The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much
James 5 from the daily Reading in the One Year Bible
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! 4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.
7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish 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 earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Today’s text says: Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James speaks of three results of prayer, restoration, forgiveness and healing. First he says, the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. Restoration is one of the things provided through the cross and the resurrection. We are restored to what God intended for us. We are restored to the image and likeness of God. It is the prayer offered in faith which James says will restore the one who is sick. Often though when we pray for those who are sick we view the results as being controlled by our faith, by the amount of our faith. If we don’t see the healing and the restoration, we question if our faith is enough. We conclude that if there is no healing, we must not have enough faith. In Mark 11:24 Jesus says: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” We blame ourselves because the results are not what we ask for, so we conclude that it is due to our not believing. There is a difference between little faith and unbelief. Jesus says: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” So, very small faith can do very great things. It’s not the size of our faith that matters. It is the object of our faith. When we pray believing, we are believing in Christ, the finished work of the cross and the power of the resurrection. When we pray believing, for healing, we pray not that our faith would restore the one who is sick, but rather we pray believing that God’s word is true. In Exodus 15:26 God said, to the nation of Israel: “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.” In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. “ Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to be our healer. It not about the size of our faith, it’s about who and what we believe in. When we pray in faith, it is faith in Christ, we believe what Isaiah 53:5 says: He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. On the cross Jesus said: “It is finished!” (John 19:30) The fulfillment of God’s promises is finished, complete in Christ. The result is in Him, not on us.
James says: If he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another. Forgiveness of sins is also given to us through the finished work of the cross. 1 John 1:9 agrees that confession is part of forgiveness. It says: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In today’s text James says: The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. So, for our prayers, offered in faith, believing in Christ, to be effective we should confess our sins that we would be cleansed of unrighteousness. It’s not that the results are dependent on us. They are wholly dependent on Christ. But, Jesus Himself after saying that we will receive what we ask for if we believe, in Mark 11:25 says: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” Hebrews 4:16 says: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. If we are seeking help in a time of need, whether for ourselves or for others, that help is found at the throne of grace. It is the grace of God, through Christ, which redeems us from sin. Being redeemed and made righteous in Him, we can be restored.
The text says: My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. We don’t always see the answer we hope for when we pray. But if we will remember that there are three ways our prayers in faith are answered, restoration, forgiveness and healing. When we see a physical healing, someone restored from sickness in their physical body it is indeed a miracle and something we are called to pray for believing in Christ. At best though, we postpone the death of the physical body. When we pray for restoration, for forgiveness and redemption, the effective prayer of those who are cleansed from unrighteousness, will accomplish much. A multitude of sins are covered by the truth, that is Jesus Christ and the soul of a sinner is eternally saved from death. John 3:16 says: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Restoration, forgiveness and healing begins and ends in believing in Christ.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You that it’s not about me, what I have done or what I can do. But, rather it is about You, what You have done and what You will do. My part is to believe, to confess and to forgive. That I do in the name of Jesus Christ. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, both in and through my life. Amen.