, we deprive the enemy of victory while making our own situation more tolerable. Besides, maybe the Lord’s going to use our problem to bring about some great blessing. He doesn’t contrive difficulties for us to make us into better people (we’re already perfect in His sight, remember?) but He is the Master at turning lemons into lemonade when we cooperate. Thanking Him in advance helps create the climate for blessing.

Next, we’re told not to be anxious about anything. We walk by faith, not by sight, remember? Just because we can’t see the happy ending doesn’t mean there won’t be one. Pray for it, thanking God in advance for seeing you through. Pray for everything, be fearful of nothing, and thankful for anything.

And here’s the best part. When you sincerely follow Paul’s instructions to the Philippians, the Lord will cause a peace to descend upon you irrespective of your circumstances; a peace that will guard your heart and mind, keeping you from having a meltdown while He works things out for your benefit. Never forget that He’s committed to working everything together for the good of those who love Him and are “the called” (the Church), according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Your world could be coming apart at the seams, and yet you can be a paragon of peace and strength to those around you because of these promises made by One who cannot lie or change His mind (Num. 23:19).

So what’s the problem?

In John 15:7 we’re told that if we remain in Him and His words remain in us, we can ask whatever we wish and it will be given us. See the conditions? If we remain in Him means if we’re in fellowship, if we haven’t let our un-confessed sins create a disconnect in our relationship that has disrupted communication. Many Christians are big on knowing what God should do for them, but not so big on their responsibility to remain in fellowship. It’s not that it’s so difficult. Just be humble enough to admit you’re a sinner and sincerely ask for forgiveness. He’s promised in advance to grant it (1 John 1:9) and it’s how we become righteous again and restored to fellowship. If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the Truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). We can’t go more than a few minutes without sinning, yet I suspect many go through much of their lives without confessing and then blame God when their prayers aren’t answered. There’s another sin to confess.

His words remaining in us means we remember and claim His promises to us, several of which I’ve enumerated above. In all of God’s miraculous work, our faith is the variable, not His ability. In reading about the miracles in the Gospels, it’s always made clear that the faith of the petitioner facilitated the miracle. The Greek word for faith means to stake our lives on His promises. If we’re willing to stake our lives on His promise to save us from our sins and rescue us from hell, why can’t we trust Him to help us find a new job, or send the money to make our mortgage payment? The devil would like you to forget His promises, but faith requires that you remember them. They’re the foundation upon which your faith is built. Ours is not a blind faith, but one justified by His promises.

My daughter Jessica was almost literally on the way to the airport when the money arrived to pay for her ticket to Brazil (no I didn’t send it!) She believed the Lord was calling her to missionary work there, so she went. When I asked her about it, she simply said, “When it’s His will, it’s His bill.”

“Ah, the naiveté of youth,” you say. But she had spent months confessing her sins, preparing her heart, and seeking His will in prayer. She had done her part and trusted the Lord to do His.

Your Faith Has Made You Well

Allison was a young woman so afflicted by epilepsy that it was literally ruining her life. She couldn’t get her degree because the stress of finals always brought on a seizure causing her to miss the exams. Her fear of a public seizure kept her from making friends. In shame, she moved from the mid-west to Utah where she became a Christian. After months and months of studying the Bible and praying for healing she had a dream that she would come to our church (she wasn’t a member), suffer a seizure there and be healed. Imagine the guts it took to walk into that church for the first time knowing that she was going to disrupt everything and suffer huge embarrassment because of her disease. But she had confessed her sins and prepared her heart, so in faith, she came. Right in the middle of the lesson she let out a scream and keeled over, bringing the service to a halt. After recovering from the shock, I gathered people around me who believed God could work a miracle and as her face turned blue from oxygen deprivation we asked Him to heal her. She sat up with a start, and the paramedics who had been called just checked her over and left. Later her doctors tried unsuccessfully to induce a seizure and so they pronounced her cured. She threw away her medication and returned home to resume her interrupted life. Years later she’s still doing fine. She had remained in Him and His words remained in her. Her faith healed her. I could relate countless other stories of prayers in faith that produced miracles, all of which involved active preparation and participation by the petitioner.

But there’s one more problem. Usually, we’re not willing to let God answer our prayers in the way He thinks best. In my prayers, I’ve learned to put forth my solution to whatever problem I’m facing, but then “remind” the Lord that I know He might have a different solution in mind, and that it’s OK to do things His way. I know that He Who sees the end from the beginning has a much better perspective, and will ALWAYS come up with a better plan than any I could fashion. Mostly He lets me have my way, but once in awhile he’ll conjure up something that knocks my socks off.

What’s The Formula?

I’m not big on “formula” prayers, but here’s a prayer outline I was given years ago that’s held me in good stead. The teacher called it the ACTS method. It’s an acronym.

  • A stands for adoration. Tell the Lord how much you love Him. You don’t do it nearly enough.
  • C is for confession. Always invoke 1 John 1:9 and be restored to righteousness. Remember, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
  • T is for thanksgiving. Thank Him in arrears for blessings you’ve received in the past and in advance for those you’ll receive in the future. Finally
  • S is for supplication. Having told Him how much you love Him, restored yourself to fellowship, and expressed your gratitude for all the ways He’s blessed you in the past, you’re now in the right position to ask for yet another favor.

To that, I’ll add one more thought. It pays to end your prayers the same way Jesus did in the garden, “Not my will, Father, but yours.” Of course, you have to truly believe the Lord can do a better job of running your life than you can. Selah