Powerful Pleading

William C. Brownson

READ : James 5:16-18

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (v. 16)

Have you ever heard claims for the power of prayer that seemed exaggerated? I have. I’ve heard it said, or at least implied, that anyone who asks anything from God will always get it if they believe “hard enough.” That is just plain false. Jesus taught that some “prayers” are simply “vain repetitions.” Isaiah says that God hates and rejects the prayers of his people when they are disobeying him (Isaiah 1:15-16). But the whole Bible teaches that a certain kind of person, praying in a certain way, can profoundly affect what happens in this world.

First, the person has to be “righteous.” This doesn’t mean one who always does right. That would rule out all of us. The “righteous” are those who trust in God’s promise of salvation in Christ and are clothed with his righteousness.

James’ Exhibit A is the prophet Elijah. He trusted God. He risked everything for God’s cause. And his prayers—imagine it—brought first a long drought, then fire from heaven, and finally, refreshing rain. “But,” objects someone, “that was God’s mighty prophet.” Yes, but he was thoroughly human, too. He was just like us.

Elijah really “prayed in his prayers.” All the passion of his life went into them. When we pray that way, for God’s glory, trusting in Jesus, our prayers too will be touched with power.


Lord, teach us to pray.