I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that you believe in the power of prayer, or you probably wouldn’t invest the time to go to a prayer meeting, or to spend personal time in prayer. I imagine that you could tell stories of answered prayers in your life, and you can probably quote some verses that refer to the power of prayer. But let me challenge you to dig into a verse that gives one of the keys to a powerful prayer life.
In the last chapter of his epistle in the New Testament, James pens an entire passage that illustrates the power of prayer, when we are going through trials, when we are sick, or when we have sinned. He even gives an example of a powerful prayer warrior named Elijah. But all of these thoughts culminate in the phrase at the end of vs 16: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Let’s dig into those words, and try to discover the key to a powerful prayer life.
Digging Into The Text
An important part of studying a text is to define the words, not so much in the secondary language (English), but in the words originally used by the author, and inspired by God Himself.
- Effectual fervent – In English these are two words, but they are translated for a single word in Greek. These two words appear in the KJV in other places, but are not always the same original word. James uses the word energeo, which means to work, function, produce, be in action. In other parts of the KJV New Testament energeo has been translated “accomplish,” “brought about,” “effective,” ” effectually worked,” “performs … work,” and “works.” The idea is pretty clear. James is referring to prayer that actually accomplishes things, that gets things done in the spiritual realm.
- Availeth – The word James used is ischyo, which means to be strong, powerful, mighty; to be capable of, to be healthy. In other New Testament places it is translated into English as “able,” “strong enough,” can do,” “healthy,” “overpowered.” That power and potential is intensified by the word “much,” (Gk poly: many, much). In other words, prayer can reach a place of great power, tremendous might, incredible strength.
- Righteous man – These two words also come from a single Greek word: dikaios. It speaks of a person who is righteous, just, and upright before God. It speaks of someone’s personal relationship with God. The other phrases in this verse revolve around this one, point back to this one.
So, as we bring these words and definitions together, we see that prayer has unbelievable power and potential to accomplish great things, to perform unbelievable works, to be incredibly effective in someone’s life and in the Kingdom of God. But here is the key: it all revolves around a person’s relationship and standing with God. They key to a powerful prayer life is your own walk with God.
God Promises to Bless the Righteous
All throughout the Scriptures you read of promise after promise, blessing after blessing, that are directed at the righteous, the just, those who are upright before God.
- Psalm 5:12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
- Psalm 34:15, 17, 19 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. …The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. … Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
- Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
- Proverbs 11:28, 30 He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. …The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
- Proverbs 15:6, 29 In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble. …The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
- Proverbs 21:21 He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.
There are so many more passages we could read, but you get the point. There is a direct link between the righteous (those who pursue righteousness and godliness in their life) and the promises and blessings from God. And those promises include your prayer life.
The term righteous does not speak of people who are perfect or sinless, but of those who have humbled themselves before God in repentance, and have been clothed by the righteousness of Jesus. Righteousness always comes through repentance and faith, not just to be saved, but also to walk uprightly as a Christian. These promises are for believers who walk in submission, obedience, and humility before the Lord Jesus Christ.
You want to have a powerful prayer life like Elijah? A prayer life that gets amazing things done? The most important thing you can do is examine your heart before God (Psalm 139:23-24). So, how is your walk with God? Perhaps before asking God to do anything for you, the best place to begin is by asking God to look inside you. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”