Summary: James’ encouagement toward prayer is examined with emphasis on the meaning of the statement "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
Have you ever felt like your prayers were not accomplishing anything? There have been times while praying that this thought crossed my mind, “This is a waste of time; nothing is going to change; go do something else.” Is there anybody here that has experienced that kind of struggle? It’s hard to be enthusiastic about something that you’re thinking will make no difference. It’s hard to stay motivated to pray if you think your prayers are in vain. That is the problem we will wrestle with this morning. That is the problem Pastor James addresses in the last chapter of his epistle. Does prayer really make a difference?
Follow with me as we read James 5:13-18
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”
Notice the theme that runs through that passage.
Vs 13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray”
Vs 14 “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them
Vs 15 “And the prayer of faith will save the sick....”
Vs 16 “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another....”
Then comes the heart of James’ message in this passage:
“ The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Vs 17 “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed....”
Vs 18 “And he prayed again....”
Every verse has at least one reference to prayer.
The life of a community of believers is to revolve around prayer. In Isaiah 56:7 God said to His people, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Jesus quoted that verse when he cleansed the temple. He confronted the spiritual leaders for making God’s house “a den of thieves” -- something other than a house of prayer. Today we are in danger of making God’s house into a house of entertainment. If we call it church; but no one prays—something is wrong. A few years ago a pastor of a church that runs about 10,000 asked me this question. “How do you get your congregation to pray?” He shared with me how impossible it has been to get even a hundred or so to come to a prayer meeting. I have known this man for years and know that he is a man of prayer. But that 10,000 people hardly has any prayer. Something is wrong.
The early church was a house of prayer. It was birthed in prayer. It operated in the power of prayer. When the government was opposing them, they didn’t sign petitions—they prayed. Acts 4:31 tells us that when they prayed the place was shaken; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word with boldness.
James is a pastor. He understands the importance of prayer. And he understands the enemy’s strategy to stop prayer. Hear this and hear it well: The Devil does not want you praying. He does not want God’s house to be a house of prayer. And he will do everything he can to keep it from becoming a house of prayer—even if it means letting it be a successful house of entertainment!
I. James states this fact emphatically. Verse 16, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Prayer matters; prayer matters a lot.
Why does James make that statement? As a pastor, he understands the enemy’s strategies for eliminating prayer. He is not ignorant of the Devil’s devices. He knows what kind of things the Devil will tell you and me to keep us from praying. I opened this message with a question, “Have you ever felt like your prayers were not accomplishing anything?” Have you ever thought your prayers were a waste of time? Where do those thoughts come from? Think about it; that is exactly the opposite of what the Bible says. In this passage James tells us prayer “avails much.” It makes a whole lot of difference.