Summary: Not all prayer is effective, but the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
The Bible teaches that not all praying is effective.
• Those who pray while they cherish sin in their hearts will find that God doesn’t listen to that prayer. (Psalm 66:18)
• Those who pray to be seen by men will not receive the reward of answered prayer because their reward is to be seen by men. (Matthew 6:5)
• Those who waver in faith should not expect to receive an answer to their prayer. (James 1:7)
• Those who pray for things simply because of carnal desires will not receive what they ask for. (James 4:3)
But there is also an effective prayer. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Why?
IT IS A PRAYER OF FAITH. (v. 15)
Jesus taught on a faith that moved mountains, brought about miracles, and accomplished great things for God. This faith is not a force of power in and of itself. If we believe that, we are placing our faith in faith. True faith is faith in God. (Mark 11:22-24)
True faith is a work of God within our hearts. (Mark 9:24) It involves an awareness imparted by God that our prayers are answered.
Therefore, we must continually draw near to God. We must look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) The woman with the issue of blood drew near to Jesus and said, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed”. That’s what it takes: drawing near to Jesus and touching him.
We must fill ourselves with God’s Word (Romans 10:17) But it is not enough just to be able to quote it as if it had some magical power apart from righteous living. We must allow God’s Word to remain in us and take root and build up faith. (John 15:7)
IT IS A PRAYER OFFERED IN COMMUNITY. (v. 16)
This verse describes a community in which God’s people are accountable to each and pray for each other.
We don’t naturally seek out accountability. We prefer being secretive with our personal lives, especially the sins we practice. This verse is not calling us to proclaim publicly every sin we commit or to confess every sin to another individual. What it is teaching is that if we sin against someone, we humble ourselves and confess that sin to the person we’ve sinned against. It is teaching us that we don’t live in isolation but that we are indeed a community. Accountability to each other places us in a situation where God is able to answer our prayers.
Living in a community means we pray for each other. Life is not just about you and your family. It’s about being devoted to one another in brotherly love. (Romans 12:10)
IT IS A FERVENT (EARNEST) PRAYER (v. 17)
We are to serve God with fervor. (Romans 12:11) That includes praying with fervor.
Fervent praying includes calling out to God. God wants to hear your voice.
Fervent praying has to do with praying with urgency. (Psalm 86:6-7)
The prayer of a righteous man is not weak. It is powerful. Begin to practice it today. Build up your faith, don’t live in isolation from God’s community, and learn to pray fervently.