“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Do you desire to be a man or woman of great faith? Do you want God to use your life so as to leave a lasting legacy? I recently read a book entitled 50 People Every Christian Should Know. This book presents the biographies of 50 men and women who have left a lasting impression upon the Christian faith. As I read about their lives, I discovered several common traits which defined how they lived. One of these traits was that they were people of prayer. They all understood that their effectiveness in serving God was directly connected to the time they spent on their knees. Just like these individuals of the past, God wants to take ordinary people today and raise up another generation of spiritual giants whose lives are marked by powerful and effective prayer.
After calling his readers to pray in times of trouble and sickness, and to confess their sins one to another, James asserts that, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). To illustrate, James refers to the prophet Elijah as an example of a person who had an effective prayer life. James tells us that Elijah’s prayers both began and ended a three-and-a-half year drought on the nation of Israel (see 1 Kings 17 and 18). James also reminds us that Elijah was a man with a nature just like us (James 5:17). In other words, according to Donald W. Burdick, “He [Elijah] had no superhuman powers; he was by nature a human being and nothing more. However, when he prayed ‘that it would not rain … it did not rain’…so James assures his readers that such answers to prayer are within the reach of any believer.”
If it is true that we can have a powerful prayer life like the prophet Elijah, then the obvious question is, “How?” Many writers propose answers to this question by suggesting we do things such as recite a verse or a word repeatedly, sit in silence (an altered state of consciousness), or walk a prayer circle. Prayer, however, is not some magical incantation or manipulative tool we can use to control God. As Jesus Himself taught,
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words (Matthew 6:7).
Instead, prayer is communicating with God through means by which He has revealed in His word. Recognizing that we are dependent upon the Bible to understand prayer, in upcoming newsletters I will be sharing biblical principles that can enable any believer to have a powerful and effective prayer life just like Elijah.