James 5:16-18 (NKJV)16 …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.
We evangelicals are not, for whatever reason, particularly passionate about prayer. Those of us in the Reformed portion of evangelicalism are especially dispassionate. Hold a feast – folks will come; hold a bible study – still folks will come; hold a prayer meeting – get ready to pull teeth. Why is this?
Perhaps it is because we do not think prayer very significant. Perhaps we reason that since God has ordained all things whatsoever come to pass that our prayers are not important. Perhaps we have failed to consider the promises of God.
Whatever the cause, James draws us up short with his exhortation and promise today. He has already urged us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. He follows that exhortation up with the promise that the effective, fervent prayer of the righteous man accomplishes much.
As proof of his assertion, James cites the life of Elijah. No doubt you have heard of Elijah. One of the greatest of the Old Testament saints, Elijah stands as the forerunner of the various other prophets. He is the prototype of the prophet. And God used Him marvelously. Healings attended his ministry; fire from heaven; visions of God; miraculous provision; raising from the dead. Elijah was a very unusual man.
But in our text today, it is not the unusualness of Elijah that James wishes to highlight but rather his usualness. Elijah, James reminds us, was a man with a nature like ours. He was a sinner; he was subject to discouragement; he was fearful at times; in himself, he was incapable of doing great things. Elijah was a very human figure, James wants us to remember.
So how then was Elijah able to accomplish so much? How did he manage to achieve victory over the followers of Baal? How did he manage to avert capture by Jezebel? How did he cause a drought in Israel? Elijah served the living God and prayed fervently that God would vindicate His Name through Elijah’s ministry. And this is what James wants us to understand – the same God who was active in Elijah’s day is active in our day also. God reigns, let Israel rejoice; the Lord reigns, let the Church praise His Name.
Precisely because the same God that Elijah served lives and works in the world today, James’ exhortation has force. Brothers, pray for one another. Pray that God would bless and strengthen; pray that God would open doors and solve problems; pray that God would heal sickness; pray that God would bring repentance; pray that God would restore joy. Pray.
Why? Because the effective, fervent prayer of the righteous man accomplishes much. Elijah controlled the weather for three years. And he had a nature just like ours. So just imagine what you could do?
So let us pray that God would forgive us for our unbelief and grant us fervency in our prayers. Let us kneel together.