Tuesday, April 22, 2008

James 5:16

Someone recently asked the question - "I have heard more and more in the past few years that James 5:16 '...The effective , fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much' (NKJV) means that only the prayers of the righteous are heard by God. I personally do not feel that this verse says that. I would like someone to give me some other verses that either confirm or deny this thought. It is hard for me to beleive that God does not hear any prayers unless that person is a righteous Christian. How, then would a fallen Christian gain the faith to become right again? Through prayer? Not if what I am hearing is correct. How about the person that has never heard the gospel and prays something to the effect of 'Lord, please show me what I need to do to be saved' and in time is led the the church? I just want more to back up what I have heard from some and I hope that you can help."

It is important to note that the emphasis of this verse deals with God's inclination to act when a rigtheous person prays. This does not mean God is not listening to all who call on His name. Psalm 33:13-15 says, "The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works." God is looking down upon every soul, hoping that we will respond to His love for us. In this sense God is listening to all men, small or great, strong or weak, ignorant or learned. He takes into consideration all of these matters when a person seeks His face.

In the context of James 5, James is specifically considering the prayer of faith (5:15). In the first chapter James said that if we are to ask God, we should ask believing. If we don't believe, then we shouldn't expect to receive (1:5-7).Then in James 5:16-17, he mentions the faithful prophet Elijah. He points out that this righteous man prayed to God continually and earnestly (cf. 1 kg. 18:41-46). Elijah was just an ordinary man. But his faith was extraordinary. Therefore God, seeing his excellent faith and his fervent spirit, answered His prayer accordingly.

This is the true meaning of "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." It is understanding what God is looking for in us when we pray. God is listening to and considering the works of all men. But he is most inclined to bless those who humble themselves, obey His will, and truly believe in His power.

"I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" ~ 1 Timothy 2:8

1 comment:

  1. Jeremiah,

    I tend to agree with you on this point. The idea is that God is more inclinde to act on behalf of the righteous man who prays. Consider Corneluis in Acts 10:1-4. He was a devout man but not a Christian. His prayers went up and God heard them and acted on His behalf. God at the least hears prayers of those looking for Him to help them find Him.
    Steven Haguewood