I used to hate hearing James 5:16. The last half of the verse says this: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
I don’t know about your self image, but I don’t think I’m a good person. So when coming to this verse, it’s never been an encouraging thing. What I see when reading this verse is, well, my prayers must not be effective.
At that point, why pray?
Because of that (and a host of other things, if I’m being honest), prayer has always been a difficult part of my spiritual life. I’ve never been great at it.
The problem, though, is a misunderstanding of what righteousness is. And therefore the power behind prayer.
No one is righteous. Not one.
The person James is talking about, then, is not one who has earned righteousness, by doing all the right things. Righteousness isn’t about what we’ve done, it’s about a _right_ relationship with the God who created us. Jesus’ sacrifice has made us righteous. It’s not something I have to do before coming to him, it’s something he has done in me by my choice to follow him.
The effectiveness of my prayers is not based on me, but the faith that I place in Jesus. If you believe your prayers will be effective because what you have done, you’re praying in your name, not Christ’s.
And that’s what James gets at in the surrounding verses.
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
James 5:13-16 NIV
No matter your state, whether you’re in trouble, sick, or happy — pray. A relationship with God means our prayers always matter. No matter how big, small, happy, or sad. He wants to hear them.
And because of what he’s done, they are effective. God has granted us the dignity of taking part in the redemption of the world, through our actions and through our prayers.
So pray, even if you don’t think you’re good enough. He is.